Why Do Cooking Pans Catch Fire and how to prevent it?

If you cook often, you’ve probably nicked your finger while cutting up vegetables or burnt some food.

Most of the time, cooking is not a dangerous activity, but you still need to be cautious.

For example, grease fires can easily occur while cooking. If your pan has caught fire, read ahead to learn more about it and how to prevent it from happening again.

Why Do Cooking Pans Catch Fire?

Your pan catches on fire when the cooking oil on the surface of your pan gets really hot. When it is heated, the oil starts boiling. After a while, it starts smoking, which will eventually turn into a fire.

Most vegetable oils have a smoking point of 450 degrees, which means if you heat your pan to 500 degrees, there is a huge chance your pan may catch fire.

How to Prevent Your Cooking Pan from Catching Fire

The best way to make sure grease fires don’t become a common occurrence in your home is prevention.

Here are a few ways to do just that:

Never Leave Food Unattended

When you’re cooking, it should be your only priority. For example, someone might get a phone call which is very likely to distract them.

Even if you’re on your phone, make sure to always stay in the kitchen – especially when you’re cooking with grease or when your oven or toaster is at a very high temperature.

It only takes 30 seconds for the smoke to turn into fire. If you have to leave the kitchen for an emergency, don’t forget to turn the burner off before exiting.

Don’t Cook When You’re Tired

After a long day of work, the last thing you want to do is spend time in the kitchen. A good idea is to prepare your meals beforehand or order out if you’re too tired because cooking can be potentially dangerous.

Cooking needs your undivided attention, and this is why you shouldn’t do it when you’re intoxicated or tired.

Remove Moisture

Before you start cooking, it is a good idea to remove as much moisture from your food as you can. If your pan is hot, food with a high moisture content can cause a fire.

Try to avoid putting frozen food into hot grease – this not only causes a fire but also causes your pan to crack.

Monitor Grease Temperature

Since grease is the most common cause of a fire, we suggest checking the temperature of the grease. Make certain to keep the grease at the recommended temperature.

Check the instruction manual that comes with your pan to learn more about the recommended temperature of your pan. You can use a thermometer to monitor the temperature easily.

Heat Oil Slowly

To prevent your pan from catching fire, make sure to heat the oil slowly. This means that you can’t directly raise the temperature very high— do it gradually so that your pan doesn’t heat up very quickly either.

When adding food, make sure to add it gently— this will avoid hot oil from splattering all over you. Wear gloves when dealing with hot oil at all times.

Related Read: How to Prevent Cooking Pans from Turning Black over Flame?

What Do I Do If My Pan Catches Fire

If your pan does catch on fire, here is what you need to do:

Turn the Heat Off

If your pan has caught fire, the first step is to turn the heat off. It is always a good idea to not move the pot from its position on the stovetop because you can easily get hurt by the flames or the hot oil. Turning the heat off will also prevent the temperature from rising.

Cover the Pot

When cooking with hot oil and high temperatures, it is always a good idea to keep a metal lid near your stovetop.

Fire cannot survive in an environment where there is no oxygen, so when the pot is covered and there is no heat, the fire will slowly put itself out. Make sure the lid you use to cover it is not made of plastic or glass because the glass will shatter and plastic may melt and cause more damage.

Pour Baking Soda

Baking soda is very helpful when it comes to stopping grease fires.

However, if the fire has gotten out of hand and is too big, baking soda might not be able to stop the fire (unless you use lots of it), but it will definitely prevent the flames from growing.

Baking soda stops fires by letting out carbon dioxide in the air, which reduces the oxygen in the surrounding area and smothers the fire. Make sure to keep baking soda near your stove when cooking in hot oil.

Pour Salt

Many people may not realize this, but salt is great for stopping grease fires.

Unlike baking soda, salt can smother a fire no matter how big it is. Since salt can absorb heat pretty quickly, it simply sucks the heat from the grease, which means that the fire cannot combust and instantly dies.

Use a Towel

If you don’t have a lid around, you can also use a towel to simmer the fire. A towel will not ignite the fire, but it will actually lower your chances of getting burnt.

Placing a towel on a grease fire can stop the fire from getting oxygen, which means the fire won’t die instantly, but it will gradually go away.

Make sure not to move the pot from its position when the towel is placed on your pot to protect yourself as well as your family from major burns.

Get Help

If your pan is on fire and it’s only getting bigger, it’s time to get help.

Get out of your kitchen and call someone for help before the fire breaks out of control.

Use a Fire Extinguisher

Even though it is said that fire extinguishers should not be used to put out grease fires, if you know the right way to use a fire extinguisher – you’re good to go.

