Cooking is one of the leading causes of residential fires. But thankfully, while fires that start in the kitchen can be some of the most damaging — hot oil and grease tend to make flames spread quickly, leaving little time to react — they are also some of the most preventable. Here are some simple steps you can take to keep flames out of your kitchen or put out a fire that’s already started.

How to avoid kitchen fires and prevent cooking-related injuries

Whether you’re whipping up a 12-course meal for friends or just frying your morning egg, keep these tips in mind to stop a kitchen fire before it happens:

  • Wind up the egg timer. It’s easy to lose track of time, especially when you’re multitasking. Always set a timer to make sure your perfect pizza doesn’t burn to a crisp (and take the oven with it).
  • Keep your eyes on the fries. Avoid overfilling a pan with oil or grease — and never leave the room once you’ve turned on the burner. Overheated cooking oil could begin to smoke, splatter, or bubble up over the sides of your pan, which could start a fire in a matter of seconds. If you have to leave the room, turn off the burner and place the pan somewhere a little cooler.
  • Clean up after yourself. Wipe away any built-up grease or other food splatters before turning on the oven, and be sure to keep oven mitts, paper towels, wooden utensils, and other flammable items off of the stovetop.
  • Dress for success. Avoid wearing baggy clothes that could dip into that bubbling pan of oil, and consider rolling up your sleeves to keep them out of the way while you’re cooking.
  • Watch your handles. Turn pot and pan handles towards the back of the stove to prevent curious kids and pets from bumping them or knocking them over.
  • Make the stove a kid-free zone. When you have little ones at home, consider telling your curious kiddos there’s a “kid-free zone” a couple of feet around the oven. As fun as it is to cook together, you can avoid an accident by keeping little hands a safe distance from the oven. It’s just as easy (and a lot safer) to make prepping the food the fun part.
  • Regularly test your smoke detectors. Sometimes a fire starts even when you’ve done everything you can to prevent it. Make sure you keep your smoke detectors in good working order so you’ll be alerted if a fire does break out.  

How to safely put out a kitchen fire

We know that accidents happen, even when you’ve played it safe. So if you find that your burgers are ablaze or your fajitas have caught fire, use these tips to safely put out the flames:

  • Never mix water and oil. While your first instinct might be to throw a bowl of water on your fiery fajitas, mixing water with burning grease can actually make the fire spread. Consider taking one of these steps instead…
  • Shut the door (and shut it down). If something catches fire inside your microwave or oven, leave the door closed, turn it off, and allow the flames to die down on their own. Fire loves oxygen, and opening the microwave or oven door could just make the flames bigger. If the fire is on top of the stove, turn the burner off and get everyone out of the room. If it doesn’t seem like the flames are going out — or if they’re getting bigger — call 911.
  • Cover it and smother it. If a frying pan, pot, deep fryer, or toaster is on fire, immediately cover it with a metal lid, cookie sheet, or tray. This will stop the flow of oxygen, which should kill the flames.
  • Don’t fan the flames. Not only could you light your handy spur-of-the-moment towel fan on fire, but fanning the flames also pushes more oxygen their way, which will only make them grow.
  • Keep it inside. Don’t try to carry the burning pot or pan outside — you could drop it and start a fire in another room in your house.
  • Grab the extinguisher. When all else fails, you may want to use a fire extinguisher to put out the flames. Not all extinguishers can be used on hot grease and oil, so be sure to read the manufacturer’s label before putting a fire extinguisher in your kitchen — and don’t forget to check the pressure gauge monthly, recharge your extinguisher when needed, give it a little shake once in a while to prevent the chemicals from solidifying, and replace it when it hits its expiry date.

How to use a fire extinguisher

Using a fire extinguisher is easy when you remember the “PASS” technique — pull, aim, squeeze, and sweep. Let’s take a look at how it works:

  • When a fire breaks out, check to make sure it’s small enough for you to put out with a fire extinguisher without putting yourself or others in danger.
  • If it looks like you can manage the fire, grab your fire extinguisher.
  • Stand about three metres away from the fire and begin the “PASS” technique.
  • #1: Pull out the locking pin to unlock the operating lever.
  • #2: Aim the nozzle or hose at the base of the fire.
  • #3: Squeeze the trigger handle all the way to release the extinguishing chemical.
  • #4: Sweep the nozzle or hose from side to side and from front to back, across the base of the fire.
  • That’s P-A-S-S: Pull, Aim, Squeeze, and Sweep.
  • While most fire extinguishers work with the PASS method, your extinguisher might not.
  • Read the instruction manual for specific directions.

When it comes to protecting your family and your home, we know there’s nothing you wouldn’t do. If it’s been a little while since you’ve reviewed the coverage in your home insurance policy, reach out to your group’s licensed insurance broker to make sure you’ll be protected in the event of a fire. 

Want to help other aspiring chefs keep their cool in the kitchen, too? Share this article on Facebook or Twitter.