Thanksgiving Cooking Brings Fire Hazards – Tips For The Chef

More and more amateur chefs may be responsible for Thanksgiving cooking this year, due to the pandemic and smaller family gatherings. But, there are many fire risks associated with activity in the kitchen.

The Maryland State Fire Marshal’s Office says unattended cooking is the leading cause of kitchen fires. Simmering pots and pans should be watched, and kits and pets should be kept away from food preparation areas.

Turkey fryers require special preparation and handling. They should be secured so they don’t tip over. Also, don’t overfill it, monitor its temperature, and don’t place it under an overhang or a temporary roof.

More safety tips were shared by the Maryland State Fire Marshal’s Office:

  • Make sure your smoke alarms are working properly by testing them. Additionally, ensure your guests are aware of all available exits if a fire would occur and have them meet at a designated location outside.
  • The leading cause of fires in the kitchen is unattended cooking. Stay in the kitchen when you are cooking on the stovetop to keep an eye on the food.
  • Establish a 3′ foot “Kids & Pets Free Zone” around any area where hot foods or drinks are prepared. Have activities that keep kids out of the kitchen during this busy time. Provide games, puzzles, books, etc., outside of the kitchen to keep them busy. Kids can also be involved with preparations with recipes that can be made outside of the kitchen area. Just in case, ensure you turn handles inward on the stove and countertop to avoid spills.
  • Keep a lid nearby when you are cooking to smother small grease fires. Smother the fire by sliding the lid over the pan and turn off the burner, and then leave the pan covered until it has cooled.
  • Keep anything combustible – oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packaging, towels, etc., away from the stovetop.
  • Eliminate clutter in the kitchen. A clean work area allows for better efficiency and fewer chances for mishaps.
  • Keep matches and lighters out of reach of curious children’s hands.
  • Do not leave lit candles unattended or in places where children or pets could knock them over.

Turkey Fryer Safety

  • Many turkey fryer appliances can be easily tipped over, allowing for hot oil spillage. Ensure you place them on a hard, level, and non-combustible outdoor surface. 
  • Do not place a turkey fryer under an overhang or temporary roof. A flare-up can easily ignite materials above the appliance.
  • Partially frozen turkeys can cause a spillover and result in a flare-up. Thoroughly thaw the turkey before cooking.
  • Turn off the burner before placing the turkey in the container. Re-ignite the burner after you are sure it is safe to do so.
  • Always monitor the temperature of the oil. It can easily reach temperatures to the point of combustion.
  • Be careful not to overfill the fryer. Follow manufacturer’s guidelines for proper filling levels.
  • The handles and lid will get dangerously hot. Use well-insulated potholders or oven mitts.
  • Never leave the fryer unattended while cooking. Keep an all-purpose (ABC) fire extinguisher on hand. Do not use water in an attempt to extinguish a grease fire.