A watched pot never boils, but taking your eyes off the stove for even a minute or two could be dangerous. Unattended equipment is actually the leading cause of most home cooking fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association. If your cooking turns into a grease fire, don’t make a rookie mistake by using water to put it out—it’ll only make things worse.
How to put out a grease fire
If you shouldn’t use water to put out a grease fire, what should you do? It depends on a few things. David Hall, Director of University Safety at Missouri State University and former fire chief in Springfield, Missouri, says smothering the flames is a good option. “The best way to extinguish it is by covering it with a metal lid or cookie sheet,” he says. The lid acts as a shield for your hand. Hall suggests placing the bottom edge of the lid against the front lip of the pan and tilting it to cover the flames. This keeps the fire and splatters from burning you.
It’s also possible to get rid of a grease fire with baking soda or salt. Just double check you’re using the right powders as flour, baking powder, and other similar-looking flours actually make the fire worse, according to Hall. Of course, there’s always a good old fashioned fire extinguisher. Class B extinguishers are for flammable liquids, like oils or grease, and type K extinguishers are specifically designed for oil or grease fires, Hall says.
Don’t try moving the pan away from the heat source, Hall warns, as the movement fans the flames. Similarly, don’t use a towel or other object to try and beat the flames out since they can spread the fire. If the fire spreads out of the pan, it’s time to call the fire department, Hall says. Make sure you follow these kitchen fire safety tips, too.