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The #1 Cooking Hack That Will Change Your Life

Keeping this in mind can prevent something dangerous as we all continue to eat at home more often.

You've probably heard some cooking tips recently. When the coronavirus pandemic forced restaurants to close in March, cooking at home became a necessity. In the months that followed, we've all had a lot of time to make food in the oven, microwave, Crock-Pot, on the grill, on the stove, and other ways. But doing so meant the number of cooking-related fires went up.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recently said that house fires went up in March through May, according to The Takeout. Eight states in particular, including Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Wisconsin, and more all reported more fire outbreaks. The NFPA says there also could be other states, too. (Related: The #1 Most Dangerous Way to Cook an Omelet.)

Kitchen fires can start a few different ways. But the Red Cross says 70% of people say they have left their food unattended while it was cooking. This is the number one way fires in the kitchen have started. It's easy to understand why with everyone being home more, and there's a simple kitchen fire tip to remember here. The easiest way to prevent this type of fire is to simply stay in the kitchen while you're cooking something. This is especially important if you're using a gas stove or the oven. Regularly cleaning all appliances you use to cook is a good idea, too. And you should also be mindful of rags, oven mitts, paper towels, and other loose items around the stovetop and appliances.

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Other ways fires start

Toaster ovens, toasters, and other heaters are the second leading cause of kitchen fires every year, behind unattended cooking. The third leading cause is electrical fires that can start when multiple things are plugged in and running at once.

"For much of the country, heating systems are still in use and in many cases, for more hours than usual," Lorraine Carli, the vice president of Outreach and Advocacy for the NFPA, says. "In addition, with everyone at home, people may be using the same outlets to charge phones, laptops, and other digital equipment, which also presents a fire hazard." To prevent these types of fires, don't plug multiple machines into the same outlet, and never use an extension cord.

What to do if a fire breaks out

If a fire starts in the oven, keep the door closed. The same goes for flames in the microwave, but you should also unplug it if you can do so. If a grease fire starts while you're cooking, turn off the burner and put a lid on the pan. Don't take the lid off or move the pan—the lack of oxygen because the fire is trapped will cause it to go out, according to the Stanford Children's Hospital.

So, keeping an eye on your food while it's cooking is the most important kitchen fire tip you can follow right now. Sign up for our newsletter to get more tricks, recipes, and news straight to your inbox every day!

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Eat This, Not That! is constantly monitoring the latest food news as it relates to COVID-19 in order to keep you healthy, safe, and informed (and answer your most urgent questions). Here are the precautions you should be taking at the grocery store, the foods you should have on hand, the meal delivery services and restaurant chains offering takeout you need to know about, and ways you can help support those in need. We will continue to update these as new information develops. Click here for all of our COVID-19 coverage, and sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date.
Amanda McDonald
Amanda has a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University and a bachelor's degree in digital journalism from Loyola University Chicago. Read more about Amanda
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