Grease fires are hazardous and can happen to anyone. However, with the right knowledge, you can prevent just about every one of them — and know what to do if a fire does happen.
How Do Grease Fires Start?
A grease fire occurs when cooking oil reaches a specific temperature. Before oil heats up to the point where it can ignite, it will pass through a series of phases — boiling, smoking and then flaring up.
While animal fats like lard will start smoking around 375 degrees Fahrenheit, most vegetable oils have a smoking point around 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
How to Prevent Grease Fires
Taking steps to prevent a grease fire is the best safety measure. To avoid grease fires on a gas grill, stovetop, oven or another hot surface:
Do not leave your cooking pan unattended, even briefly — it takes less than 30 seconds for the smoke to turn into fire.
Do not cook when tired or intoxicated, and pay attention around the grill or stovetop.
Before cooking, remove as much moisture as you can from the food. Never place frozen food into a pot of hot grease.
Use a thermometer to monitor grease and ensure it stays at the recommended temperature.
Heat oil slowly.
To avoid splattering, add food to hot oil gently and slowly.
Keep salt or baking soda on the counter or in nearby cupboards if you need to put out any flames.
Keep a metal pot lid nearby in case of a pot fire.
Store a Class K fire extinguisher between the kitchen and nearest exit or any place you will be able to get to it quickly.
Keep wooden utensils, oven mitts and other flammable items away from the stovetop.
Grease, Fire and Water — What Not to Do
Trying to extinguish a grease fire with water is a huge “don’t.” Since oil and water do not mix, pouring water on a grease fire will cause steam explosions in every direction.
Other actions to avoid in the case of a grease fire include:
Do not throw any liquid on the flames.
Do not carry the flaming pan outside — you risk spilling the grease and spreading the fire.
Do not use anything made of plastic or glass. Plastic will melt, and glass will shatter after heating up.
Because flour and baking powder are combustible and have a lighter weight, never use them as substitutes for baking soda or salt.
How to Safely Put out Grease Fires
To safely put out a grease fire:
Being careful not to move the burning pan, turn off the burner. Moving the pan can cause the flames to grow stronger and faster.
Do not attempt to put out the fire with liquid.
Remove the oxygen. One of the best ways to do this for a stovetop fire is to cover the pan with a baking sheet or metal lid. For an oven grease fire, use baking soda or salt — not flour or baking powder — to smother the flames. Instead of throwing the baking soda or salt from the side, make sure to direct them to the top of the fire. Another way to put out a grease fire is to use a Class K fire extinguisher. These wet chemical extinguishers create a non-combustible barrier between the fire and oil while lowering the fire temperature.
If you have tried these steps to no avail, call 911 and make sure everyone is out of the building. Contain the flames by closing the door behind you.
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