Fire safety in the kitchen
More than half of the house fires we attend start in the kitchen. Here's our advice on the risks to look out for and how best to stay safe.
Our advice covers deep-fat fryer fires, frying pan fires, microwave fires and the type of alarms to have in your kitchen. There's also what to do if your clothes catch on fire.
What are the main causes of fire in the kitchen?
The biggest fire risks when it comes to cooking are:
- deep fat frying with chip pans
- distractions – always keep an eye on your cooking, and use a cooking timer. Always turn off appliances when you’ve finished. NEVER leave cooking on when you’re not in the house.
- alcohol – drinking alcohol and cooking can be a fatal mix. Don't drink and cook.
Can cooking oil catch fire?
When cooking with oil, take extra care because hot oil can catch fire easily. It is best to use just a small amount of oil.
Which cooking oils catch fire?
All oil is a fire risk when it comes to cooking, but some oils have a higher ‘smoking’ temperature than others. Butter has a low smoking point and will burn easily, whilst vegetable, sunflower and olive oils are more suitable for cooking as they have high smoking points. Check the oil you are using is intended for cooking, not drizzling or seasoning.
The safest way to cook food in oil is to use an electric, thermostat-controlled deep fat fryer as they can’t overheat.
- Never fill a pan more than one-third full of fat or oil.
- Never leave the pan unattended when the heat is switched on.
- Make sure that food is dried thoroughly before putting it in hot oil. Even small amounts of water (for example if you have washed a potato for making chips) will cause the oil to spit.
- If the oil starts to smoke it is too hot. Turn off the heat and leave it to cool otherwise it may catch fire.
- Never put food into the pan if the oil is smoking.
Frying pan fires
As with deep-fat frying, try to limit the amount of oil used when cooking in a frying pan. You should also make sure you are paying attention when cooking with a frying pan.
If your pan does catch fire
- Turn off the heat under the pan (if it’s safe to do so) and allow it to cool.
- Leave the pan where it is – don’t move it.
- Never throw water over it or use a fire extinguisher - the effects can be devastating and spread the fire further.
- Leave the room, close the door, get everyone out of your home and stay out. Then call 999.
What to do if your microwave catches fire
In the event of a fire in the microwave, leave the room, close the door, get everyone out of your home, stay out and call 999.
Can I still use my microwave after a fire?
As a minimum, you should get your microwave checked and tested by a qualified person after a fire, even if it is a minor one. There could be damage you are not able to see and by continuing to use it you are putting yourself at risk.
Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in the kitchen
Although we want you to have a smoke alarm on every level of your home, we don’t recommend fitting a smoke alarm in the kitchen. If you would like an alarm in the kitchen it needs to be a heat alarm. A heat alarm will give you a warning of an increase in temperature caused by fire but will not be set off by cooking fumes.
Carbon monoxide (CO) is the most common form of household poison. You can't see it, taste it or smell it. Carbon monoxide occurs when a fuel-burning appliance (such as a cooker) has not been properly installed, maintained, or is poorly ventilated.
Carbon monoxide poisoning can be fatal or cause permanent damage to your health.
You need a carbon monoxide alarm or detector near any fuel-burning appliance you have. Read the instructions on your specific alarm, but this is usually suggested to be 1-3 metres away from the appliance.
How to avoid fire in the kitchen
- Keep things clean - a build-up of fat and grease can catch fire - keep the oven, hob and grill clean.
- Keep tea towels and cloths away from the cooker and hob.
- Take care if you’re wearing loose clothing - especially loose sleeves. Roll sleeves up, or maybe even change your top to be extra safe.
- Never leave cooking unattended. Use a cooking timer to help with this.
- Double-check everything is off when you’ve finished cooking.
- Place your toaster well away from curtains or blinds, and anything else flammable such as kitchen rolls. Always pull your toaster out from under overhanging cupboards to use, and empty out crumbs regularly.
- Avoid cooking if you are very tired, have been drinking alcohol, or are taking medication that can make you drowsy.
Electrical safety in the kitchen
- Never overload sockets – use one plug in each socket. If you have to, use a fused adapter and keep the total output to no more than 13 amps (a kettle alone uses 13 amps). Remember, high-rated appliances such as washing machines always need their own socket.
- Turn off electrical appliances when you’re not using them, and have them serviced regularly.
- Keep electrical leads and appliances away from water (and heat or flames).
Don't overload extension leads - this can cause fire
- Washing machine (10 amps).
- Kettle (10 amps).
- Toaster (9 amps).
- Microwave (4.5amps).
Use one socket each for these appliances. (Please note that this is a guide and you should always check the individual amp rating of each appliance).
What to do if your clothing catches fire
You could consider keeping a fire blanket in the kitchen. Fire blankets can be used to put out a fire or wrap a person whose clothes are on fire.
Never attempt to tackle a fire. Get out, stay out, call 999.