What To Do If The Pan Catches Fire? 9 Ways To Prevent Grease Fire

Dealing with a pan catching fire while cooking can be a nerve-wracking experience, but knowing how to respond swiftly and effectively is essential for ensuring your safety and preventing the situation from escalating.

Whether it’s due to overheated oil, food residue, or other factors, understanding the proper steps to take can make all the difference in handling this emergency with confidence and composure.

In this article, we’ll guide you through the essential actions to take when a pan catches fire, empowering you to respond with a clear head and keep your kitchen safe.

What To Do If The Pan Catches Fire?

What To Do If The Pan Catches Fire?

If a pan catches fire while cooking, it’s crucial to act quickly and calmly. First, turn off the heat source and cover the pan with a lid to cut off the oxygen supply. If the flames persist, use a fire extinguisher specifically designed for grease fires.

Also Read – Why Do Pans Smoke While Cooking?

A pan fire can ignite due to various reasons, such as overheating, oil splatters, or leaving a pan unattended on a hot burner. In such a scenario, remember these steps to handle the situation effectively:

  1. Stay Calm And Act Fast: The key to managing a pan-fire is keeping your composure. Panicking can lead to hasty decisions that worsen the situation. Immediately turn off the stove and mentally prepare to take action.
  2. Cover The Pan: Grab a well-fitting lid or a baking sheet and carefully place it over the burning pan. This will cut off the oxygen supply and smother the flames. Remember to use oven mitts to protect your hands.
  3. Turn Off The Heat: Ensure the stove’s burner is turned off to prevent the fire from reigniting once you’ve smothered it. If it’s an electric stove, disconnect it from the power source if possible.
  4. Avoid Water: Water and oil don’t mix, especially in a fire. Never attempt to extinguish a grease fire with water, as it can cause the flames to spread rapidly. Water can also lead to dangerous splattering, causing burns.
  5. Use Baking Soda Or Salt: If the fire persists, you can use baking soda or salt to control it. These substances release carbon dioxide when heated, which helps smother the flames. Sprinkle them evenly over the fire.
  6. Use A Fire Extinguisher: If the fire continues to grow despite your efforts, and you have a Class B or K fire extinguisher on hand, use it following the manufacturer’s instructions. Stand at a safe distance and aim at the base of the fire.
  7. Do Not Carry The Pan Outside: While it might be tempting to take the burning pan outside, this can be dangerous. The wind could cause the fire to spread, and you might accidentally trip or drop the pan.
  8. Wait Before Assessing The Damage: After successfully extinguishing the fire, allow the pan to cool for a while before assessing the damage. Dispose of the pan if it’s severely damaged, or clean it thoroughly if the damage is minimal.
  9. Keep The Kitchen Ventilated: Open windows and turn on the kitchen fan to disperse any lingering smoke and odors. Proper ventilation is crucial for your health and safety.

Also Read – Why Do Metal Handles Of Pans Get Hot?

What Causes A Pan To Catch Fire?

There are so many factors that can lead to a pan-fire. Here are some common causes of pan fires:

  1. High Cooking Temperatures:
    1. One of the primary causes of pan fires is cooking at excessively high temperatures.
    2. When oil or fats are heated beyond their smoke point, they can catch fire.
    3. The smoke point is the temperature at which the oil starts to break down and produce smoke.
    4. It’s important to monitor the heat level to avoid reaching this dangerous point.
  2. Leaving The Pan Unattended:
    1. Leaving a pan unattended while it’s on the stove is a recipe for disaster.
    2. Even a few moments of neglect can lead to the contents overheating and catching fire.
    3. Always stay in the kitchen when cooking and keep a watchful eye on the pan to prevent any mishaps.
  3. Oil Residue And Grease Buildup:
    1. Oil residue and grease buildup on the stovetop or in the pan itself can ignite when exposed to high heat.
    2. Regularly cleaning your stovetop and cookware helps prevent the accumulation of flammable substances and reduces the risk of fires.
  4. Water Droplets Or Moisture:
    1. Introducing water droplets or moisture to hot oil can lead to a sudden burst of flames.
    2. This is because water, being denser than oil, sinks to the bottom of the pan and turns into steam.
    3. The steam then carries tiny oil droplets upward, creating a potential fire hazard.
  5. Overheating Empty Pans:
    1. Heating an empty pan for an extended period can cause it to overheat and potentially catch fire.
    2. Without any food or liquid to absorb the heat, the pan’s surface can become dangerously hot and ignite.
  6. Incorrect Oil Selection:
    1. Not all cooking oils are suitable for high-heat cooking.
    2. Using oils with low smoke points for frying or sautéing can increase the likelihood of a pan-fire.
    3. Always choose oils that are appropriate for the cooking method you’re using.
  7. Crowded Cooking Space:
    1. Overcrowding the pan with food can cause oil to splatter, leading to potential flare-ups.
    2. The excess food can also trap heat and steam, creating an environment conducive to fires.

