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How to Avoid These Common Kitchen Disasters

While we can’t help you avoid serving tough chicken or lumpy gravy, there are other kitchen disasters we’re all too familiar with.

Plan ahead and follow our safety tips to steer clear of these common kitchen catastrophes:

1. Slips and falls. Clean up spills as soon as they happen, and check the floor periodically while you’re cooking to make sure there are no peels or other slippery debris underfoot.

2. Cuts from kitchen knives. Keep your knives in a block or in a separate container within a kitchen drawer. If you have kids, make sure the block or drawer is well out of their reach. And keep your knives sharp – dull knives can slip off the surface of what you’re trying to slice or chop, and cut your hand instead.

3. Kitchen fires. First, do all you can to prevent fires and burns:

  • Keep appliances clean and in good repair. Crumbs in the toaster oven or gunk left in the microwave or oven can catch fire. And if your appliances are doing something weird – say, making an odd noise they weren’t before – stop using them and call a repairman.
  • Keep towels away from the stove. Both cloth and paper towels can catch fire easily if left too close to a burner.
  • Choose your clothing wisely. Long, flowy sleeves, scarves, neckties – any of these can drag over a hot burner and catch fire, or dip into a boiling pot of water. Tying long hair back while cooking is also a good idea.
  • Unplug appliances when not in use. Faulty wiring in your toaster or microwave can spark a fire even when you aren’t using it.
  • Never leave pots or pans of cooking food unattended. Kids, pets, a strong breeze – you never know what might happen. Keep pot handles turned toward the center of the stove too, so no one can bump into them.
  • Get a kitchen fire extinguisher and know how to use it. Check the pressure gauge monthly to make sure the needle is in the green area (if not, replace it). Also replace it if there are any cracks in the hose or handle, or if the nozzle is blocked with debris.

Second, know what to do if there is a fire:

  • Oven fires. Shut the door to the oven or microwave. The lack of oxygen should stifle the fire. If the fire doesn’t seem to be dying down, call 911.
  • Stovetop fires. If a pan catches fire, use a potholder or oven mitt to clap a lid on it, and take it off the burner – following the same principle of cutting off oxygen to flames. If you don’t have a lid, use your fire extinguisher.
  • Never pour water on a grease fire. It can make it worse. You can douse the flames with baking soda or salt, but don’t use flour – it can actually explode.

If all these measures fail, dial 911 immediately and evacuate your home. And of course, make sure you have comprehensive homeowners insurance in case, despite all your precautions, a kitchen fire gets out of hand.

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