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Safety tips for holiday cooking

December 13, 2015
When cooking with children this holiday season, be extra cautious to avoid burns and other injuries.

From sugar cookies to latkes, minced pies to Christmas turkeys, the winter holiday season is full of food traditions that keep home kitchens full of wonderful smells and tasty treats.

However, with that increase in kitchen activity comes an increased need for safety. According to the National Fire Prevention Association, cooking is the leading cause of home injuries and fires. As you begin preparing your holiday feast, be sure to keep these safety tips in mind.

Watch what you're doing

If you're sleepy or have consumed alcohol, it's best not to start a cooking project. Falling asleep or forgetting to turn the oven or stovetop off can lead to fire.

"If you do start a grease fire, it's important not to panic.”

Additionally, if you're working with hot grease that could splatter, you should supervise your pan at all times. When oils get too hot, they will become combustible. Vegetable oils will begin to smoke around 450 degrees and animal lards will smoke around 375 degrees. That smoke is a warning sign your oil could soon ignite.

If you do start a grease fire, it's important not to panic. Never pour water onto hot grease. Instead, turn off the heat and cover the flame with a metal lid to cut off the oxygen. If fire has spread beyond the pan, you can extinguish small grease fires using baking soda. Larger fires will require a chemical fire extinguisher, and if you feel the fire is beyond your control, immediately call 911.

Also, be sure to keep any flammable items away from hot burners or open flames. This includes potholders, napkins, wood utensils or plastic food packaging.

Utilize a timer

With all food preparation, you want to check on the progress of dishes frequently—both for safety and to optimize flavor. However, our increasingly hectic lives can make it easy to get distracted.

"Set a timer every time you turn on the oven or stovetop.”

According to the NFPA survey, 42 percent of consumers leave the kitchen while cooking to talk on the phone and 45 percent leave to watch television. Add in all the other distractions of the holiday seasons, and you're all the more likely to forget about that fruit cake you've got baking in the oven.

Remember to set a timer every time you turn on the oven or stovetop to prevent forgetfulness. If you're worried you won't hear your timer in all rooms of your house, consider setting an alarm on your phone as well.

Teaching kids to cook safely

The holidays are the perfect time to teach children how to cook your family's traditional foods. However, safety is extra important when you're cooking with children. Safe Kids Worldwide reported thousands of children are burnt or scalded during cooking accidents each year.

When teaching your kids to cook, introduce skills gradually and explain each step so they understand how to avoid injury. Never hold a child while cooking on the stove as they may accidentally come into contact with a hot pan. Finally, since young children are prone to reach for things they find interesting, keep hot items out of their grasp by pushing them toward the back of the counters or using back burners on the stove whenever possible.