My First Kitchen fire

hey there!

First off, no damage was done. I simply got my wits shattered just a bit.

I decided tonight that I was going to fry up some venison burger (I was in a rather carniverous mood tonight) as my main meal. Knowing that Venison is rather dry and lacking in fats suitable for frying easly, I decided (after franticly scrubbing out a frying pan) to add some canola oil into the pan. Put the pan on the stove (Gas stove) and cranked the heat up since I was hungry. Things proceeded rather well, until I flipped the rather large burger over. I lifted it up, and noticed that the venison burger had absorbed the oil in the center of the pan. I then tlted the pan to spread the remaining oil (By now spattering like crazy) over the dry area, lowered the pan and finished flipping the burger.

Flames then shot up OVER TWO FEET!! I quickly removed the pan from the heat, and lifted the burger off, blew out the flames, and lowered the heat and finished the job. Other than having my blood pressure shoot up over I don’t know how many PSI everything went fine.

As you can tell, my cooking skills are virutally non existant (I am the very epitome of the sterotypical bachelor in certain areas including cooking skills) as you may have already guessed. I used to classify myself as hopeless in the kitchen, but now I’ve upgraded myself to dangerous.

My question to you is this. How common are cooking fires and other little disasters like this among you and how long before you could consider yourself “no longer dangerous” in the kitchen? I have darn little knowlege in the kitchen and could use all the hints that I could get.

Thank you in advance.

Kitchen fires are kinda common, actually. I strongly recommend getting a fire extinguisher for your kitchen and learning how to use it. I recommend this for myself, too, not having done it yet. :smiley:

Let’s see, kitchen fire lore. Don’t use water on a grease fire - you’ll probably just spread it. I believe baking soda is the recommended extinguisher for grease fires. You can often douse a fire by clamping the lid back on a pot (runs out of oxygen). Keep your potholders handy, too, in case you need to grab something quickly.

Other hints - never, ever try to catch a falling knife. Do try to get your feet out of the way, though.

Cook with your pot handles facing into the stove, so you’re less likely to catch one and tip it over.

Cook with short sleeves or tight sleeves - billowy sleeves can catch fire.

Put things into hot grease and hot water carefully - use a spatula if necessary.

When deep-frying, use less than a full pot of oil. The oil will froth some when the food is put in, and there’s that whole displacement issue.

Wash items that have come in contact with raw meat and fish with at least hot water and soap; a weak bleach solution is not a bad idea, either.

Steaks are about the only meat that can be cooked safely (more or less) to anything less than well-done. Hamburgers, pork, chicken and fish should all be cooked till there is no raw pink left to prevent food poisoning.

Regarding leftovers and food poisoning; when in doubt, throw it out. Mayonnaise is a big culprit for food poisoning. Foods with mayo should be refrigerated asap.

That’s all I can think of for now.

I have a sign in my kitchen that sums up my cooking skills: Dinner will be served when the smoke alarm goes off.

I’ve only caught my kitchen on fire twice, both instances in one week, so I suspect the second fire was as a result of residual rattled confidence from the first fire!

Keep a fire extinguisher handy - and I mean within an arms reach of your stovetop and/or oven - NEVER over them because you don’t want to reach through flames to get it!

Hope your venison burger was good!

All of the fire extinguisher advice is valid with one caveat-don’t overestimate your abilty to deal with a fire. Over the years I’ve been told by many homeowners how small the fire was in the beginning, and what they did to attempt extinguishment, such that by the time they bailed and called 911, that minor involvement became a room and contents assignment.

My two cents: watch out for the things that are in the vicinity of your stove. My wife bought a nifty paper towel rack that had a huge magnet on the back so you could stick it on the fridge. She put it on the side of the fridge that faced the stove, but well out of harm’s way.

After many uneventful months with this arrangement, some friends came by and we were chatting at the front door when the smoke alarm suddenly went off. The wind had blown the tail end of the paper towels sufficiently that it unrolled and hit the open flames of the stove and set the whole roll on fire. When I got into the kitchen, the flames were just about touching the ceiling.

My first reaction was to run to the sink, where there was a basin full of dirty dishes and dishwater. I simply threw the entire contents at the fire, quickly extinguishing it and breaking a few dishes in the process.

The next day I bought a medium-sized extinguisher for the kitchen and put it on the wall opposite the stove. I also bought a fairly large one that I put in my basement workshop. The paper towel holder was removed immediately.

On another occasion, many years ago, she had a small glass jar full of salt that she left too close to the burner: it exploded with a pop, scattering salt and bits of glass.

I’ve never had a grease fire, but I’ve been cooking since I was a wee sprout. Get over to the Food Channel and watch yourself some cooking shows. Good Eats with Alton Brown would be a good place to start because he rarely does anything flashy like the other professional chefs do. And he’s really cool, too.

