Cooking for the whole family this Christmas can be fun, but having so many people around can also be distracting and when it comes to cooking that is the last thing you want to be especially with a busy house! Below are some things to keep in mind over the Christmas period when it comes to the kitchen!
Regardless of how careful you are, there is always a chance that something unforeseen could happen in your kitchen that starts a fire. A perfect example would be an electrical fault with an appliance, which can strike at any time without warning. Nobody can ever completely remove the risk of a fire starting. First and foremost, detection is key. The most obvious way to protect your family from the dangers of fire is also the most effective – a working fire alarm. The importance of having a fire detection system in your house cannot be overstated. Of course, smoke detectors are less than ideal within kitchens because of the likelihood they will false alarm due to cooking fumes.
Fire risks stem from two main areas: Cooking processes and the equipment associated with them e.g. accidental overheating of cooking fats and oils leading to ignition, spillage of fats and oils onto hot equipment, cooking left unattended. Cooking equipment not fitted with safety devices such as flame failure/safety cut-off devices, and other cooking methods that may produce flames, e.g. flambé cooking in close proximity to grease deposits within extraction hoods or ductwork.
Lack of servicing and maintenance and inadequate cleaning of the kitchen/cooking areas and the equipment associated with it e.g. inadequate cleaning regimes for cooking appliances and extraction equipment leading to build-up of grease and oil deposits which may be ignited, cooking equipment thermostats broken or not working properly, faulty equipment (including electrical faults) and spontaneous combustion of oil soaked cloths and towels. As part of the fire risk assessment of your kitchen you should consider introducing a range of controls
The oven is one of the more obvious fire risks in the kitchen, and as such most people naturally take care when using them. However, if a fire does take hold within your oven the advice is clear; if safe to do so, turn off the oven making sure to leave the oven door closed.
Keeping the door closed helps starve the fire of oxygen. If the fire can be contained until the temperature within the oven drops, it will usually go out before escaping.Whilst oven fires are fairly rare, extra care should always be taken when cooking fatty foods as any fat which escapes the pan and lands directly on the floor of the oven can easily ignite.Always make sure to remove any excess grease or food residue from the bottom of your oven to minimise this risk.
- Never open the door of your oven if the contents catch fire
- Take extra care when cooking fatty foods
A grill pan which is dirty is much more likely to catch fire. Deposits of grease or leftover scraps of food can ignite easily under the intense heat of a grill. The simplest way to lessen this risk is to make sure that your grill pan is always cleaned after use.Unlike ovens, not all grills are enclosed, and as such a grill pan fire has free access to the oxygen it needs to grow. This means that a fire can take hold and grow very quickly. Therefore, you should never leave a grill unattended.If you are present at the first signs of smoke or fire, then it is much easier to prevent the fire from spreading by quickly turning off the grill and isolating the fire if possible.
- Always make sure your grill pan is clean before use
- Never leave a grill pan unattended
One of the most publicised kitchen fire risks is the danger of oil igniting when deep frying – the classic chip pan fire. The reason this is one of the most widely recognised risks is due to the potential severity of handling the situation poorly.Natural instinct when faced with a fire is to douse it with water to put out the flames. However, introducing even a tiny amount of water into a pan of burning oil can cause disaster. Rather than cooling or extinguishing the fire, the water immediately condenses into steam when it enters the oil, and this reaction causes the oil to burst outwards spreading the burning material and flames.The only safe way to tackle a chip pan fire is with a fire blanket but this must only be done if it is safe to do so. Ideally, the hob should be turned off first to remove the heat source, then a fire blanket can be placed carefully and slowly over the pan in order to safely cut off the oxygen supply to the fire. This allows the oil to cool to below its ignition point and the flames to go out.
- Never try to put out a chip pan fire using water
- If you do extinguish a fire on your hob with a fire blanket, leave it in place until the burning material has had time to cool
Burnt toast is usually more of a nuisance than a danger, but even though a piece of toast will normally burn out quickly, the risk of a fire spreading from your toaster is very real.Best practice is to avoid using your toaster underneath wall mounted cupboards or near to any other flammable materials. Also, make sure that there is free access to the electric socket the toaster is connected to so that it can be safely switched off in the event of a fire.
- Always make sure your toaster is wisely positioned
- Always allow for access to the toaster’s plug
Most fabrics are tremendously flammable. A carelessly placed cloth can quickly catch fire if in contact with your hob or grill. If you have a gas hob in your kitchen, extra care should be taken to ensure tea towels and other kitchen cloths are kept well away from the open flames.Another risk when cooking with a gas flame is the danger of clothing catching fire if it makes contact with your hob. Try to avoid wearing loose fitting clothes (especially sleeves) whilst cooking to lessen this risk.
- Keep tea towels and clothing away from naked flames and strong heat sources
- Don’t wear loose clothing when cooking
16% of all fires in the home are caused by faults with electrical cables or devices. One thing that can make a significant difference to this risk is effective cable management. In general terms, this means taking care not to overload plug sockets, and keeping cables out of the way and safe from damage.In relation to kitchen fire safety specifically, extra care should be taken to ensure cables are not draped over hot surfaces, be that your hob or a pan which has just come out of the oven.
- Never overload electrical sockets
- Don’t allow cables to trail over hot surfaces