Cooking SafelyWe all tend to take cooking for granted yet if we’re not careful, all manner of accidents can occur so it’s important to take care whilst in the kitchen.

Food safety and kitchen hygiene is covered in another article on this website so this article relates mainly to fire hazards and how to prevent them.

Basic Fire Prevention in the Kitchen

When we cook something in the kitchen, many of us are also dealing other things at the same time. It may be the phone ringing or somebody knocking at the door. However, before you rush off to answer the phone or to see who’s at the door, it’s crucial that you turn any pans off the heat. It’s so easy to get caught up in a conversation in another area of the house and simply forget about the pans which can obviously result in a fire. Other people who live with you, especially children can also cause you to become distracted so make it a rule not to allow that whilst you’re cooking. If you’re cooking in the oven, make sure you keep the oven door shut and always clean the grill pan after you use it.

If you use oven gloves and tea towels, do not put them down on the cooker after you’ve finished and turned the cooker off. The hob will still be extremely hot and they could still catch fire, even without the presence of any naked flame. You should never cook if you’re affected by alcohol or any prescription drugs you might be taking. Never leave children alone in the kitchen as they’re at the most risk of suffering scalds and burns if left unsupervised and, on a related theme, do not leave matches or any other kind of cooker lighting device where young children can get access to them. Pan handles are notorious for being a major cause of accidents. You should ensure that a pan is placed on the cooker without a handle jutting out over the edge which can be knocked easily and, don’t place the handle over another hot ring either.

The Danger of Chip Pans

Fortunately, because of a trend towards cooking chips more healthily (if you eat chips, that is) and more modern kitchen appliances like a deep fat fryer, chip pans are not quite as common as they once were. For those who still have them, however, they are perfectly safe to use as long as you follow some basic guidelines. You should never fill the pan more than one-third full with fat or oil and you should never leave it unattended when the heat is switched on. If the pan starts smoking, this means that the oil or fat is too hot so let it cool down first before frying in it. A good rule of thumb is to get the right temperature before it’s overheated and a good way of checking if it’s hot enough is to put a piece of potato or bread in it as it’s warming up and if it crisps up quickly, the oil or fat is hot enough and you can turn the heat down a little.

Dealing With a Chip Pan Fire

You should only ever tackle a chip pan fire yourself if you know what you’re doing. If a chip pan catches fire, the first thing you should do is to try to cut off the power supply to it but only if it’s safe to do so. Providing that the fire hasn’t established itself and the top of the pan is easily accessible and you have time, you can soak a tea towel, wring it out well, then, whilst protecting your arms and hands from the flames with the wet tea towel, try to lower it carefully over the top of the pan. Don’t move the pan at all. An approved fire blanket would be even better but a tea towel will suffice providing you follow the approved guidance.

NEVER pour water directly onto a chip pan fire to try to extinguish it as this will only result in a fireball and you could suffer horrific burn injuries as a result. If you’re in any doubt whatsoever about tackling the fire yourself, leave the kitchen and shut the door behind you firmly, call the fire brigade from another room, then get out of the house and stay out until the fire brigade arrive. Never be tempted to return inside until the fire brigade have arrived and have given you the all clear.

Other Safety Considerations in the Kitchen

Modern kitchens these days have all manner of electrical gadgets in them and you should always follow the manufacturer’s instructions and make sure that you don’t overload electrical sockets. Don’t use cooking implements with damaged or worn cables and never use tape to try to repair the cable or run cables underneath the carpet as the cable will wear through more quickly and you might not notice that it has worn out. Keep things like toasters away from curtains and make sure you clean them regularly. Make sure you keep sharp objects like knives away from children and take care with sharp instruments when you’re using them.

Most of us are guilty of complacency in the kitchen at some time or another but in following these guidelines, you can keep cooking safely.