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Mother and daughter preparing turkey for Thanksgiving day.

Recipe for Safe Cooking

Use Caution and Common Sense in the Kitchen to Prevent Fire

Did you know that cooking is the leading cause of home fires and home injuries year after year? On average, an estimated 164,500 cooking fires in residential buildings occur annually in the United States resulting in an average of 110 deaths, 3,525 injuries, and $309 million in property loss. By using a little common sense and taking some basic safety precautions, you can make sure your next home-cooked meal is prepared without going up in flames. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA):

  • Cooking equipment was the leading cause of home fires and fire injuries.
  • Cooking equipment caused 46% of home fires, 19% of the home fire deaths and 44% of the injuries.
  • Two-thirds of home cooking fires started when food or other cooking materials caught fire.
  • Clothing was the item first ignited in less than 1% of these fires.
  • Clothing ignitions led to 18% of the home cooking fire deaths.
  • Ranges or cooktops accounted for the 62% of home cooking fire incidents; ovens accounted for 16%.
  • Frying poses the greatest risk of cooking fire.

Stay Focused in the Kitchen

Everyone knows the dangers associated with multi-tasking while driving, but losing your focus while cooking can have dangerous consequences. Distracted cooking tops the list of reasons why cooking fires start. According to a NFPA survey:

  • 42% of people surveyed said they left the kitchen to talk or text on the phone
  • 35% left to use the computer or check email while the food was cooking
  • 45%, or nearly half, left the room to watch TV or listen to music

Leaving a stove or oven unattended to send an email, take out the trash or check the score on your favorite game may seem innocent, but these actions pose a significant fire hazard. Surprisingly, one in 10 adults have even admitted to leaving their home while cooking. This is a major no-no.

Other common and dangerous mistakes made in the kitchen include disabling your smoke alarm while cooking, leaving excess food or grease in your cooking area, not having a fire extinguisher handy, having unnecessary items near the cooking area, forgetting to turn off stove burners or accidentally turning them on.

Think microwaves are a safe alternative? Think again. Cooking with a microwave oven can be just as dangerous. In the United States, fire departments respond to an average of 7,100 home structure fires in which a microwave was involved in ignition. Take the same precautions when using this modern convenience as you would with a stove or oven.

Follow these important safety tips when cooking:

  • Keep an eye on what you fry and be extra careful when cooking with oils
  • Stand by your pan when frying, grilling, simmering, broiling or broiling food
  • Keep the stove top and oven clean at all times
  • Keep towels, dish cloths and other flammable items away from hot surfaces
  • Turn pot handles towards the back of the stove
  • Wear short sleeves or roll up your sleeves
  • Keep a pan lid or cookie sheet nearby to cover the pan if it catches on fire
  • Don’t leave the kitchen equipment unattended when turned on
  • Double check to ensure burners are turned off when not in use
  • Unplug the toaster and other countertop appliances when not in use
  • Check food frequently when cooking and set a timer as a reminder
  • Keep working batteries in your smoke detector at all times
  • Never plug appliances in using an extension cord
  • Have a fire extinguisher nearby in case of fire

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Source: National Fire Protection Association

Homes include one- and two-family homes, apartments (regardless of ownership), and manufactured housing.

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