Keeping It Cool in the Kitchen: Cooking Fire Safety

The kitchen has long been called the heart of the home. At the end of a long day, few things give us greater satisfaction than sitting down to a hot, delicious, home cooked meal. With recent limitations in dining out, more of us are reaching for our own cookware, trying new recipes, and firing up the cook-top on our ranges. As much pleasure and satisfaction as we derive from our time spent in the kitchen whipping up meals, there is also a need for caution. Cook-tops are the most common equipment involved in home cooking fires, causing 49% of home fires that resulted in 21% of the home fire deaths and 45% of the injuries.

The American Red Cross statistics show us that unattended cooking causes nearly 90 percent of all kitchen fires. Elliot F. Kaye, commissioner of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, tells Consumer Reports that “unattended cooking is the top cause of fires in the home,” as well as being the leading cause of fire-related injuries. 

Being prepared for safety in the kitchen cuts down on accidental burns and cooking fires. 

  • Cook when you are alert. Do not start cooking if you have been consuming alcohol or are too tired.
  • Keep an eye on what you have in the pan if you are simmering, baking, boiling, or roasting food. If you must walk away, shut off the stove.
  • Keep children away from the stove. Consider keeping a “kid-free zone” – three feet around the stove or anything hot. Never hold a child while cooking. Teach them to stay away from the stove.
  • Keep the area where you are cooking clear of flammable items – keep dish towels, oven mitts, potholders, brown or plastic bags, food packaging, and wood or plastic utensils well out of the way of your heat source.
  • To keep yourself safe, wear shirts with short sleeves, or tighter-fitting long sleeves. Avoid loose clothing, or pieces with dangling sleeves. Loose clothing, while only responsible for 1% of kitchen fires, accounts for 16% of kitchen fire deaths.

What to do if there is a fire? If it is small and contained in the pot or pan, cover it with a lid, turn off the heat, and let the fire extinguish itself. If the fire is larger than that, it is best not to take matters into your own hands. ORR Safety, leading maker of PPE and safety equipment, says to get out of the house. Taking matters into your own hands can make matters worse: Three out of five people who were injured during cooking fires were injured while trying to fight the fire themselves. Make sure everyone exits the house, close the door behind you, and call 9-1-1 and/or your local emergency number.