For the safety of yourself, your home, and the people around you, know what to do next time you experience a stovetop fire.
Kitchen Fire
Credit: Getty Images; Credit: Koukichi Takahashi/ EyeEm

To me, cooking is a therapeutic, soothing hobby that I can always count on to give me a breath of fresh air and internal peace. Except for those horrifying moments when whatever I’m cooking ignites in monstrous flames, terrorizing my entire kitchen, and scaring the living daylight out of me. While you shouldn’t go so far as to cook in agonizing paranoia that at any moment your food is going to burst into uncontrollable flames, it is important to remember that if done improperly, cooking can sometimes be a little dangerous.

I can attest to this danger, because in an innocent attempt to fry some capers in extra-virgin olive oil in a skillet the other day, my pan immediately went up in enormous flames. AHHHHH@#($@#%*@ is right! While my first instinct in this stifling moment was to grab the nearest marshmallow and make s’mores (JK my stomach dropped harder than a bag of bricks), I went with my second instinct to take it off the and blow on it like the imbecile that I am. So, how’d I do? Well, I was lucky that my panicked huffing and puffing was enough to put out the flame (this obviously came from years of determined birthday cake candle-blowing), but I definitely failed my fire safety test. So for the love of God, don’t be like me, and know the steps to take in order to keep your house, your loved ones, and yourself safe in the event that your next culinary expedition takes a turn for the worst.

So what should I have done upon noticing that I had set my skillet ablaze? I should have thought back to my elementary school education when I learned that fires need oxygen. How do you cut off oxygen to a fire? Cover it. Keep a lid nearby in the case that you experience a stovetop fire. Your next best option is baking soda...and lots of it. Dump it over the flames to stifle them. If you’re still battling flames at this point, it’s time to bring out the fire extinguisher, or get the fire department on the line.

In a heated moment such as this (pun extremely intended), it’s very common that your gut instinct is the wrong reaction, as I dangerously learned. Other immediate reactions that you should definitely avoid are pouring water (or any other sort of liquid), as this can actually make the situation way worse for both grease and electrical fires. Also, dumping flour onto the flames, while it might seem like this would counteract the fire, is actually quite flammable. And yes, fire is scary, but do not drop the pan and run, as this is an easy way to spread the fire. Lastly, if it’s an oven fire, even though you might think this goes without saying...don’t open the oven! Having eyebrows is a privilege, just saying.

Being aware of general no-nos when it comes to kitchen fires is also very valuable knowledge to have in the back of mind (I clearly had none). That means your long hair should be pulled back, and you shouldn’t have any flammable appendages or accessories dangling off of you (looking at you, scarves and long, flowy sleeves). Definitely be on the defense if you’re cooking something with a lot of grease (ahem...bacon). Grease fires are the most common, and a splash of water is not going to put these out. Also, general attentiveness will prevent a majority of kitchen fires. Texting and cooking can be just as lethal as texting and driving if you’re not focused on the open flame that you’ve got burning in your kitchen. Don’t be asleep at the wheel, and put the fire out, I’m not even going to go there.

By Sara Tane and Sara Tane