How to prevent chip pan fires

It goes without saying that chips are one of the nation’s favourite sides or quick bites. Ketchup, mayo, BBQ, piri-piri, cheesy-chips, even curry sauce, the choice is endless. And they’re once, twice, even thrice cooked: the more the merrier! However they come, nothing beats a good chip. We love them. Sitting around a table with friends and family, sharing good food and great memories. But how do you cook them at home?

Photo by kei photo from Pexels - Close Up Photo of Deep-fried Chips
Photo by kei photo from Pexels

We all know they’re best with that super crispy coating and so you probably use a chip pan with a good dousing of nice hot oil. But that’s the hidden danger in the home, isn’t it? It’s all going fine until it’s not. It’s easy to leave unattended, just for a moment, only a few seconds, just while you sort the kids and the dog out, or answer the door, or pop to the toilet before guests arrive. Or perhaps a loved one is vulnerable and can be forgetful in the kitchen, even just for a moment. But that’s all it takes, and suddenly the pan is on fire and you’re in a state of panic. In fact, it could have already happened by the time you have finished reading this article, it’s that quick.

Photo by Tim Eiden from Pexels - Firefighter Holding Water Hose
Photo by Tim Eiden from Pexels

Chip pan fires are the UK’s biggest cause of injuries from fire in the home. There are around 12,000 chip pan fires every year, leading to almost 50 deaths, and some 4,600 injuries, and that puts rather a downer on the evening’s plans with friends and family. So, let’s have a look at safety and how we can prevent chip pan fires all together.

Chip Pans & Safety Considerations

Chip pans are deep sided and usually come with a lid and a basket to help remove and drain the chips. They are filled with oil and heated to around 160 degrees Celsius, that’s pretty hot by all accounts and can vaporise water instantly, expanding it to 1500 times its volume. Not so good if you’ve just washed your potatoes. That’s why we make sure food is dry before frying and always avoid attempting to extinguish the fire with water. More on that later. Most vegetable oil has a smoke point of about 230 °C and a flash point of 315 °C, so it’s easy to see why an unattended pan might become a serious problem extremely quickly. Oil can cause serious burns – it’s volatile and can easily overheat when cooking and burst into flames. In fact, Fire Services now encourage people to use oven chips or modern deep-fat fryers, due to the risk of chip pan fires when cooking on the hob. In some counties, they’ll even provide you with a deep-fat fryer in exchange for your chip pan.

But fret not, if you’re set on using a chip pan it is possible to use it safely. You just need to be sensible and consider how fires can be avoided. Luckily, there are some products on the market that can help us already such as Airis by Unicook.

Airis can virtually eliminate the risk of chip pan fires. Its smart technology uses multiple sensors to detect when the oil and pan contents are heating up too quickly, switching the hob off completely before anything goes awry. Airis achieves this well below the danger zone where cooking oil catches fire and can also reduce smoke considerably.

A diagram showing how Airis acts before most smoke is produced, preventing fires
Airis can prevent the risk of fires and almost all smoke when using the stove

Devices like Airis can take away worries completely. After all, people are only human and accidents can happen to anyone, especially those more susceptible to fires such as inexperienced kitchen users or vulnerable people who want to remain as independent as possible without the risks of fire and its unthinkable consequences. Airis is not only effective at preventing stove top fires but does so without the need for human input, which is the best option.

How does Airis prevent chip pan fires?

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Chip Pans & Safety Considerations

In addition to a product like Airis, there are some easy steps you can take to avoid chip pan fires and make those luscious crispy fries a safe and delicious treat:

  • Keep the oil level in the pan below one third full.
  • Smoking oil is too hot. Turn the heat off and leave it to cool, it’s not worth the risk.
  • Treat that pan like your favourite soap or movie and keep your eyes glued to it as unattended pans can quickly get out of control especially with induction hobs.

    NEVER! Deep fry when you’ve been drinking alcohol or taking drugs or if you are feeling tired.
    – Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service.
  • Pick up a thermometer and keep an eye on the temperature.
  • Test the temperature of the oil before using it with a small piece of whatever you’re frying. If it crisps quickly, it’s hot enough. Adjust the heat accordingly so it doesn’t reach the danger zone.
  • Remember we said earlier that water can vaporise instantly and expand 1500 times its volume? Avoid an explosion or hot oil spitting by ensuring all food is dry before frying.
  • Never throw water on the fire for the same reason! If you do have a fire and can safely do so, turn off the heat then leave the room, shut the door and call 999. A purposely designed fire blanket can be used, but you should never use a damp tea towel.

    It’s a common mistake to make, so we want to make sure everyone knows that if you have a fire involving any sort of fat or oil, DO NOT let any water come into contact with the oil, never use a damp tea towel and do not attempt to tackle the fire if it is not safe to do so. Even one drop of water could cause a huge fireball and cause serious injury.”
    – Gary Bannister, Watch Manager, Essex Fire and Rescue Service.

  • Finally, get a smoke detector and test it regularly.

The bottom line is this: if using a chip pan, be extremely careful, and never, ever, leave it unattended.

Thanks for reading and enjoy those chips!

Please note that the fire safety advice in this post is for informative purposes only. Unicook cannot be held liable for your safety in the kitchen.

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