7 Scariest Kitchen Accidents

The holidays are the busiest time for cooking mishaps

Published: October 30, 2015 01:55 PM

Kitchens are considered the heart of the home but they’re also home to a lot of equipment that can pose safety hazards. Cooking fires top the list of things that can go wrong in the kitchen followed by injuries from knives, cookware, food processors, microwaves, and blenders. Fires related to cooking peak over the holidays—Thanksgiving has three times the average cooking-related fires. Here are some tips from safety pros and the experts at Consumer Reports that will help you avoid accidents and keep you out of the emergency room over the holidays.

Cooking fires

Fires involving cooking equipment account for two of every five reported home fires. Unattended cooking equipment accounts for one in three fires, and half are ignited by fat, grease, oil, or related substances, according to the National Fire Protection Association. If you spend a lot of time in the kitchen, take a minute to bone up on these safety tips to avoid accidents.

  • Stay in the kitchen when you are frying, grilling, or broiling.
  • If you are simmering, baking or roasting, remain at home and check the food often. Set the timer as a reminder.
  • Keep anything that can catch fire—pot holders, towels, food packaging—away from the stovetop.
  • Always keep a lid nearby to smother small grease fires by sliding the lid over the pan and turning off the burner.
  • If a fire starts in the oven, turn it off and leave the door closed.
  • If the fire gets out of hand, leave the house and call 911.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher with a minimum 5-B:C rating on hand.

Knife cuts

Lacerations caused by knives of all kinds (not just the kitchen type) affected more than 350,000 people in 2012, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Dull knives are actually more dangerous than sharp ones, because they require more pressure to use and their worn edge can cause the knife to slip off food and into your fingers. To avoid accidents and injuries:

  • Keep knives sharpened.
  • Use a cutting board that doesn’t have a slippery surface and put a damp towel under it to prevent it from moving.
  • Cut away from your body, keeping the fingers of the hand holding the food curled toward the palm.
  • Store knives in a block, not in a drawer, where they can easily slice fingers.

Range tipovers

Almost 40,000 people were injured from these appliances. Kids are especially at risk if they’re not supervised and climb on an open door, causing the range to tip over. To prevent accidents and injuries:

  • Install an anti-tip bracket if your current range does not have one to ensure that it is securely in place.
  • Never place heavy roasts and other food on an oven door that’s been left open.
  • Drape a towel on the oven handle while a pan is cooling to remind you that it’s still hot.

Shattering cookware

More than 37,000 people were injured from using cookware. Hot handles can burn and sometimes glass cookware can shatter. Heed these no-nos:

  • Don’t take the dish directly from the freezer to the oven or vice versa.
  • Don’t put the dish directly on a burner or under a broiler.
  • Don’t add liquid after the dish is hot or put a hot dish on a cold or damp surface.
  • Stop using a dish that’s chipped or cracked.

Food processor lacerations

Food processors caused more than 21,000 injuries, including cuts from the blades. To prevent accidents and injuries:

  • Don’t leave motorized models on for a long time; they can overheat.
  • Never reach into a slicer or a chopper. There is no need to hand wash and subject your fingers to injury; many parts are dishwasher-safe—including blades.

Microwave oven burns

More than 10,000 people were hurt using microwaves. Burns were most common. To prevent accidents and injuries:

  • Be careful when removing a wrapper or cover on a microwaved dish; steam can escape and cause a nasty burn.
  • Food can heat unevenly in a microwave, so use caution when touching or tasting.
  • Let food cool for a minute or two before removing it from the microwave.
  • Boil water on the stove. Superheated water in the microwave may appear placid but can violently erupt.

Blender injuries

More than 9,600 injuries occurred involving blenders. Immersion blenders are great for soups because they blend directly in a pot, but recent reports show that injuries are growing with the use of those small appliances. To prevent accidents and injuries:

  • Avoid the temptation to put your hand inside, especially if it’s plugged in. Most blenders don’t have safety interlocks, so you could accidentally turn it on and mangle your hand.
  • To clean blades without touching them, add dishwashing detergent and hot water to the container and let it run on high for a minute. Unplug, then rinse.
Editor's Note:

This article was adapted from Consumer Reports ShopSmart magazine with additional reporting.

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