Also Read – Can You Put Hot Pans On Granite Countertops?

How Do You Prevent A Pan Fire Or Grease Fire?

There are several proactive measures you can take to prevent pan-fires and ensure a safe cooking environment. Here’s how to prevent a pan fire in your kitchen:

  1. Choose The Right Cooking Oil:
    1. Select cooking oils with high smoke points for frying and sautéing.
    2. Oils like vegetable, canola, and peanut oils are better suited for high-heat cooking.
    3. Avoid using oils with low smoke points, as they are more likely to overheat and catch fire.
  2. Maintain A Clean Cooking Space:
    1. Regularly clean your stovetop, oven, and surrounding areas to prevent the buildup of oil residue, grease, and food particles.
    2. Clean cookware also plays a role in preventing fires, so make sure your pots and pans are free from oil deposits.
  3. Stay In The Kitchen:
    1. Never leave a pan unattended while cooking. Even a momentary distraction can lead to overheating and potential fires.
    2. If you need to step away, turn off the heat source and remove the pan from the burner.
  4. Avoid Overcrowding The Pan:
    1. When cooking, avoid overcrowding the pan with too much food. Overcrowding can cause oil splatters and increase the risk of flare-ups.
    2. Cook in batches if necessary, giving each piece of food enough space to cook evenly.
  5. Keep Flammable Items Away:
    1. Ensure that flammable items such as kitchen towels, paper towels, and oven mitts are kept at a safe distance from the stovetop.
    2. These items can easily catch fire if they come into contact with heat or flames.
  6. Use A Splatter Guard: A splatter guard or screen can help prevent oil splatters and minimize the risk of fires. These guards are especially useful when cooking foods that release steam or moisture.
  7. Use A Timer: Setting a timer can help you stay aware of the cooking time and prevent food from overcooking or overheating. It also reminds you to check on the cooking progress regularly.
  8. Have A Lid Handy: Keep a lid that fits your pan nearby while cooking. In case of a small fire, placing the lid over the pan can smother the flames by cutting off the oxygen supply.
  9. Store A Fire Extinguisher: Keep a Class B or Class K fire extinguisher in your kitchen, easily accessible and within reach. Ensure that everyone in your household knows how to use it properly.

Also Read – How To Use Sterno With Aluminum Pans?

What Happens If You Put Water On A Grease Fire?

In the event of a pan catching fire, it’s crucial to know that water should never be used as an extinguishing agent. While water is commonly associated with putting out fires, it can exacerbate the situation when dealing with grease fires or other types of kitchen fires.

Here’s why you should avoid using water in such scenarios:

Oil And Water Don’t Mix

Grease fires occur when oil or fat reaches its ignition point and catches fire. Attempting to extinguish a grease fire with water can lead to dangerous consequences due to the fundamental nature of oil and water not mixing.

When water comes into contact with hot oil, it instantly vaporizes and turns into steam. This rapid conversion creates a violent reaction, causing the hot oil to splatter and spread the fire further.

