How to reduce risk when cooking

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels - Blue Smoke and Yellow Flame from a Lit Matchstick
Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

Some of us love to cook, for others it’s a means to an end. In the kitchen we can explore creativity, self expression, learn new skills, experience achievements and satisfaction, bonding with wise parents and friends over family recipes, and stake an unwavering independence just for a start. Or perhaps we just want to stuff our faces after a long day’s work, or a quick bite before we rush out to the pub or a gig, whichever way we choose to prepare our food, we more often than not take it for granted.

And wherever we live, our responsibilities extend way beyond ourselves. Cooking with any hob type can quickly get out of hand. So, why shouldn’t we do it safely? After all, a whopping 50% of home fires start in the kitchen, most of which are from the stove, simply because heating oil to a high temperature can be a risky business if things go wrong. Let’s have a look at how to reduce that risk.

Be there or be square

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Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

If there was one piece of advice we could give, this is the big one. Just as a watched kettle never boils, a watched pan never catches fire. A pan will start to smoke excessively before it catches fire, giving us a handy warning sign that we’ve been absent-minded or overzealous with our temperature control! So stay in the kitchen and keep your eyes on the prize. It also means you won’t burn that culinary masterpiece in the making! No excuses… just popping to the toilet? The contents of a pan can catch fire in fewer than two minutes from the moment you turn it on. If you don’t believe us, you need to watch this video…

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Unless you are an experienced cook or professional chef, don’t leave cooking unattended, and even then the potential for mishap is greatly increased. You just won’t know until it’s too late. Which leads us to our next point.

Experience

Cooks with a lot of experience know when it is safer to leave a pan on the heat. But experience is fuel for knowledge, and a cook who really knows what they are doing will know exactly how long to cook different foods and what the properties of the different cooking oils are. Here’s a quick summary of the smoke points (the point at which oil will start to smoke) of the most common oils used for cooking, in degrees C:

A diagram showing the various smoke points of different oils and fats

We know that flavor preference is high on the list when creating that special dish, so we hope that helps choose the right oil for the job!

In addition, it’s extremely important to know the type and quality of the oil before you buy or use it. For example, although refined rapeseed oil has a smoke point of 205 degrees C, an unrefined version can be as low as 107! To put that into practical terms, 107 is not even hot enough for most frying. You’ll notice that flaxseed oil is therefore also ruled out for this purpose. What oils do you have in your cupboard? Check out our comprehensive list below so see where your oil types stack up!

A table showing the various smoke points of different oils and fats

Important! Not all oils are created equal. Do your research before you start frying and reduce that fire risk!

But what about vegetable oil? It’s difficult to say because the ingredients are a mixture of various sources, who knows what’s in there… It’s better just not to use it. Fire safety aside, there are far healthier choices available so we opt for those. Go with an oil with a smoke point above 180 degrees whenever possible.

Mental and Physical Wellbeing

There are a number of mental illnesses and degenerative conditions that can put someone at risk, from depression through to all forms of dementia. Ultimately, anything that affects someone’s mental wellbeing will increase their risk when cooking, especially if it makes them more accident-prone or affects their cognitive clarity. In these cases it can be best to get assistance when cooking, or fit a safety device that will provide better protection for you, such as a smoke alarm or, better still, an Airis stove guard.

Naturally, anybody who is physically challenged is also vulnerable. If an elderly person starts cooking, falls over and is unable to get up again, this can put them in serious danger. Again, a telecare-connected Airis stove guard is the safest solution, because it will stop a fire from even occurring and the monitoring station will be alerted to a problem and can send help immediately.

Usually, the first port of call after a near-miss or an accident occurs is to disconnect the resident’s cooker, leaving them unable to cook, more dependent on others, and feeling a sense of loss or failure. In the worst cases it can result in a permanent move to a care home which is a life-changing event and can be extremely unsettling. Aside from the expense of it all, those well-being benefits we mentioned earlier will no longer exist and this can easily lower self-esteem and cause faster decline in mental and physical health.

Pets and Children

Photo by Dimitry Zub from Pexels - A Cat Sitting on the Stove in the Kitchen
Photo by Dimitry Zub from Pexels

If physics dictates flat surfaces attract objects then cats dictate that those objects will be pushed off again, and that includes pans. As bizarre as it sounds, that curious feline wandering around the worktop in the kitchen can easily knock a pan off the stove and start a house fire.

Inquisitive children are also at risk, with those overhanging handles offering temptation. There are products available that can provide a low ‘wall’ around the stove, which may help to protect pets and children (and therefore your home) from these dangers, but the best thing is often to keep fluffy ones out of the kitchen and a beady eye on the youngsters at all times.

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels - A Girl Cooking Eggs on the Kitchen Stove
Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

If you are looking for something super intelligent and far less intrusive then Airis will turn off the stove if the power is left on but no pan is on the hob.

Technology

We’ve already mentioned smoke alarms – they’re an absolute must when it comes to homes, especially when it comes to cooking. Make sure you have one installed and that it gets tested regularly (by using the button, not burning the toast!). Carbon monoxide (CO) alarms are also a wise investment, and combi smoke and CO alarms do exist as well.

Whilst these devices are essential life savers in the event of a fire, they do not prevent the fire from starting in the first place – rather, they alert to a dangerous situation that has already unfolded. We are only able to react to the smoke and fire in the kitchen and either attempt to resolve it (if it’s safe to do so) or make an escape from the home before alerting emergency services. Prevention devices on the other hand, are far more effective and act way before an issue even arises. It’s a sound investment for peace of mind, especially if you or a loved one is in a vulnerable situation.

A family prepares a meal together while Airis stove guard protects the kitchen from fires
Airis protects the home against fires and smoke by stopping a fire on the stove before it even starts.

Learn more about Airis and how it can protect vulnerable and elderly people without taking away their independence.

We hope that has sparked some thoughts on how you can improve fire safety and reduce risks while cooking in your home. Thank you for reading and please get in touch if you are interested in reducing fire risk further.

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.

Source Links

Smoke Point – Wikipedia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smoke_point

Smoke Point of Oils for Healthy Cooking – Jonbarron.org
https://jonbarron.org/diet-and-nutrition/healthiest-cooking-oil-chart-smoke-points

Unconventional Cooking Oils – ideafit.com
https://www.ideafit.com/fitness-library/unconventional-cooking-oils

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