Holiday Cooking Hazards: Life-Saving Reminders

VIDEO: Learn the dos and donts of putting out cooking-related fires.
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Thanksgiving may fill your head with thoughts of cooking, but for firefighters, it's all about cooking fires.

One out of every eight households will have a cooking fire every year, according to authorities. And sometimes, families accidentally make matters worse when they try to fight the fires themselves.

So how do you keep your kitchen safe and, if there is a fire, how do you get it out safely? Here are the key dos and don'ts that we learned from the people at the District of Columbia Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department:

What NOT To Do:

Don't open your oven, toaster oven or microwave if there is a fire inside.

Don't leave a frying pan unattended with the stove on. Frying is the riskiest kind of cooking because the oil provides ready fuel.

Don't throw flour on a grease fire. It just provides more fuel.

Don't throw water on a grease fire. Water is heavier than oil so it plunges to the bottom and sends the grease flying up in a lethal fireball.

Don't toss frozen foods into boiling oil. The water in the food has the same effect, causing an explosion of grease.

What TO Do:

For any kind of oven fire, keep the door closed, and shut the power off. Wait until the fire dies.

Keep combustibles like oven mitts, recipes, ingredient boxes etc. at least 3 feet from your burners and oven.

But do keep an oven mitt a safe distance away, along with a pot lid. If you have a small grease fire, put the mitt on and slide the pot lid over the fire. Then turn the stove off. Wait for the fire to completely cool before you remove the lid or it will restart when you introduce oxygen.

If small flames are still coming out of the pan or have flared up in your stove rings, you can dump baking soda on them to smother them.

For a larger grease fire, experts strongly recommend that you do NOT try to fight it yourself. Get out alive and call 911. Many fire deaths occur when people try to fight cooking fires themselves.

And if you are using a turkey fryer this year, here are some life-saving safety tips below, courtesy of CSA International, a product testing and certification service.

CSA International's Turkey Fryer Safety Tips

Before You Start Cooking

Read and carefully follow the manufacturer's instructions and be aware of all warnings.
When purchasing a turkey fryer, make sure it carries the mark of an accredited certification agency, such as the CSA International Certification Star, indicating that it meets applicable national standards.
To avoid overheating of the liquid propane cylinder, ensure it is located as far away as practical (depending on the length of the hose provided) from the fryer burner. Situate the fuel tank and fryer so that if there is any wind it will blow the heat from the fryer away from the tank.
Turkey fryers should only be used outdoors and at least 10 feet from structures – including garages, carports and overhangs – vehicles, and combustible materials.
Always use a turkey fryer on a level, stable, non-combustible surface, and never on a wooden deck or any structure that can catch fire. Be sure to use only the pot that came with the outdoor cooker and that it is centered directly over the burner.

When You're Frying the Turkey

Never cook a turkey that is partially or fully frozen! A frozen turkey can cause the oil to splatter and boil over, posing a potential risk of fire and burn injuries. Prior to cooking, turkeys should be thawed in a refrigerator at least 24 hours for every five pounds of bird.
Dry the turkey before putting it in the oil. Pay special attention to drying the cavity of the bird as it has the greatest potential for water or ice to accumulate. Avoid marinades that may react with the hot fryer oil.
When filling the pot with oil, be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions and never over-fill the turkey fryer. This can cause the oil to overflow, posing a potential risk of ignition from the burner flame.
Never heat the oil above 400°F and always use the thermometer supplied with the turkey fryer to measure the oil temperature. Check the oil temperature frequently. If the oil begins to smoke, turn off the gas.
Use well-insulated oven mitts when touching a pot lid, handles or when adding or removing food to prevent the risk of burn injuries.

Slowly, and with caution, lower the turkey into hot oil , and be careful to avoid any overflow. Never leave a turkey fryer unattended.
Young children and pets should be kept away from the area where turkey fryers are being used, even after the cooking has finished.

If There's a Fire

If any portion of the turkey fryer catches fire, do not attempt to extinguish or fight the fire. Immediately remove all people from the vicinity of the turkey fryer, and contact the fire department or 9-1-1. Do not attempt to extinguish the fire with water!

When You're Finished Cooking

Never move the pot or drain the oil from the pot until the oil has cooled to a temperature of 115°F or less.

CLICK HERE to visit the CSA International website.

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