Taking these easy preventative measures will keep you and your family safe.

By Stacey Ballis
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One of the things that the current crisis has done is to send all of us into the kitchen! For passionate home cooks, this sheltering at home has been a chance to do a deep dive into sourdough baking or to gain mastery of some tricky skills like homemade puff pastry or pasta from scratch. For those who were not great cooks, many are finding their way in the kitchen, learning some basic skills and turning to the food media community more than ever for recipes, videos, tips, and tricks. It is an amazing time for cooking at home.

Unfortunately, it is also a dangerous time. Churning out three meals a day in your home kitchen, especially if you were not a regular cook before, is ripe with potential pitfalls. And the most serious of these is a kitchen fire. Always the riskiest of the home fires, since they are often fueled by grease and cannot be put out effectively with water. Many homes do not have a fire extinguisher, or if they do, it might be out of date and ineffective. People not used to cooking at home, especially those with children to attend to, are more likely to leave cooking unattended, which is at the root of many kitchen fires. Already in the first two months of the pandemic, the Red Cross responded to over 9,000 home fires.

If you're worried about the risk of cooking and causing a fire, follow our easy tips to prevent an accident:

Be Present

The Red Cross reports that cooking is the leading cause of home fires. And that unattended cooking is the leading cause of these cooking fires. Their survey reports that around 70 percent of people have left the kitchen while cooking. Walking away from a lit stove, even for a few moments, can seriously increase the chances you have to start a kitchen fire. If something comes up that you have to attend to, turn off the stove and move the pot or pan in question to a safe place, and then come back to it when it can have your full attention.

Practice Kitchen Social Distancing

Young children and pets are at danger of cooking related burns, as well as the potential to be contributory to possible fires, so pretend the hot stove is the coronavirus and ensure that they are safely at least 6 feet away when it is on.

Set Up the Area

Keep a recently purchased, or recently recharged and inspected fire extinguisher somewhere in an obvious place in your kitchen. Be sure to keep the area around your stove clear of flammable items like dishtowels, utensils, bags or boxes. Give your stove and the surrounding area a really good deep clean, especially your hood and vent, or anywhere that can trap grease particles.

Take Your Temp

Frying, even shallow frying, is one of the riskier cooking techniques, since oil heated to a super-hot temperature can literally self-combust with no spark. When frying, always use a thermometer to ensure the oil temperature doesn’t go above 375, and if you see the temp rising or smoke beginning to appear, turn the burner off, and carefully using proper safeguards, move the pot or pan to a cold burner towards the back of the stove and let the temp come down to a safe range.

Arrange Handles

Keep all pot handles turned towards the back of the stove when cooking so that you don’t knock into them or catch them. This also helps prevent you accidentally grabbing them without proper potholder protection to avoid spills and burns.

Dress the Part

Loose clothes, long sleeves, scarves, any of these can easily fall into the flame or catch on your electric burner. Long necklaces also can snag on pot handles with disastrous results. Avoid long and loose clothing and remove accessories before cooking.

Establish a Routine

Add the kitchen to your end-of-day checklist. You never want to go to bed without ensuring that doors and windows are closed and locked, the alarm is set, and the lights turned off... be sure to also look into your kitchen to be sure that all big appliances like the stove and oven are turned off, and small appliances unplugged where appropriate.

Avoid Water

Never throw water on grease fires, as it can make them spread, and the resulting instant steam can burn you as badly as the fire itself. If the fire is in a pot, put a lid on it or a flat baking sheet over it to tamp down the flames. Turn the stove off, and carefully, if possible, move the pot or pan off the burner. If you cannot stop it this way, use salt or baking soda to put out the fire. Finally, use a fire extinguisher if none of these works or if the fire spreads to a wall or other nearby surface.

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