Grease Fires Are Very Bad: Tips For Avoiding & Stopping One

posted in: Food, Tips 0
Grease fires not this cute in real life.
Actual grease fires not adorable as illustration.

All the tips and info I’m sharing regarding the extinguishing of Hot Fire That Can Ruin Your Life is meant to be food for thought (burning, fiery food) and to inspire you to brush up on your emergency skills.

Yesterday, I had a pan of hamburgers in the oven that were surprisingly greasy and got so incredibly hot, I believe I was minutes away from a grease fire. I can’t be sure and don’t want to be; if I was sure, there would have been a grease fire and grease fires are bad.

The burgers were from Whole Foods. “Steakhouse” it said on the label when I pulled them from the freezer. When I got home yesterday there was no energy to go to the store, so this would be dinner. I put the four thawed burgers onto a cooky pan — one with a lip around all sides — and put it in at 400-degrees then went about my business. Maybe I got busy doing other things and forgot to check on the burgers halfway through. Maybe when it was time to take them out I let them cook 15 minutes longer and only did that because I was not paying attention. Maybe.

Regardless, when I opened the oven door, I gasped. The grease in the pan was a scalding pool that seemed like it was beginning to smoke. (I guess “steakhouse” means “80% fat and frightening to prepare.”) I turned off the oven immediately and got my biggest oven mitts to move the pan carefully, cautiously, I’m-not-breathing-till-this-is-ten-feet-away-from-me, to the counter. I spent several long minutes spooked. Grave. Wincing. That was almost on fire, I thought, and it made me wonder if I know how to put out a grease fire. Do you?

Here’s what you do NOT do:

– Do NOT throw water on a grease fire! This is the worst thing you could do! Do not do it!
– Do NOT try to carry the pot or the pan out of the kitchen! Leave it alone!
– Do NOT put a glass lid on the top of a grease fire in a pan! It will break!

Here’s what you CAN do: 

– Call 911. If it’s really bad — and I think mine would’ve been — there’s very little you can do and it could get dangerous, fast. Grease fires are extremely hot and spread quickly; they’re also fueled by a liquid, so splashing a la napalm is highly possible. Get help.

– Turn off the flame and put the lid on the pot. Obviously, this works if your fire is on a pan or pot on the stovetop. A lid on the pot will stop the fire from getting oxygen and may extinguish it.

– Baking soda can work. But you need a lot of it and most people don’t have a vat of baking soda three inches from their hand when they’re at the stove.

– Apparently there are better-than-ever fire extinguishers on the market that we should probably all have, including me. Get one.

– Even if you think you don’t need to, set a timer for heaven’s sake, and be somewhere within earshot of it. The fire safety info I looked at this evening said basically all kitchen fires happen because people leave the kitchen and forget they’re making things with fire and gas.

This post isn’t as fun as this one and it may not sell books — by the way, thank you for all the orders: I’m gratefully deluged! — but it’s one I hope you’ll share around online or talk about at lunch tomorrow. It’s easy to forget kitchen safety stuff.

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