Careful Cooking – Inside and Out

For many people, more time at home means more time at the stove or grill. While cooking can bring plenty of pleasure, it can also increase the risk of fire. Indeed, cooking is the number one cause of home fires [1].

Whether you find yourself at the stove or grill, there are important precautions you should take to help keep yourself, your family and your property safe.

Sparkle and shine. Keeping your kitchen clean is an important first step. Build up of crumbs and grease can fuel a fire. Clean appliances regularly, as well as the exhaust hood and duct over the stove, and wipe up spills as soon as they happen.
Appliance check. Take a close look at your toaster, coffee maker and electric skillet for signs of wear and overheating, such as melting, cracks or discoloration of cords or plastic surfaces.
On overload. Don’t overload electrical outlets with countertop appliances, which can cause overheating.
Three-feet rule. A good rule of thumb is to keep anything flammable three feet from the heat; that includes oven mitts, dishtowels and decorative items.
Close encounters. Always keep an eye on what’s cooking and never leave the room while something’s simmering, sautéing, steaming, baking or broiling.
Smother it. If what you’re cooking on the stove catches fire, if it’s safe to do so, slide a lid over the pan from the side and turn off the stove. If it happens in the oven, turn off the heat. If there’s a fire in the microwave, keep the door closed and unplug or turn off the unit.

On the level. It’s important that the grill is stable, so keep it on a level surface. Only grill outdoors, and far away from your house. Charcoal grills emit carbon monoxide fumes, which can be deadly. Additionally, never move the grill when it’s hot or walk away from cooking food.
Light right. If you’re using a charcoal grill, only use lighter fluid designed for charcoal. And don’t add lighter fluid once the fire has started.
Stop and go. For a gas grill, if it doesn’t ignite, turn off the gas. Keep the grill open for five minutes before trying to light it again. If the burners go out while you’re cooking, turn the gas valves off and wait five minutes before relighting.
At arm’s length. Protect yourself when you’re cooking by using long, flame retardant mitts that reach far up your arm and utensils with long handles that are designed for grilling. Consider also wearing a heavy apron.
Splatter matter. Putting a heat-resistant grill pad or splatter mat underneath the grill can protect your deck floor from grease that may escape the grill.
Cool, then cover. The grill should be completely cool before you cover it for storing. Note that it can remain hot up to an hour after use.

You might also consider installing a central station reporting fire alarm; this important system will detect a fire and contact firefighting authorities. Not only is this superior protection for your home and family, but it will bring you savings on your Kemper homeowners insurance too. Ask your agent about it.

1U.S. Fire Administration
Sources: U.S. Fire Administration; City of Olean, NY; Insurance Information Institute; Hearth, Patio and Barbeque Association
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