More and more Americans are eating in as a way to save their wallets and their waistlines. Could that home-cooked meal come with an added risk?
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), cooking at home is the leading cause of:
44% of all reported home fires
16% of home fire deaths
40% of home fire injuries
15% of direct property damage
So does this mean you should pack it all in and go back to fast food? Absolutely not. Cooking and eating at home can be an excellent option for increasing the bond with your family, encouraging communication, and for making healthful food choices – not to mention all the money you’ll save by making meals at home.
COMMON KITCHEN FIRE HAZARDS
If you are going to cook at home, you should be aware of the most common hazards and be prepared to deal with them should a fire spark.
Frying poses the greatest risk of fire.
Unattended cooking is the leading contributing factor in these fires.
66% of home cooking fires start with the ignition of food or other cooking materials.
58% of home cooking fires start on the stovetop – ovens only account for 16%.
Clothing is ignited in less than 1% of cooking fires, but these incidents account for 14% of cooking fire deaths.
58% of non-fatal home cooking fire injuries occur when the victims try to fight the fire themselves.
Thanksgiving is the peak day for home cooking fires.
If an interest in greater health is the driving force behind cooking and eating at home for you, you can minimize your risk and eat healthfully by avoiding home cooking’s number one culprit – frying.
WHY FRIED FOOD CAN KILL YOU
Cooking oil smokes when it begins to hit its auto-ignition point (roughly 750 degrees Fahrenheit), yet many miss this key signal. Once a pan of hot oil ignites, panic typically sets in and people instinctively grab pans and run towards the sink – this is the absolute WORST thing you can do.
Why? Because moving a hot pan of oil that’s on fire can send flying hot grease around your kitchen, spreading the fire in just a matter of seconds. But even if you made it to the sink, presumably to put water on the fire, you’d only be increasing your risk, because just one cup of water can translate into 1700 cups of steam, blowing the oil out of your pan, splattering it and the fire all over your kitchen and your body.
STOP A GREASE FIRE AS IT STARTS
The solution to an auto-ignited grease fire is really quite simple, as shown in this video from The Today Show. Grab an oven mitt and the appropriate lid for your pan, carefully sliding the cover into place, and then turn off the stove, effectively containing as well as suffocating the fire. Leave the stove off for ten to 20 minutes, allowing the burner and subsequently the grease to cool down. Do NOT remove the cover sooner, as oxygen feeds fire and may allow it to reignite.
If the lid to your pot or pan is not close by, grab a cookie sheet or pizza pan to top your pot, holding it down with your oven-mitt-covered hand as you turn off the heat.
For added safety, look for the “Stove Top Fire Stop”. This device is mounted above your stove and has a fuse that ignites when flames reach the bottom side of the canister. Once this happens, the can drops down fire-extinguishing powder to put out the fire.
TOP TIPS TO KEEP YOUR KITCHEN FIRE-FREE
Keep all appliances serviced, clean, and in good repair.
Dump toaster oven crumb trays and wipe down your stovetop and microwaves after each use. Keep your oven clean. Unplug any appliances that are on the fritz, repairing or replacing them as necessary.
Unplug all electric appliances when not in use.
Install a smoke detector near, but not in the kitchen.
Heat cooking oil slowly.
Heating oil too quickly can raise its temperature too rapidly, auto-igniting a fire.
Follow manufacturer’s instructions when lighting the pilot light or burner on a gas stove.
Don’t use metal in a microwave.
Teach children safe cooking.
Young children should be kept at least 3 feet away from the stove when it’s in use. Older children should cook only under the supervision of an adult.
Wipe up spills immediately.
A clean stove is a fire-free stove.
Always roll up long sleeves and tie back long hair when cooking.
This is good cooking hygiene as well as an important fire safety measure.
Never leave cooking food unattended.
Two out of five deaths in home cooking fires occur because the cooking was unattended. Stay in the kitchen, especially if you’re cooking with oil or if your oven is set at a very high heat.
Don’t store flammables near the stove.
Keep towels, cloths and paper products away from the stove. Heat build-up can ignite combustibles such as curtains, pot holders, dish towels and food packaging left near or on the stove or oven.
Turn pot handles toward the center of the stove.
Turning handles inward helps to prevent pots and pans from being knocked off the stove or pulled down by a small child.