Cooking is an essential part of our daily lives, but it can also be a source of potential danger if we're not careful. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), cooking fires are the leading cause of home fires and home fire injuries. To promote fire safety in your home, especially during Fire Prevention Week, we've put together a comprehensive guide to cooking safely.
The first and most crucial tip for cooking safely is to stay alert. Never cook when you're feeling sleepy, have consumed alcohol, or taken medication that makes you drowsy. Being fully awake and attentive is key to preventing kitchen accidents.
Watch What You Heat!
Unattended cooking is the leading cause of kitchen fires. Whenever you're frying, boiling, grilling, or broiling food, stay in the kitchen. If you need to leave for any reason, remember to turn off the burner. For foods that require simmering, baking, or roasting, use a timer to remind you to check on them regularly.
Keep Flammable Items Away
Keep anything that can catch fire, such as oven mitts, wooden utensils, towels, or curtains, away from your stovetop. Regularly clean your stovetop, burners, and oven to prevent the buildup of flammable materials. Wearing short, close-fitting sleeves while cooking can also prevent loose clothing from coming into contact with open flames.
Be Prepared for Emergencies
Always be prepared for emergencies. Keep a lid nearby when cooking to smother small grease fires. If a fire starts in a pan, slide the lid over it, turn off the burner, and leave the lid on until the pan cools. Never attempt to put out a grease fire with water. For larger fires, call 911 immediately.
Child and Pet Safety
Ensure the safety of your children and pets by creating a "kid-free zone" of at least 3 feet around the stove and hot food preparation areas. Never hold a child while cooking, drinking hot liquids, or carrying hot foods or liquids. Keep pets off cooking surfaces and nearby countertops to prevent them from knocking things onto the burner.
Electrical Cooking Equipment Safety
When using electrical cooking equipment like slow cookers, electric skillets, or hot plates, always choose items that are listed by a qualified testing laboratory. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for installation, usage, and cleaning. Avoid using extension cords for cooking appliances, as they can overload circuits and pose a fire hazard.
Portable Cooking Equipment Safety
If you use portable cooking equipment like slow cookers, electric skillets, or hot plates, follow manufacturer instructions and stay with them while cooking. Avoid touching the hot surfaces, and unplug them when not in use. Always allow the appliance to cool before cleaning.
Microwave Oven Safety
Keep your microwave oven clean and free of clutter to prevent any potential fire hazards. Supervise children when they're using the microwave, and only use microwave-safe cookware. When heating liquids or foods, open containers away from your face to avoid burns from escaping steam.
Barbecue Grill Safety
Whether you use propane, charcoal, or wood pellet grills, always use them outdoors. Place the grill away from siding, deck railings, overhanging branches, and eaves, following the manufacturer's instructions. Create a "kid-free zone" around the grill to ensure the safety of children and pets.
Gas Grill Safety
Regularly check the gas tank hose for leaks before using it each year and after reconnecting the tank. A soap-and-water solution applied to the hose and connection can help identify gas leaks. If you detect a leak, turn off the gas and grill. If the leak stops, get the grill serviced by a professional. If it doesn't stop, call the fire department.
Turkey Fryers (Use with Caution)
NFPA advises caution when using turkey fryers that use cooking oil, as they can be dangerous. Hot oil can be released, and burners can ignite spilled oil, resulting in devastating burns, injuries, or property damage. Consider alternatives like infrared or electric turkey fryers, and never leave fryers unattended.
By following these cooking safety tips, you can enjoy preparing meals while minimizing the risk of kitchen fires and accidents. Remember, safety should always be a top priority in your kitchen. If an emergency does occur, don't hesitate to call 911 or your local fire department. Stay safe and cook with confidence!