According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the leading cause of kitchen fires is unattended cooking. Thanksgiving ranks at the top of the list for home fires involving cooking equipment with three times the average number, followed by Christmas Day and Christmas Eve.
But the potential for a kitchen fire doesn't have to turn your next holiday party into a bah-humbug affair. Here are the "ingredients" for a safe holiday:
- Stay in the kitchen when cooking so you can keep a close eye on the food, especially when frying and sauteing with oil.
- When cooking a meal that takes a long time like roasting a turkey or baking a roast, check it frequently. And a timer is your friend. Use one to help remind you there's something cooking. Some people even put timers in different rooms so they can hear it over the music and party chatter.
- Be alert and focused when cooking. It's easy to get distracted when there is a lot of activity around you. To help minimize the risk of injury, if you're sleepy or have had an extra glass of eggnog or two, ask others to take over in the kitchen. Or save that glass of wine to have during dinner or after you've cleared the table and washed dishes.
- Keep things that can catch fire, such as oven mitts, wooden utensils, food wrappers, and towels away from the cooking area.
- Make sure kids stay at least three feet away from the stove and oven, hot food, and liquids. The steam or splash from vegetables, gravy, or coffee could cause serious burns.
- Store toys, pocketbooks, and bags in a safe place so you, your guests, and the kids don't trip near the stove and oven, or on a sharp corner of the counter.
- Move matches and utility lighters out of reach of children.
- Secure cords from electric knives, the coffee maker, plate warmer, mixer, and other cooking equipment at the far end of counters so no one accidentally pulls them off the edge.
Have children? The holidays are a great time to let them help out in the kitchen. Kids love being a part of the process, from mixing cake batter to cutting shapes out of cookie dough. But every child is different, so carefully consider your child's skill level before deciding what is safe for him. Not sure? NFPA's "Kids in the Kitchen" guide is a great resource that outlines the kinds of food prep activities that are ideal for each age group.
Cooking for the holidays brings family and friends together, provides a wonderful way to showcase your creativity, and is fun, too! So as you start preparing your holiday schedule and organizing that large family feast, remember: By following a few simple safety tips, you can enjoy time with your loved ones and keep yourself and your family safer from fire. Find these and many more fire safety tips and resources on NFPA's winter holiday Web page at www.nfpa.org/winterholidaysafety.