Before using your fire extinguisher, it is essential to know the kind of fire you are dealing with. If you’re dealing with grease fire and you shoot with high-pressure carbon dioxide, there is a huge chance it will simply spread everywhere and end up causing more damage.

Make sure to stay back when using the extinguisher in order to protect your body from the flames. It may take a while, but the fire extinguisher will do its job and smother the flames.

If you want to know how to use a fire extinguisher to end a grease fire, here are a few different fire extinguishers and the right time to use them. Make sure the one in your kitchen is the right one for you or you might just end up causing more damage.

High-Pressure Carbon Dioxide Extinguisher

High-pressure carbon dioxide is the most common fire extinguisher, and you can easily recognize it. These fire extinguishers work by extracting oxygen from the flames, which can end the fire instantly.

They also exert a lot of pressure on the flame, so try to avoid being too close to the pan when using this extinguisher.

The good thing about these extinguishers is that the carbon dioxide evaporates, so it will not damage your pan—the only damage caused will be by the hot oil and the flames.

High-pressure carbon dioxide fire extinguishers won’t be of too much use outdoors or in places that are highly ventilated. They are best for small rooms where the fire is still in control because the carbon dioxide is not best for cold temperatures.

Dry Powder Extinguishers

Dry powder extinguishers contain bicarb and they work by removing the oxygen from the fire, which ultimately kills the flame. These extinguishers are best for outdoors and can work on all kinds of fires.

Whether you have a small kitchen fire or an electrical fire, these fire extinguishers are the way to go.

There is a catch when it comes to dry powder extinguishers, though. Unlike high-pressure carbon dioxide extinguishers, these extinguishers tend to make a big mess.

These extinguishers leak, so once you start spraying, the whole powder will most likely release in one go. You also need to service these extinguishers annually so the contents inside don’t get cakey, which can make the whole extinguisher useless.

More Types of Fire Extinguishers

There are four classes of fire extinguishers. Class A extinguishers can be used on ordinary items like wood, paper, rubber, and several plastics. Class B extinguishers can be used on flammable liquids like gases, grease fires or somewhere where oxygen needs to be reduced to smother the flames.

Class C extinguishers are better for fires that involve electrical equipment. For example, a water-based fire extinguisher will not work on these fires and may even cause a shock to the user.

Class D extinguishers are best for materials like magnesium, titanium, sodium, and potassium.

At home, a high-pressure carbon dioxide extinguisher is best to put out a grease fire. You can also use dry powder, but keep in mind to turn the heat off before using an extinguisher. Also, don’t put too much pressure on the pan and don’t stand too close to the flames when using an extinguisher. If you can’t do it yourself, ask for help and make sure to keep your extinguishers in a safe place after you’re done.

What Not To Do If Your Pan Catches on Fire

There are a few things you should avoid if your pan catches on fire.

Do Not Use Water

Whatever you do, make sure to not pour water over the grease fire. Pouring water can cause the oil to splash everywhere, which will only increase the fire.

Water that is vaporizing can easily carry particles of grease in it, which will only end up spreading the fire. Also, water extinguishers are highly prohibited in the kitchen.

They will only splash hot oil on you and make a mess instead of ending the fire. Water can also create an explosion.

Do Not Move the Pot

When a fire has broken out in front of you, it is normal if your first instinct is to simply carry the pot and throw it outside, but refrain from doing that.

If you try moving a pan that is on fire, there is a huge chance you may just burn yourself with hot oil. Besides yourself, you may also end up harming the people around you.

Do Not Use Baking Products

Baking soda is okay to use, but other baking products, like flour, are definitely not.

They might look alike, but that’s where the similarities end. Flour won’t react the same and might end up making a mess and splashing hot oil on you.

Do Not Panic

This one might be a little hard to follow.

It is a human reaction to panic when a grease fire has broken out in front of you since grease fires are pretty common and can be quite harmful if they get out of hand.

But, it is important to realize that one wrong step can cause a lot of damage and can harm you, your loved ones and your neighbors. So be extra careful. If you cook often, you should be informed of all the ways you can put out a grease fire.

It is important to always keep a metal lid or baking soda around, just in case. If you don’t have any nearby, you should be aware of how to use your appliances and how to handle kitchen fires.

If you think you can’t handle it alone, call a family member or a friend for help. The more prepared you are, the better you will handle the situation.

Grease fires are common, but if you have the right tools around you and are informed about the situation, you can easily put them out without causing any damage to your property or yourself. Follow the tips mentioned above to prevent grease fires.

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