Cooking safety starts with you

Cooking safety starts with you
Posted on 09/28/2023
man and woman attending to something in an oven at a dinner party

The kitchen is one of the most used rooms in a house — full of family gatherings, baking cookies and the never-ending pile of dishes. Unfortunately, it’s also the room with the greatest fire risk in a home.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, cooking fires account for nearly half of all U.S. home fires. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, fire departments in the United States responded to an estimated 170,000 home cooking fires in 2021. These fires caused an estimated 135 deaths, 3,000 injuries and over $494 million in property loss. The majority of these are due to unattended cooking. 

October is Fire Prevention Month in Lenexa, and it’s a great time to adopt safer cooking practices. Easy ways to prevent cooking fires include:

  • If you are tired or have consumed alcohol or medication that makes you drowsy — don’t cook!
  • When simmering, baking or roasting food, set a timer as a reminder that there is something cooking.
  • When frying, broiling, grilling or boiling food, stay in the kitchen. 
  • Always plug appliances directly into the wall. Using an extension cord for a cooking appliance can overload the circuit and cause a fire. 

Each kitchen appliance has unique risks. Follow these tips to help stay safe while using common appliances.


  • Keep the stovetop area clear of anything that can catch fire — oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packaging, towels, curtains, etc.
  • Do not store items in the oven.
  • Clean up messes to keep spilled food from catching fire.
  • Turn pot handles towards the back of the stove.
  • Consider installing automatic stovetop fire suppression devices or keeping a fire blanket in the kitchen.

Portable electric equipment

Slow cookers are meant to be left on for long periods of time unattended, while other portable electric equipment like griddles, hot plates and air fryers require that you stay present while cooking. When using these types of appliances:

  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Keep a clear area around the appliance.
  • Use the timer function if available.
  • Unplug it when not in use.


  • Scald burns are the leading cause of injury from microwave ovens, so open microwaved food slowly and away from your face.
  • Only use microwave-safe containers. 
  • Never use aluminum foil or metal in a microwave.
  • Microwaves heat unevenly, so stir food thoroughly and test it before eating or giving it to a child. NEVER heat a baby bottle in a microwave.
  • Keep microwaves clean and free of clutter. Do not store items on top of a free-standing microwave, and do not block the vents.
  • Microwave wattages vary, so verify the cook time for foods based on the wattage of your microwave.

Grills and smokers

Grilling season is winding down, but as you squeeze in a few more burgers and brats, remember:

  • Grills and smokers must be used only outdoors and at least 10 feet away from siding and deck rails.
  • Clean your grill frequently so grease buildup does not ignite.
  • Never leave a grill unattended.
  • Only dispose of coals after they are cool in a metal container with a lid. Keep the container away from the home.

What to do if there is a cooking fire

Stovetop fires: Keep a lid nearby while cooking. Smother the flames by sliding the lid over the pan. Turn off the burner and leave the lid on until the pan has cooled.

Never pour water on a grease fire.

Oven fires: Turn off the oven and keep the door closed until cool. Once it is cool, stand to the side as you open the door. 

Microwave fires: Turn it off immediately and leave the door closed until the fire is out. 

If the fire does not extinguish quickly, GET OUT! Follow your emergency escape plan, close the door behind you and call 911 after you are out of the home.

After an appliance fire, the appliance should be serviced by a licensed professional before being used again.

Published Sept. 28, 2023