WHOOSH! Cooking Lesson Up in Flames

by Pam Dillon

It was what they call one of those “teachable moments.” I looked over at my son, just a couple of feet away, as the wok he was holding burst into flames.  WHOOSH!


The stove element was set too high and the oil in the bottom ignited in spectacular pyrotechnic fashion.  Yup. Fright Night in the Kitchen.

The fire was shooting high, fast, and my beloved teen was holding the pan. “Put it down,” I ordered. He put it down on the other stove element.  Flames licked alarmingly close to the cupboards and wall. “No,” we both said.  He picked it up again.  I reached for the cupboard. Baking soda? Baking powder? “Flour,” he ordered. “Grab the flour.”

POOF! Handfuls of flour sent flames spiking even higher and clouds of smoke drifting through the house. My son moved swiftly toward the patio doors.

Naturally, the dog was in the way.  “MOVE!” he hollered.  Naturally, the dog wagged her tail and looked winsomely at whatever edibles might be flambéing. I tugged the door across and the three of us were outside with our wok full of flames. Now what? After all, it was windy. And not that hard to imagine setting the whole neighbourhood on fire.

Fortunately, the neighbours were safe, the dog kept her distance until the show was over, and the blaze burned itself out. No sirens or fire trucks this time.  WHEW!

What this little cooking episode taught us, though, is:


  • We don’t know enough about fire safety. We need to do our research, be prepared and discuss this as a family.
  • It’s past time to get a fire extinguisher for the kitchen.
  • When a recipe states “Heat three inches of oil to 375 degrees in a deep pot or wok and fry…” it doesn’t mean turn the element on high. #6 is 375 degrees.  We had it set to #10 or 500 degrees. If we had had three inches of oil in the wok instead of less than half an inch, we might both be in the hospital burn unit.
  • We need to review recipes carefully before proceeding.
  • We want to steer clear of deep frying.  (It’s not something we’ve ever done around here before and we won’t be doing it again.)
  • When a school project calls for cooking a dish from a different culture, we’ll (hint hint) consider cuisine that’s a little more familiar. Mexico and Italy offer tasty options. Saudi Arabia (the teen’s choice) might be a little too hot to handle.


Have you ever had a kitchen fire? An epic parenting fail? Family discussion and drills for fire safety?

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