Get yourself a fire extinguisher and keep it out in the open, but away from the stove. My grandpa was an inspector and was really into everybody having fire extinguishers (you always knew what your present from him was going to be). It was very embarrassing to have him find out I was storing it in the cabinet above the stove. Make sure you know how to use it and get it checked periodically to see if it’s still good.

My cooking tip for foods that splatter: cook them in a tall soup pot. Bacon way down in the bottom of a stock pot leaves you with virtually no splatter. Those screens they sell have been more nuisance than help I’ve found.

Would you own a gun but never take it to the range? Many of you would answer no, that use promotes skill and confidence, yet I’ll wager that many readers have never dumped a dry chemical extinguisher in their homes. If you have an extinguisher, what was the last time the gauge was checked to see if the charge was valid? Check with your local FD during fire prevention week in October to see if they offer extinguisher training.

In the kitchen for everyday fires, I like CO2 or Halon… dry chem’s are such a mess…

Pork is cooked to a particular internal temperature not to kill microbial action [food poisoning] but to kill off the possibility of contracting parisitic trichinosis

And ‘food poisoning’ is actually a misnomer…it is actually an illness, just like a case of pneumonia [bacteria, not a virus] where botulism is poisoning by virtue of a toxin released by a microbe…a case of your food poisoning you…

either way you put it, food borne illness canbe a serious drag, but if you take a look at Mortality and Morbidity weekly reports from the CDC, it can get frightening that there were something like 35000 odd deaths a few years ago from salmonells…until you take into account the total population of the US, and how absolutely MINOR your chance of actually dying from it…something like a .02% chance of contracting and dying from it…AIDS is probably more likely=\

One thing I can tell you from experience is that if you keep a container of kitchen utensils on your stove (or near your stove), make sure you don’t put the charcoal lighter in there as well. I did. It went BOOM. Really BIG.

I’ve been cooking pretty seriously at home since the time I moved out on my own. I think this makes it about 10 years or so now.

I’ve had exactly one fire. I had fried something or another, and when I was done, I put a cover on the pot of oil… but I forgot to turn off the burner. A while later, I noticed the room getting a bit smokey, and went to investigate.

NEVER EVER EVER, remove the cover from a smoking pot of oil. BIG flames. I turned off the burner (electric), grabbed my box of baking soda, and proceeded to scatter it over the range top. Once the flames were out, the cover went back on the pot, the windows and sliding door were opened to remove the smoke, and once cooled, the cleanup began.

I also agree with the advise of featherlou about the knives. I learned that lesson all too well when I was a teen, working in a fish monger. Let them fall, cleaning is easier than healing! :smiley:

As for “dangerous”, I’d say just keep cooking, you’ll learn what is good practice and what isn’t pretty quickly. Cooking isn’t hard, just be willing to experiment, and understand that sometimes the food you make won’t be very good (or even edible, if you muck it up that bad), but you can always try to figure out what went wrong, and try again!

Use recipies as a guide, and once you’ve gained some experience, you’ll stop paying attention to amounts in a recipie, and begin to cook with what “feels right.” The previous rule does NOT apply to baking, at least until you’re REALLY good! (I’ve been attempting to get bread “just right” for about 10 years now. I’ve just begun to get the results I want, though the bread has always been good, if not “bakery level”)


A valid point. My own employer (a pharmaceutical company) offers free fire training yearly to all employees where we all get to put out lots of interesting kinds of fires, and see the effectiveness and drawbacks of each type of extinguisher. If others have training of this sort accessible, it is truly valuable, and kind of fun too.

One key point that the firemen always stress in this training is to never test an extinguisher. They say that even if one gives it a short quick shot, the powder will get in the seals, allowing the pressurizing agent to escape over time.

All good points; I was using food poisoning as shorthand that everyone is likely to understand (and I couldn’t think of the right word for the pork problem :smiley: ). When I was a lab tech, I used to read the pathology books for the heck of it, and it blew my mind how toxic bacteria can be. Like you say, your chance of dying from food-borne illness are small, but who wants to spend the weekend in the bathroom with cramps, diarrhea, and vomiting?

As for the OP’s flames, that was just a flare-up. Still got your eyebrows? :smiley:

Do get fire extinguishers. Do get several. I added one to the collection just yesterday - there’s one at the top of the stairs amid the bedrooms, one in the kitchen and one in the garage.

Bright red clashes with the decor? You might be able to find a “marine” extinguisher in white. Or, just live with bright red and be happy knowing that you’ve cut the chances of your house turning into a black hole in the ground.

