Cooking may be so routine that you don’t give it much thought. But cooking is the No. 1 cause of fires in homes, so staying mindful in your kitchen is extremely important. Here are tips for avoiding cooking fires and guidance on what to do if disaster strikes.
Kitchen fire safety tips: before cooking
- Keep your smoke alarms in good working order. Install them at least 20 feet away from the stovetop and oven, per the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Don’t install smoke alarms within 10 feet of a cooking appliance.
- Keep a fire extinguisher in your kitchen and make sure you know how to use it. Most home improvement stores carry multipurpose Class A:B:C fire extinguishers that can be used in a kitchen and elsewhere. There are also Class K fire extinguishers made for fires involving cooking oils, though these extinguishers are often found in commercial kitchens.
- Regularly clean your cooking area, including your oven racks. Built-up grease and crumbs can catch fire.
- Wear short, close-fitting or tightly rolled-up sleeves when cooking. Loose clothing can catch fire if it dangles onto the stove.
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Kitchen fire safety tips: while cooking
- Stay in the kitchen while you are frying, grilling, boiling or broiling food. Unattended cooking is by far the leading cause of cooking fires.
- Keep an eye on the frying pan. If the oil starts to smoke or smell, turn off the burner right away and/or carefully take the pan off the burner. Smoke indicates that the oil is too hot.
- Use a timer when you are simmering, baking or roasting food to remind yourself that you have something cooking and to check it regularly. Stay in the kitchen.
- Keep things that could catch fire—such as oven mitts, potholders, paper towels, wooden utensils, food packaging or wrappers, towels and curtains—away from the stovetop.
- Turn pot handles toward the back of the stove so you and others won’t bump into them.
- Keep a pan lid nearby to smother small grease fires. (Read how to do this below.)
- Create a 3-foot child-free zone around the stove. Keep pets away, too.
- Don’t put metal in a microwave. Utensils, aluminum foil or twist-ties can cause a fire.
Other kitchen fire safety tips
- Never throw hot grease in the trash. Let it cool, and consider using an old can or jar for grease disposal.
- Unplug appliances such as toasters and coffee makers when they’re not in use.
- Don’t use your oven for storage. You may forget items are inside when you preheat it.
In case of a kitchen fire …
- To smother a small grease fire, slide a lid onto the pan and turn off the burner. Don’t move the pan, and leave it covered until it is completely cool. Never pour water on a grease fire, and be careful discharging a fire extinguisher onto a pan fire, as it can spray burning grease and spread the fire.
- For an oven fire, turn off the oven and keep the door closed to help smother the flames. Make sure to have the oven serviced before you use it again.
- If there is a microwave fire, turn off the microwave and keep the door closed until the fire is out. Safely unplug the microwave if you can.
- If you’re unable to quickly extinguish the fire, get out of the home, closing the door behind you to help contain the fire, and call 911 once you’re outside.