Putting Out Kitchen Fires: The Act, Not the Blog

It recently occurred to me that the title of this blog might be a bit misleading.

I’d like to apologize to anyone out there who desperately googled how to combat a kitchen fire, only to end up mindlessly scrolling through a cooking blog.

Please look up from the computer and turn your attention to the smoke thickening around you.

Now turn back to your computer because today I’m going to teach you how to put out a kitchen grease fire.

Many of our natural reactions when faced with a fire are useless or actively dangerous when employed against grease fires. This is particularly worrying since it only takes about thirty seconds to react before the fire becomes too big for a layman to handle.

Like many people, your first reaction might be to…

Throw water over it.

fire2
A huge fireball erupts after water is added to a grease fire.

This will cause a huge fireball to give your face a nice, warm hug. Expect to spend some time in the ICU.

If you’ve heard that oil and water don’t mix, however, you might go for the next best thing.

Throw a damp towel over it.

Again, this can cause some serious damage.  The cloth can actually push the flames outside of the pan and up the nearest wall, according to one fire chief.

With water proven to be useless, many people turn to old wives’ tales.

Sprinkle it with flour.

Flour actually causes fire to grow.

Sprinkle it with baking soda.

house
A 1950s housewife throws baking soda on a fire.

This method often works due to chemical reactions that I find both baffling and akin to witchcraft.

Just be careful to sprinkle the baking soda and not dump the whole box over the fire. Too much baking soda can cause the same reaction as dumping flour on top.

Sometimes, however, the smartest move is to go to the most surefire, technologically-advanced, engineer-perfected method.

Blast it with a fire extinguisher.

Actually, this is dangerous, too.

It seems counter-intuitive. The device is a fire extinguisher. It is literally designed to extinguish fires!

Nevertheless, there are many concerns for the unwary fire-tamer.

For example, water-based fire extinguishers can actually make a grease fire worse.

Even non-water-based versions run the risk of splashing the fiery grease around your kitchen, according to St. Petersburg Fire and Rescue. To stay safe, stand four to six feet away from the pan and aim the extinguisher’s spray at the base of the fire.

At the end of the day, the best technique for extinguishing a fire is pretty mundane.

Put a lid on top and ignore it.

For most emergency situations, I would not recommend hiding the danger from view and walking away, but this is the one situation where “out of sight, out of mind” is a viable strategy.

When a lid is placed on top of the pan, the fire is unable to get enough oxygen and goes out.

Simply approach the fire from an angle, place the lid on top of the pan (or even a cookie tray, if you don’t have a lid that fits), turn off the burner, and leave the pan alone for twenty minutes.

lid-on-grease-fire
A hand places a lid on top of a fire.

It’s important to remember that I’m just a nameless, faceless, sleep-deprived college student, not a fire safety official, so feel free to check my sources.

First, though, you should probably do something about that fire.

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