Stay safe while cooking
There are many cooking-related conveniences designed to make life easier: crock pots, instant pots, air fryers, hot plates, electric skillets, toasters and toaster ovens, to name a few. In addition, probably the most obvious cooking mainstay in the kitchen that can be electric is the stove/cooktop.
When preparing a meal or snack, inattention and electrical appliances don’t always mix. It might seem like a good idea to start dinner on the stovetop or in the toaster oven and then tend to other things, but doing so may not always have a great result. According to the National Fire Prevention Association, 32 percent of home cooking fires cite unattended equipment as the leading factor in causing the fire.
Always stay in the kitchen when frying, grilling, boiling, or broiling food. Keep anything that can catch fire — including oven mitts, food wrappers, towels, and wooden utensils — away from your stovetop or cooking surface.
There’s also another cooking safety hazard that’s often overlooked, and that’s using appliances that are faulty or those that have damaged cords or plugs. Make sure appliances are in good working condition and never use an appliance that is in disrepair, one that’s a hand-me-down or, or one that’s already lived a full and productive life. (Fans of “This is Us” TV show will remember an episode when the family home caught on fire after an old slow cooker caught on fire due to a faulty switch or short.)
Small appliance lifespan depends greatly on how often you use it, how you maintain it, and its quality, but in general, the average life expectancy of most small kitchen appliances is 5 to 10 years. Exceptions include a mid- to high-end toaster, which can last 6 to 8 years, and a toaster oven, which works an average of 5 years. So if you’ve reached your 20th wedding anniversary and you’re still using the small appliances you received as wedding gifts, you might want to consider replacing them.
To stay safe while cooking, Safe Electricity and Perennial remind you of the following additional tips:
- Make sure your appliances are plugged into a GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) outlet. When working properly, the GFCI senses any power flow imbalances and in turn trips the circuit.
- Make sure all electric cords are in good working condition: do not use appliances that have frayed, cracked, wire-exposed, taped, or otherwise questionable cords or plugs.
- If you use extension cords, make sure they are in good condition and that the correct type of cord is used for the job (for example, don’t use an everyday, thin extension cord for a high-powered appliance). Use them as a temporary solution, not a permanent one.
- Although often an “I’ll do it later” task, read the appliance’s operating instructions prior to use.
Although not necessarily a safety issue, always unplug small appliances when not in use to prevent unnecessary energy consumption, especially if the appliance has LED displays or other standby energy-consuming features.
For more electrical safety information, visit SafeElectricity.org.