One Christmas long ago, when I was about 19-20 years old, I helped prepare the family feast. We always invited guests to join us for dinner at Christmas. We enjoyed cocktails in the living-room while the large turkey roasted in the oven. The longer the turkey took to cook, the more we drank. That year the bird was taking too long to cook, so I turned up the heat in the oven. Too high in fact – I could hear the fat in the drippings splattering. I went to take the turkey out of the oven with tea towels for pot holders. The pan was too hot! I dropped it on the opened oven door and fat splattered onto my bare foot. My father recovered the bird and I left the scene to tend to the large second degree burn on my foot. My accident could have been prevented if I had practiced safe cooking techniques.
When it comes to burns and fires, the kitchen is the most dangerous room in the house. Kitchen fires are a big concern this time of year, fortunately most can be prevented with these tips.
- Never leave grilling, frying or broiling food unattended. Forty per cent (40%) of cooking-fire related deaths occur because the cooking was unattended. If you have to leave the kitchen unattended while the food is cooking – turn the burner off.
- If you are frying – heat the oil slowly to the required temperature. If the oil smokes, it is too hot! Turn the heat off or carefully move the pan off the element. Keep a lid handy to smother any fire.
- If you are simmering, baking, roasting, or boiling food, check it regularly, remain in the home while food is cooking, and use a timer to remind you that you are cooking.
- Keep cooking areas clean – wipe appliances and surfaces after cooking to prevent grease build-up.
- Keep cooking surfaces clutter free. Do not store combustible objects near the stove. Curtains, potholders, dishtowels and food packaging can easily catch fire.
- Always turn pot handles inwards to prevent the pots from getting knocked.
- Dress appropriately for cooking. Wear sturdy shoes to protect your feet. Don’t wear loose clothing that can dangle over heating elements. Use pot holders or oven mitts to handle dishes and pots with hot food.
- Be on alert! If you are sleepy, are taking drowsy medication or have consumed alcohol take a pass on cooking and either let someone else cook or order your food in.
- Keep children at least one meter away from the stove.
The strategy for putting out grease and oil fires is to smother them and turn off the heat source.
- A fire in a pot may be extinguished by sliding a lid onto the pot and turning off the heating element. Do not try to carry the pot outside – jarring the lid may restart the fire. Make sure the pot is cool before removing the lid.
- Shallow grease fires may be smothered with baking soda.
- A fire in the oven or microwave may be extinguished by keeping the door closed and turning the appliance off. Wait for the burning food to cool before opening the door.
- Never pour water on oil or grease fires! Water will cause the fire to spread instead of putting it out.
I hope that you enjoy cooking during this festive season!