Not that I’ve kept count, but there have been quite a few times that I’ve grabbed an extinguisher and ran - about half of those times, I’ve had to use the thing. While effective on fires, that powder tastes icky. :eek:

Beats dying=)

On the other hand, that is pretty much what I do monthly anyways [well the runs come about a week before my period, but the cramps and vomiting are a monthly thing [along with killer headaches, bleeding like a stuck pig. Now that I think about it, I would rather have salmonella…it would go away and I wouldn’t get it again if i was careful :frowning: ]

Ah, fun. A couple of years ago, when my wife and I were still just dating, we were on the phone while she was cooking. She opened the oven, and the conversation went something like this:

She: “Oh! Oh! Fire! WhadoIdo, whadoIdo!”
Me, calmly: “Do you have a fire extinguisher?”
“No! Oh! Oh! WhadoIdo!”
“Do you have baking soda?”
“Yes! Oh! Oh!”
“Throw it on the fire.”
“…hey, it stopped. How’d you know to do that?”

The funny part is, her stepdad is a retired fire chief.

There are extinguishers made just for the kitchen. They come in white, are small enough to not stand out glaringly when mounted on a wall, but large enough to put out a stove top fire. Even better is the powder they put in them will not fuse at high temperatures (unlike regular extinguisher powder) and thus makes clean up much easier.

The only downside is that they are rated for B and C fires (liquids and electrical) but not A fires (paper). Thus I’d also reccomend getting a regular sized A, B, C extinguisher and stashing it under the sink as a backup.

As for learning how to cook, I can reccomend Cooking for Dummies. I got it for a friend who was the most hopeless batchelor cook I ever met. He’s a decent cook nowadays.

… ah… alright I’ll tell one short story about his cooking…

Before he became an apartment mate of mine (and thus had access to my kitchen supplies) he was living on his own and ate out or had food delivered for every meal more complicated than pouring milk on cereal. One day he was at a convience store and saw a box of macaroni and cheese in the grocery isle. ‘Aha! I like macaroni and cheese.’ he thought to himself, and bought it.

Upon getting home, he decided to make it for dinner. Reading the directions… ‘Heat 3 cups of water in a pot.’ … ‘A pot?!? I need a pot?’ Grumbling to himself, he went back to the store and bought a pot.

Back home, he carefully measured out 3 mugfulls of water (he had no clue that a ‘cup’ in measuring terms mean something other than a cup you drink out of) into the pot and started heating it up. Continuing to read the directions he figured he could strain the pasta using the lid of the pot (fortunatly it came with one). Then he got to the next line… ‘Add 2 tablespoons of butter and 1/4 cup of milk… butter and milk???’ He turned off the water, went back to the store bought the needed additional supplies.

Back at home he finally finished making his macaroni and cheese. It wound up being runny because 1/4 mug of milk was about twice what was called for. But he was now the proud owner of his first pot, and had cooked his first meal. … He was 23 at the time. No, I’m not making this up.

My father once decided to “help” me cook. I was frying chicken on the stove. He pushed the plate on which I was planning to deposit the cooked chicken (which had paper towels on it to soak up the oil) right next to the fire when I wasn’t paying attention. Plate caught on fire, and I rushed the entire thing to the sink and put it out with water (luckily, it was just a paper fire).

OP here,

Sorry, on the delay of the reply here (I had a good 4th of july weekend) and some of my clothing still smells like I was involved in a major gun battle.

In a brief answer, Yep the venison burger tasted quite well, considering that I was frying it with some seasoning salt on it and some BBQ sauce as well. I made for a nice flavor.

My eyebrows? (Runs fingers over his eyebrows) To the best of my knowlege they are still there. One thing sorta hit me afterwards, wehn I told you people that i blew out the flames, I was either being very brave or very foolish. you see I have a beard… Luckly I keep it semi-short and not long and flowing. That could have been rather bad indeed. :eek:

I’ll definately look into getting my hands on a fire extinguisher in the future.

Judgeing from some of the replys here I am glad to see that I’m not the only one who is dangerous in the kitchen. Please keep the hints and storys coming.

By the way, I have some canned salmon (Typical pink salmon shredded with some bones) and I have no idea what I can make with it. One time I tried substituting the salmon for tuna in a Mac and Cheese recipe. bad move. any ideas?

My excitable roommate set the broiler on fire, with a chuck steak inside. She was carrying on, so I got a towel, gave it a slosh in water, and smothered the fire. 60 seconds, and the meat tasted fine.

But now I have an extinguisher near the stove, and I just checked it, and guess what, time to replace. So I’ll get a new one and take this and try it out–believe it or not, that had never occured to me till this thread. Looking forward to it… :smiley:
Oh, and as to canned salmon, chill the can in the fridge, and open it and squeeze in lemon juice, and eat it out of the can with a fork. This is the minimum-cooking, minimum-wash-up method of eating canned salmon. :smiley: :smiley:

And you can eat the bones, they’re crunchy and give good calcium, and if you’re against that, pick’m out and chop up some celery into the salmon to disguise any that might have been missed.

Then for more cooking and civilized eating, try salmon in cream sauce with shaved almonds and I think a little lemon in the cream sauce (my aunt made this, wonderful!, but I never got the recipe, unfortunately).