The holidays are just around the corner, so chances are you’ll be spending more time in the kitchen. But if you’re not careful, preparing a family feast can be a recipe for disaster. Studies show that Thanksgiving and Christmas are the days with the highest reported number of kitchen fires, and cooking is the second-leading cause of home-fire deaths in the United States. Plus, a whopping 83 percent of people admitted to engaging in dangerous cooking behaviors, like watching TV or disabling the smoke alarm — dangers that are only exacerbated by a house full of guests and packed holiday schedules. To help you stay safe this season, here are 6 cooking do’s and don’ts.
1. Do Make Some Dishes Ahead of Time
Between shopping for ingredients, prepping foods, and setting the table, cooking several dishes at once can be hazardous. To avoid multitasking in the kitchen, finalize your holiday menu a week in advance and prepare some of the dishes ahead of time. It is recommended to make the side dishes and doing the prep work for the main dishes a day or two before the actual holiday. The cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, side salads, and some other vegetable dishes can be made a day before the holiday to help minimize confusion in the kitchen.
2. Don’t Multitask Other Chores
One way to prevent accidents and fires from happening in the kitchen is to focus on one task at a time. Data from a Liberty Mutual Insurance survey reveals that more than half of the respondents leave the kitchen with food on the stove or in the oven to watch television, talk on the phone, or do laundry. One distraction often leads to another, so it’s best to unplug completely and focus only on cooking. Stay in the kitchen until cooking is finished. If you’re cooking more than one dish, consider using a three-way cooking timer (which has three distinct alarms) to stay safe while ensuring your dishes don’t overcook.
3. Remove Clutter
While it’s nice to have multiple cooking tools on hand, having too many appliances plugged in and surrounded by pot holders, oven mitts, wooden utensils, hand towels, and other flammable objects on the counter can be a fire hazard.Try to minimize the decorations in the kitchen. Some people tend to have candles in their kitchens during the holidays, but it’s best to keep flammable objects away to prevent them from causing a fire.
4. Don’t Leave Your Cooking Unattended
Be mindful of what’s on the stove or in the oven as you’re prepping other foods in the kitchen. It’s easy to forget that a burner is on, and before you know it, food might be overflowing from the pot. If you’re easily distracted, turn down the Christmas music and avoid talking on the phone while cooking.
5. Do Use Crowd Control
The kitchen is especially busy during the holidays, but as the host, don’t be afraid to exercise crowd control. People tend to gravitate to where the action is, and it’s difficult to control that. But if you plan ahead, you’re not going to have all dishes cooking in the kitchen [at once]. What if your kids want to help? Save the teaching moments for after the holidays. If your kids are eager to lend a hand, have them set the table or answer the door for guests.
6. Don’t Disable Your Smoke Alarm
It’s a no-brainer: Having a smoke alarm in your home will prevent a fire, but the Liberty Mutual Insurance survey shows that many people disable their smoke alarms while cooking. And if that fact isn’t alarming enough, digest this: Almost two-thirds of house-fire deaths are the result of homes without working smoke alarms. Is is strongly recommended that you check your smoke alarms at least once a month to see if they’re working, and to replace the batteries once a year. So many people neglect to check their smoke alarms, but it’s as essential as any other kitchen tool. It can save your life.