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Heads up, holiday cooks: Thanksgiving is No. 1 day for kitchen fires

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If the National Fire Protection Association were writing this story, it'd probably go like this: Don't fry a whole turkey on Thursday if you don't know what you're doing. The end.

Thanksgiving is the No. 1 day of the year for cooking fires, followed by Christmas Day and Christmas Eve, the association says. More than three times the average number of cooking infernos happen when Thanksgiving goes up in flames. The frying game is particularly fraught: Deep fryer fires cause an average of five deaths and 60 injuries a year and do more than $15 million in property damage, according to the NFPA.

"No matter how many years you've been cooking, or how many Thanksgiving feasts you've served, you still need to make safety your main ingredient," said Henry County, Georgia, Fire Marshall Michael Black.

Turkey fryers should be handled with care because of the intense heat, experts warn. They can also tip over, spilling the sizzling oil.

Turkey

Putting a partially frozen turkey into a hot fryer is a particularly bad idea, as that can cause oil to splatter. Come Thursday, should you decide you'll fry if you want to, experts advise these safety tips.

1. Place the fryer outside on a flat surface that can't burn, such as concrete, and several feet away from anything that can ignite.

2. Thaw the turkey completely before cooking.

3. Don't let children or pets come anywhere near it. An adult should watch the fryer while it cooks.

4. Use a fryer with thermostat controls.

5. Use potholders and oven mitts when handling the turkey.

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Even if you take the safer route and stand by your pan, safety's still important. Experts advise these tips for ensuring a safe holiday.

1. Stay in the kitchen when cooking on the stovetop and keep an eye on the food.

2. Stay inside the home when cooking your turkey, and check on it frequently.

3. Keep children away from the stove, hot foods and liquids (and candles and lit fireplaces, of course).

4. Make sure smoke alarms work.

4 creative ways to deal with all those Thanksgiving leftovers

If you aren't in the mood for plain reheated turkey, try turning your leftovers into a bowl of pozole or an elevated grilled cheese.

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Give leftover turkey new life with these delicious stuffed potatoes. A drizzle of homemade honey-mustard dressing soaks into the hot potatoes, adding tons of flavor.

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This sandwich is amazingly easy to whip up and definitely a crowd pleaser — perfect for post-Thanksgiving guests. I think these taste best with a little leftover bubbly and plenty of napkins.

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Thanksgiving leftovers can be assembled into a traditional pozole. Crisp corn tostadas or tortilla chips, broken into the finished soup, add another lovely corn flavor to this bowl of goodness.

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Homemade stock will improve any soup, sauce and dish you use it in. While there are plenty of decent canned and boxed stocks and broth, nothing compares to the flavor of homemade.

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