By Cheryl Forberg, R.D.
Cooking Safety Tips Torch Blog Banner
As the holiday season approaches, we spend more time at home with our families and in the kitchen, cooking up traditional holiday meals. The holidays bring lots of activities and distractions, which can contribute to being unfocused in the kitchen. Inattention during cooking can cause accidents.

Liberty Mutual Insurance wants to remind us during the holidays that cooking-related activities are the leading cause of home fires and the second leading cause of home fire deaths in the U.S. In a recent study from Liberty Mutual Insurance, more than half (56 percent) of surveyed consumers said they plan to cook for family or friends during the holidays this year - with 42 percent of those cooking for groups of 11 or more. However, a large majority (83 percent) acknowledged that they have engaged in dangerous cooking behaviors which increase the likelihood of kitchen fires, such as disabling the smoke alarm and leaving cooking food unattended to perform non-essential activities - including watching television, talking or texting on the phone, checking email or doing laundry.

As a professionally-trained chef and nutritionist who works in the kitchen constantly, I know how the hectic nature of entertaining during the holidays can make it easy to overlook even the most basic cooking safety rules. I am very pleased to join Liberty Mutual Insurance with kitchen safety tips on how to make this holiday season safer for everyone. Our hope is that home chefs will increase their awareness and take action to ensure an enjoyable holiday season for everyone. We offer a few, simple tips:

  • Stay in the kitchen. Don't leave the kitchen when you are frying, broiling or grilling. If you leave the kitchen, even for a brief time, be sure to turn off all of the burners on the stovetop. Nearly half (45 percent) of consumers say they have left the room to watch television or listen to music. Multi-tasking during the busy holiday season is tempting. If you succumb, it's important not to leave the stove or oven unattended!
  • Set a timer as a reminder that the stove is on. As mentioned, with all of the activities happening during the holidays, it's common to get distracted. Forty-Two percent of surveyed consumers say they have left the kitchen to talk or text on the phone, and 35 percent to use the computer to check email while food is cooking. These activities make it easy to lose track of time. Check your food frequently when it's on the stovetop, and use a timer to remind yourself that the stove or oven is on. If you tend to do a lot of cooking, invest in a second or third timer. They're an inexpensive way to stay safe while ensuring that your holiday dishes do not overcook.
  • Keep anything that can catch on fire away from the stovetop. Pot holders, oven mitts, wooden utensils, paper or plastic bags, food packaging, towels and other flammable objects should be kept a safe distance from the stovetop. Also be mindful of loose clothing, such as a scarf or tie, which could ignite over a flame.
  • Ensure your smoke alarms are functional. Install a smoke alarm that is at least 10 feet away from your kitchen and use the test button to check it each month. Replace the battery at least once per year and never disable a smoke alarm. One shocking result of the Liberty Mutual Insurance recent survey was that nearly one third (29 percent) of consumers reported that they have intentionally disabled smoke alarms while cooking.
What other kitchen safety tips do you live by during the holidays?

Survey Source: Liberty Mutual Insurance, 2013. Ketchum Global Research & Analytics designed and analyzed this nationwide phone survey (with 35 percent cell sample) of 1,005 adults ages 18-65+. ORC International fielded the survey from October 10-13, 2013, and the survey has a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percent.


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