The 9 Most Dangerous Mistakes So Many of Us Make in Our Kitchens

published Apr 20, 2022
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We don’t want to be alarmists or anything, but there are some things that people do (and have been doing for years!) in the kitchen that are actually pretty dangerous. While the vast majority of us cook, day in and day out, without issue, you can never be too careful. And that’s what brings us to this list. These are nine of the most dangerous mistakes many of us make in the kitchen — and tips on how to correct the risky behavior!

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn

1. You line the bottom of your oven with aluminum foil.

We’ve all been there, with frozen pizza dripping cheese from the rack, only to find ourselves with an impossible-to-clean mess on the bottom of the oven. While using aluminum foil as a makeshift oven liner might seem like an ideal catch-all solution, it’s actually a major risk. Foil, for one thing, can actually melt and permanently damage the heating elements. Plus, covering up vent openings in the bottom of the oven can lead to insufficient air flow and affect heat distribution. Instead, consider putting a baking sheet on the rack under whatever it is you’re making (not on the floor of the oven!).

Credit: Shutterstock/Jason Finn

2. You never check the date on your fire extinguisher (or worse, you don’t even have one).

Many of us don’t think about kitchen fires until they actually happen. And, at that point, it’s far too late. As a best practice, keep a fire extinguisher in your home — ideally, in or near your kitchen — and always make sure it’s in working order (most fire extinguishers come with expiration dates). Local fire departments or fire equipment distributors often hold hands-on fire extinguisher trainings. Be sure to consult them before you buy or replace a fire extinguisher to make sure you have the right one on hand and, more importantly, you know how to actually use it.

3. You throw towels and pot holders too close to the stove.

Sure, pot holders and towels belong near the oven, but definitely not too close to them! Anything set too close to the flame of your gas stovetop is a major fire hazard, and even electric stoves can burn a towel. As a best practice, always keep any towels or hot pads a few feet away from the stove. Be mindful of where you’re dropping them while you’re cooking!

Credit: Leela Cyd

4. You cut meat and veggies on the same cutting board.

Cross-contamination can be pretty dangerous! Any time you’re dealing with raw meat, you need to thoroughly wash your cutting board or plate before putting anything else on it to avoid transferring potentially harmful bacteria to other food. Better yet, use an entirely new surface for any other foods to avoid getting sick. And always wash your hands when touching raw meat.

Credit: Jennifer Chase

5. You step away from the stove.

We’ve all stepped into another room for just a second with the stove on, only to return to an overflowing pasta pot. While you may have never faced a stove fire, it’s best to keep your stovetop in sight the entire time it’s being used to avoid fires (and pesky messes). This goes for avoiding distraction while cooking, such as getting too engrossed in television or playing with your phone.

Credit: Cat Meschia

6. You don’t clean your hood vent.

Your hood vent collects grease and other debris while you cook. That means if you don’t regularly clean it, you could be unknowingly putting yourself at risk for a fire. While it depends on how often you cook, be sure to clean your hood vent regularly (every six months at least!) by popping each screen out and soaking them in soapy water. Use a degreaser, then scrub, and thoroughly dry before putting them back in place. 

7. You wear clothing that can easily catch on fire.

Another major fire risk: Wearing a long scarf or loose clothing when your stove is turned on. When you’re cooking, avoid loose-fitting clothing, and keep a close eye on how closely you’re standing to the burner!

8. You store a jumble of dangerous chemicals under your kitchen sink.

If you don’t have small kids or pets, beneath your sink is a great location for your most-used cleaning products — but as a general rule, it’s best to keep harsh chemicals, such as bleach and ammonia, outside of the kitchen. Certain chemicals can be dangerous when they’re exposed to smoke or fire, and besides that, some chemicals (bleach and ammonia, for example) shouldn’t be mixed at all. You’re better off storing them somewhere else that’s less trafficked.

Credit: The Kitchn

9. You mix chemicals while cleaning.

You may think that if this cleaner works well and that cleaner works well, then this used with that will be great together. That is simply not true. And it’s pretty dangerous. Do not mix chemicals while cleaning.

What other practices can lead to danger in the kitchen? Share your thoughts in the comments below.