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Many of my clients entertain family and friends over the holiday season and meal preparation often falls on their shoulders. Turkey, roast beef, casseroles are popular servings this time of year. Each of these food servings can be very heavy and difficult to handle. Are there precautions you should take when you lift heavy food items, such as a roast turkey, in and out of the oven? What steps can you take to avoid a compression fracture, or back or shoulder pain? In this article (and companion video) I show exactly what you should do to prevent an unfortunate event and instead focus on enjoying the holiday season.

My First Suggestion

My first suggestion is to have another family member, not at risk of a compression fracture or back or shoulder pain, do the heavy lifting for you. However, if that is not possible here are several helpful tips to keep your spine, back, and shoulders safe this holiday season.

How to Safely Lift a Turkey, Roast or Casserole into the Oven

In the video, I placed a 21 pound weight in the roasting dish. Everything else in the video is authentic, other than the heat of the oven. I did not turn on the heat but I exercise the same level of caution as though the heat was on.

In one of my gardening blog posts, I describe how to safely move a heavy object. You might want to look at that blog post, as well. However, keep in mind two important differences:

  • It easier to lift, handle, move and place a cold object compared to a hot, unstable roasting pan.
  • The process of placing the large and heavy roasting pan in a narrow space adds an additional degree of complexity to the lift.

Let’s start with how you should place a cold turkey, roast or casserole in the oven to start the cooking process.

  • The first step is to get the heavy roasting dish right up against your body.
  • Then lower it down using a wide squat. I suggest a week or two or, even, three or months before the holiday season that you practice your squats. Over time, progress to the weight of the cooking item you want to lift.
  • Next pull the tray out as much as you safely can.
  • Test the stability of the rack by putting weight on it. Verify that the rack is able to handle the weight of the pan.
  • Come back up and get the roasting pan close to your body. It should touch you the whole time.
  • Now, place the roasting pan into the oven.

Hopefully by the time it is cooked and ready to come out, someone else is there to help you. If not, let’s move onto part two.

Tips on Squats

Squats are one of the most functional exercises you can do. You cannot get on and off a chair without going into a squat. Make the squat exercise a regular part of your exercise program. It will help you when you move heavy objects and in many regular day-to-day activities. The squat has many significant benefits including strengthening your hip and spinal muscles and bones. It should become a regular exercise for any one concerned about the bone density in their femoral neck.

There are several types of squat exercises to choose from. Listed below are four squat exercises in order of challenge as they are presented in the Exercise for Better Bones program. Find one that feels comfortable for you and over time progress to a more challenging level.

lift a turkey melioguide physiotherapy

Exercise Recommendations for Osteoporosis

Exercise is an essential ingredient to bone health. If you have osteoporosis, therapeutic exercise needs to be part of your osteoporosis treatment program.

But what exercises should you do and which ones should you avoid? What exercises build bone and which ones reduce your chance of a fracture? Is Yoga good for your bones? Who should you trust when it comes to exercises for osteoporosis?

A great resource on exercise and osteoporosis is my free, seven day email course called Exercise Recommendations for Osteoporosis. After you provide your email address, you will receive seven consecutive online educational videos on bone health — one lesson each day. You can look at the videos at anytime and as often as you like.

I cover important topics related to osteoporosis exercise including:

  • Can exercise reverse osteoporosis?
  • Stop the stoop — how to avoid kyphosis and rounded shoulders.
  • Key components of an osteoporosis exercise program.
  • Key principles of bone building.
  • Exercises you should avoid if you have osteoporosis.
  • Yoga and osteoporosis — should you practice yoga if you have osteoporosis?
  • Core strength and osteoporosis — why is core strength important if you have osteoporosis?

Enter your email address and I will start you on this free course. I do not SPAM or share your email address (or any information) with third parties. You can unsubscribe from my mail list at any time.

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How to Safely Lift a Turkey, Roast or Casserole Out of the Oven

Several hours of cook time has passed and now the turkey, casserole or roast is ready to come out.

If you have not been able to recruit a young and strong volunteer to lift the roasting pan out of the oven, go back into the squat position that I demonstrated earlier.

It is a good idea to put on a protective chef apron. This will make it more comfortable as you bring the hot pan towards your body.

  • Place your elbows to your side.
  • Next, slide the pan as much as you can with your elbows in close.
  • Have the oven rack take the pan weight as much as possible. This will allow you to tuck the weight of the pan in against your body and avoid placing stress on your back as you squat down.

There are two additional steps:

  • Come in close again, elbows right by your side.
  • Use your legs to lift up, get in as close to the roast as you comfortably can, and push it back up.

Alternative Strategy for People Who Cannot Squat

Here is another option for those of you who feel that you don’t have the knees to come out of the squat. This technique can be used when you put the roasting pan in the oven and take it out.

  • The first step is to lower yourself into a single leg kneeling position on a padded surface at the front of the oven.
  • You can fold up a carpet at the base of the oven. Several folds are all you need to support your knee.
  • Open up the oven door.
  • Remember that the roasting pan is likely very hot.
  • Use your protective oven mitts to pull it out.
  • Limit the rotation of your torso as much as possible. Pivot around on your knee until you are in a comfortable position. The roasting pan should face your belly button.
  • Slide the roasting pan along the chair as much as you can.

One of your challenges will be to keep the roasting pan as close to your body as you can and still withstand the heat.

The movement to get the roasting pan into the oven is a very quick transition.

  • Lean forward, hinge from the hips, stay long through the body, and maintain perfect posture as you push the pan inside the oven.
  • Do a very similar movement when you take the turkey back out from the oven.
  • Get into a kneeling or half kneeling position. Come down.
  • Pull the tray as close as you can.
  • Slide the turkey as close as you can along the tray.
  • Position elbows along and close to your body. Have at least one elbow close and at the side, if you can’t get both to your side.
  • The long oven mitts help protect your hands and lower arms as you hold the hot roasting pan.
  • Lift and pivot back. Close the oven door.


I encourage you to use these tips and make your holiday season safe and joyful.

Thank you for tuning in. I’m Margaret for MelioGuide.


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December 11, 2019 at 10:43pm

Elynne Hering

Very well presented. Thank you.

November 25, 2020 at 12:06pm


Thank you for this great advice. I am hoping someone will someday build a residential oven more like a commercial design where the door swings away to the left or right allowing better access to the contents. In the meantime, I advise people that if they have a BBQ they should use that to cook the turkey. It takes some practice but the cooking time is usually shorter. Some safety approaches must also be used keeping the fat from reaching the coals or burners. Thanks again

November 25, 2020 at 2:55pm

Richard Martin replies

Thank you. Great suggestion.

January 5, 2021 at 4:09pm

Chicken Little

Especially ahead of the holidays, this was a great head's up to give some thought ahead of time to something I have done all my life--though maybe only one or 2 times a year--but upon reflection I can see is now getting to be potentially dangerous. Who ever thinks ahead of time about asking someone else to take the bird out of the oven? But thinking ahead to have a have a stool handy, and a heavy apron or towel, as well as oven mitts, and visualizing how you will kneel and pivot to have a straight back, changes the whole operation into something much safer. Thanks so much for sounding the warning, as well as for giving such a detailed solution.