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No Place Like Home

Fire Safety in the Kitchen

See our tips on cooking cautiously, and staying safe in the kitchen.

by Alex Kelly

Mastery in the kitchen is no small feat — knowing your way around is the key to great meals. Besides, takeout never tastes as good as home-cooked, especially when you can whip something up in half the time! Before you start preheating the oven, check out these fire safety tips to ensure a safe (and delicious) feast.

Prep your space

The kitchen is often the heart of any good meal. Like any chef knows, a clean and prepped workspace is the key to efficiency and safety. Keep your cooking surfaces, including stove hoods, burners, and oven clean and free of grease build up — a major fire hazard. Corral other potentially flammable kitchen supplies like dish rags and utensils, far away from cooking surfaces. When you’re organizing the kitchen, make sure other hazards, such as matches, are securely stored away from children. 

When your masterpiece is coming together, make sure to turn the pot handles away from the edge of the stove to avoid knocking them down – this is key when they’re hot and fully loaded. If you’ve got small children in the house, this also keeps kids from grabbing onto a hot pan, potentially tipping scalding liquids out. 

Whether it’s a blender or a toaster, electrical appliances have the potential to start fires, so regularly inspect them. Make sure the cords are in good shape, and that there’s no fraying or cracking. Clean any leaks, crumbs, or other food residue that may impact the appliance’s function. While you’re at it, unplug appliances when you’re not using them, and make sure they’re stored away from curious kids. 

Come summer, the barbecue becomes everyone’s favourite extension of the kitchen. If you’re heading outside to fire up the grill, make sure it’s clean (from previous cooking and critters), and that the fuel circuit is tight-fitting. Cooking outside is just like indoors — watch your meal, keep the area free of flammable items, and keep kids away from hot surfaces. 

Prep yourself for success 

Before you start cooking tie back your hair, cuff your sleeves and secure loose clothing so that it can’t brush up against an element, potentially catching fire. If your clothing does light up, stop, drop, and roll immediately. While you may want to set the vibe with some ambient candlelight, make sure to keep them away from flammable items and blow them out before you leave the room; there’s nothing like a smoke alarm to ruin the mood.

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If you’ve got a dish that takes hours to simmer or braise, make sure you set a reminder, like a timer on your phone. It helps you remember how long it has been cooking, and if you get pulled out of the kitchen, the timer ensures dinner is still edible. Even if there is plenty of time left on the clock, check your dish regularly, as different appliances may cook faster or slower than the recipe calls for.

Prep for the unexpected

Despite all of your preparations, there is always a potential for a fire to flare up. Knowing what to do in these situations can be critical. If a pot does catch fire, smother it with a tight-fitting lid to stop the fire in its tracks. Using water to extinguish flames, or moving the pot to the sink may not help if it’s a grease fire, but the lid will starve the fire of oxygen effectively putting it out. Turn off the burner, and don’t move the pot until the fire is out. If you’ve got a fire in the oven,  keep the oven door closed, and turn the heat off. Monitor until the flames go out before you open the stove.

Most importantly, make sure you have an operational smoke alarm — with working batteries, tested regularly to ensure it’s functional and ready to go. Kitchens should also be equipped with a fire extinguisher that is rated for kitchen use. Read through the instructions, and get comfortable using it — there will be no time to read instructions when you need to use it for real!

Toronto Fire Services reminds us all that, “if you have any doubt about your ability to contain a small fire, get outside and call 911 immediately.” Your health and safety is the most important thing to protect, and it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

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