Kitchens are often referred to as the heart of a home. A kitchen is where families (or housemates) can gather to cook, eat and share what is going on in their lives. Many of us are spending more time at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, and with favorite restaurants now closed or limited to outdoor dining, there has been a surge in interest around home cooking. In fact, Google searches for recipes and online cooking classes spiked this year and grocery spending is significantly higher than last year. From frozen meals to perfecting your sourdough starter, more and more Americans are getting creative in the kitchen.

Related: Recipe for Healthy Butternut Squash Soup

Whether you are an expert home chef or teaching yourself the basics, kitchen mistakes happen. Cooking is the top cause of fires and fire-related injuries in the home. Check out our tips for keeping you and your household safe from kitchen-related injuries.

Babysit your food

While you don’t have to watch your chicken or vegetables marinate in the fridge, it is important not to leave items cooking on the stove or in the oven unsupervised. Unattended cooking is the leading cause of kitchen fires.

Keep a lid close at hand

Grease fires can be extinguished by smothering them with a lid. For a small grease fire, pouring baking soda or salt over the flames can bring it under control. For larger fires, call 911 and evacuate everyone from the home. Never try to extinguish a grease fire with water as it will have explosive consequences.

Keep your cooking area clutter free

If an item can burn, keep it at least 3 feet away from the stove top. That includes cookbooks, towels, pot holders and food packaging. Additionally, avoid clothing with loose sleeves or other dangling accessories that can get caught on burners or catch on fire.

Turn handles inward

You can avoid bumping your pots and frying pans by turning the handles inward over the stove or counter. When handles are pointed outward, children can reach up and pull hot pans or pots of hot liquid onto themselves.   

Open hot containers away from you

Whether it’s lifting a lid off a pot on the stove or opening a container of microwaved food, steam exposures can result in serious burns. Always open containers carefully so that the steam escapes from the side farthest away from you. 

If there is a kitchen fire, focus on getting out of the house and alerting emergency services. Have a family or house meeting to come up with an escape plan that includes an outdoor meeting spot. This can help ensure everyone is able to get out safely if there is a fire.

Abby Beerman is an injury prevention coordinator at University of Vermont Medical Center and UVM Children’s Hospital. She loves cooking and has used all these tips in her own kitchen.

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