10 Stove Safety Tips Every Cook Should Know

published Feb 21, 2017
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(Image credit: Leela Cyd)

The stove is the real workhorse of the kitchen, and even more so when you’re cooped up because of a winter storm and, er, cooking up one. But do you really know how to use it safely?

Here are 10 stove safety tips every cook should know, according to Doug Rogers and Anthony Arroyo of Mr. Appliance repair services.

1. Install your anti-tip bracket.

What’s an anti-tip bracket, you might ask? It’s the thing that comes with most ovens and is usually tossed aside without a second thought. But it has a purpose: It keeps the stove in place, which is particularly good if you have small kids around who might try to use the opened oven door as a step.

2. Use your back burners first.

You probably already know to turn pot handles so they’re not hanging out over the stovetop edge, which keeps kids and errant elbows from knocking them. But here’s another smart tip: Use the back burners first, so hot pots are further from the edge.

3. Keep an eye on your pans.

Sometimes you want your pan to be really hot, and that’s fine — if you keep an eye on it. “When a pan is on high heat with nothing or just oil in it, it will heat up very quickly, and can be a fire risk: The oil or grease or even the lining on the pan itself could ignite,” Arroyo says.

If you want to get your pan very hot — whether on the stovetop or in the oven — a cast iron or carbon steel pan without any plastic or wood parts is the way to go. Just remember to use oven mitts!

4. Don’t line your oven with aluminum foil.

Lining the bottom of your oven with aluminum foil may seem like a good way to catch drippings, but it can block air flow or trap heat, causing all sorts of problems (think: fires, carbon monoxide buildup, or general damage to the appliance).

Using a piece of foil on your racks to catch grease is also a bad idea, as the grease can pool, causing the foil to bend and eventually spill. Use a real pan for this sort of job instead.

5. Don’t be a slob.

Stuff splashes, spatters, and boils over on the stovetop and in the oven all the time. But ignoring the mess won’t make it go away, and leaving it there (especially if it’s grease) can spark a major problem, literally. We’re talking about fires here, people!

Even if you don’t end up dealing with a fire, the mess from last night’s dinner will be so much harder to clean after it’s exposed to more heat, Rogers points out. So before you cook again — heck, before you go to bed — clean up that mess you’ve made.

Our Best Oven-Cleaning Advice

6. Use the self-cleaning cycle judiciously.

Real talk: Your self-cleaning cycle isn’t really self-cleaning. For starters, you need to be home whenever you run the self-clean cycle. (Yes, you have to endure that horrendous smell.)

What’s more, before you can set it and forget it, you have to wipe or scrape out any large messes, especially greasy ones. “Self-cleaning is simply a function of the unit going to maximum heat, and if the unit has excess grease in it, it could start a fire,” Rogers says.

Related: Why You Should (Almost) Never Use Your Oven’s Self-Cleaning Function

7. Invest in a fire extinguisher.

And keep it nearby. Ideally, it should be a Class B type (look for the letter on the label), which is the best option for things that might catch fire in the kitchen. (Some fire extinguishers are better suited for wood or paper fires, while others are better for electrical fires. It’s wacky, we know.)

8. And a carbon monoxide detector.

This is especially wise if you own a gas range. “Because CO is odorless, colorless, and tasteless, a person’s senses will almost certainly not detect the risk,” says Rogers.

9. Never throw water on a grease fire.

If you don’t have an extinguisher, baking soda will work in a pinch for a small flare-up.

10. Know when to call for help.

“Call 911 before you attempt to extinguish a more serious fire yourself,” Arroyo says. “It’s fine to have the fire department show up to find you have the flames already extinguished, but if you wait to call them, the fire might get out of control before you realize you need help.”