Few things are more terrifying than a fire breaking out in your kitchen. There are a few different ways that it can start, but scrambling to figure out how to extinguish the flames is only half the battle. Identifying which fire you have on your hands will ensure that you don't make matters worse. Having a comprehensive understanding of the different disasters that could sneak up on you is the best way to nip them in the bud and protect those closest to you.

What Causes Grease Fires?

an out of control grease fire

Grease fires can easily start if you're not careful. The main reason they happen is that cooking oil gets too hot. If you're cooking with any sort of oil and especially if you're an experienced home cook, it might not seem like a big deal to turn your back even for a moment. But grease fires happen fast and they can devastate a kitchen or home, so it's best to always keep your eyes on what you're making.

Why Are They Difficult To Extinguish?

As we mentioned before, there are different sorts of fires out there. Many people think they know how to put out a grease fire because of basic extinguishing rules: use water. But with grease, that's one of the worst solutions. It's simple chemistry to know that grease and water don't mix, so pouring water all over your pot is only going to make things worse. In fact, using water in a grease fire can actually cause things to spread.

What Should You Use To Put Them Out?

baking soda in a white bowl on a wooden counter

When thinking of what puts out a fire, the first solution that comes to mind is water. However, water is easily one of the worst things you can add to a grease fire. Not being able to use water sounds like a massive roadblock, but there are lots of other ingredients and methods you can use:

  • Turn off the heat. One of the only things that will make your fire worse is to have the heat continue. Turn off the stove to ensure any oil doesn't get any hotter.
  • Cover the fire with a lid or cookie sheet. If a small fire has sprouted and you have the tools around you to cover it, then place the pot lid or a baking sheet over the top. Flames cannot live without air so smothering it is a good way to keep it contained and to stop it. You should leave the cover in place until the surface is cool to touch.
  • Use baking soda or salt to extinguish smaller flames. Like we previously mentioned, many people think they know how to put out a grease fire simply by using water. It's not that hard to believe; people panic and resort to their basic knowledge of generic fires. But grease fires need baking soda or salt. However, it may take an entire box of baking soda to extinguish a small grease fire, which is why you shouldn't attempt to tackle larger ones.
  • Call 911. If it gets to a point where the fire is spreading and you feel unsafe then you need to leave immediately. It's recommended that you shut the kitchen door to prevent it from spreading. Grab your loved ones and call the fire department.

What Extinguishing Methods Should You Avoid?

When thinking of what puts out a fire, the first solution that comes to mind is water. However, water is easily one of the worst things you can add to a grease fire, as evidenced by the video below:

grease fire burning in a red pan

Water is probably the worst thing you can do to put out a grease fire, but there are a few other things you should also avoid.

  • Don't move the cookware. When a small grease fire breaks out it might seem like a good idea to simply transport it off the stove and move it to a safer location. But you risk spilling more grease on the stove or even yourself by doing this. Not to mention, it's really not a good idea to touch anything when it's on fire.
  • Don't use other baking products. Baking powder versus baking soda... what's the difference, right? You might not see a huge distinction between the two, but using anything other than table salt or baking soda is another surefire way to spread the flames. Do not use anything else.
  • Don't smother it with a cloth. We mentioned that using a pot lid to contain a grease fire snuffs out the oxygen it needs to live. So, wouldn't a wet towel do the same thing? It wouldn't and in fact, it could also cause the fire to spread the same way regular water does.

How Do You Prevent Grease Fires?

a black pot with boiling water in it on a stove

The best way to keep grease fires at bay is knowledge and good practices in the kitchen.

  • Don't turn your back on the stove. Those of us who are more experienced in the kitchen probably do this from time to time to get something in the kitchen. But disasters can happen in an instant and it's best to be there by the stove until your cooking is done.
  • Keep table salt, baking soda, and pot lids nearby. You shouldn't live your life in fear, but having the necessary tools and ingredients to save your kitchen never hurt anyone.
  • Avoid any simple mistakes. It should go without saying that you need to keep any loose materials away from the stove lest they catch fire.
  • Make note of acrid smells or splashing. If you see any splashing happening on your stove or you smell something burning, turn down the heat and get that pot or pan off the burner.

Understanding how to put out a grease fire is just as important as knowing how to prevent one. These simple tips will keep you and your loved ones safe while guaranteeing a safely prepared dinner. Remember that it doesn't take much for fires to start so knowing proper methods for cooking and extinguishing fires is critical knowledge to have.

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