What is the best recipe for kitchen safety?

The kitchen is often called the heart of the home. It's the place where family recipes are prepared, celebrations are created and memories are made. But it also can be one of the most dangerous places in a house.

"Cooking is the leading cause of home fires and home injuries," said Nick McDonough, firefighter paramedic with the Hinsdale Fire Department.

That's why the National Fire Protection Association has chosen "Serve up fire safety in the kitchen" as the theme for this year's Fire Prevention Week, which runs Oct. 4-10.

McDonough said one small, careless error can result in a fire that can cause damage, injury and even death. But there are also small steps home chefs can take to prevent a fire.

"Oil and water don't mix," McDonough said.

That's a lesson too often learned the hard way as families turn to the deep fryer to prepare their Thanksgiving turkey. Deep frying is a delicious way to cook the main course, he said, but it must be done properly. A bird that isn't completely thawed contains water, which can explode when it hits hot oil.

Follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully, McDonough said. Never use too much oil and always thaw the bird completely before cooking.

If a grease fire does start, it must be handled properly to prevent it from spreading. The first rule is to never use water, which causes the fire and the oil to splatter and spread. Instead, keep the pot's lid handy. If a fire starts, turn off the heat and cover the pot with a lid.

Baking soda also can be used to put out a grease fire, but McDonough warns against using a fire extinguisher that isn't designed for kitchens.

Another easy but important tip is to keep oven mitts, towels and other countertop items at least three feet away from the stove's burners. That goes for children, too. McDonough suggests marking the kitchen with a line that children must stay behind for safety.

If a fire breaks out in the oven, close the door. The flames should suffocate inside the closed oven.

"That deprives the fire of the oxygen it's looking for," he said.

Finally, those who find themselves craving food after a couple of cocktails should order out. He's known tipsy cooks to fall asleep while cooking.

Of course, fire prevention is something that should be practiced in every room of the house. That means installing smoke detectors in all sleeping areas and on every level of the home. Batteries should be replaced every six months and the detectors themselves should be replaced every 10 years.

"Smoke detectors cut the risk of dying in a house fire in half," said McDonough, who also encourages families to have an escape plan and a meeting place where everyone will gather in the case of a fire.

McDonough said he and his fellow firefighters are disappointed that the annual Fire Prevention Week open house was canceled this year, but they've created activities to help families learn how to stay afe. A coloring contest is open for kids in kindergarten through fourth grade through 3 p.m. Friday, Oct. 9. For details visitt

- by Sandy Illian Bosch

Author Bio

Sandy Illian Bosch is a contributing writer to The Hinsdalean