Spreading The Fire

Using water on a grease fire can cause the flaming oil to splatter onto nearby surfaces, appliances, and even onto you, leading to more areas catching fire. This can rapidly escalate the situation, making it harder to control and putting you and others at greater risk.

Also Read – Why Eggs Turn Green In Aluminum Pans?

Escalating Danger

Water’s inability to effectively extinguish grease fires means that the fire can intensify rather than diminish. As the water spreads the burning oil, it increases the chances of the fire reaching new sources of fuel, such as curtains, paper towels, or other flammable items in the kitchen.

Using A Fire Extinguisher

When faced with a pan fire or any other type of kitchen fire, having the knowledge and ability to use a fire extinguisher properly can make a significant difference in controlling the situation and preventing further damage.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on when and how to use a fire extinguisher effectively:

1. Choosing The Right Extinguisher

Before using a fire extinguisher, ensure that you have the appropriate type for the fire at hand. For kitchen fires, including grease fires, look for a Class B or Class K fire extinguisher. These types are designed to combat fires fueled by flammable liquids like cooking oils and fats.

Usually, Class K fire extinguishers are a little expensive, so most prefer Class B. Or if you want a portable option for your kitchen, garage, or car, then you can use this portable fire extinguisher.

Also Read – Are Discolored Aluminum Pans Safe To Use?

2. The PASS Technique

Remember the acronym “PASS” to use a fire extinguisher effectively:

  1. Pull: Start by pulling the pin located at the top of the extinguisher. This pin prevents accidental discharge.
  2. Aim: Aim the nozzle or hose at the base of the fire where the fuel source is located. This is where you need to direct the extinguishing agent.
  3. Squeeze: Squeeze the handle or lever to release the extinguishing agent. The agent will help smother the fire by eliminating its oxygen supply.
  4. Sweep: Sweep the extinguisher from side to side while still aiming at the base of the fire. This sweeping motion ensures thorough coverage and helps suppress the flames.

3. Maintaining A Safe Distance

As you operate the fire extinguisher, keep a safe distance from the fire. Stand several feet away to avoid getting too close to the flames or the heat.

4. Monitoring The Situation

Even after using the fire extinguisher, continue to monitor the situation. If the fire reignites or continues to grow, evacuate the area and call the fire department for professional assistance.

Also Read – How To Perfectly Use A Chafing Dish?

5. When To Evacuate

If the fire is too large to be controlled by a fire extinguisher, if you’re unsure about its type, or if you feel unsafe, it’s best to evacuate the area immediately and call for help.

6. Regular Inspection

Remember that fire extinguishers have expiration dates and need to be regularly inspected to ensure they are functional. Check the pressure gauge to ensure it’s within the proper range and look for any visible damage.

7. Seeking Professional Help

If the fire becomes uncontrollable, or if you feel unsafe, evacuate your home immediately and call the fire department. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Also Read – How To Keep Baking Pans From Rusting?

What Should You Not Do If A Pan Of Oil Catches Fire?

Dealing with a pan of oil catching fire can be a stressful and dangerous situation. It’s important to know what actions to avoid to prevent the fire from spreading or worsening. Here are the things you should not do if a pan of oil catches fire:

  1. Do Not Use Water:
    1. Water and hot oil do not mix.
    2. Pouring water onto a pan of oil that’s on fire will cause the water to vaporize instantly, creating steam that can carry burning oil particles and flames upward. 
    3. This can lead to rapid fire expansion and increase the risk of burns, injuries, and property damage.
  2. Do Not Fan The Flames:
    1. Avoid fanning the flames with a towel, cloth, or any other object. Fanning can introduce more oxygen to the fire, causing it to grow in intensity. 
    2. It’s crucial to minimize the oxygen supply to control the fire.
  3. Do Not Move The Pan:
    1. Attempting to move the pan while it’s on fire can result in spilled oil and flames spreading to other areas. 
    2. Moving the pan also puts you at risk of getting burned and can further escalate the situation.
  4. Do Not Use A Glass Lid:
    1. While covering the pan with a lid is a recommended method to smother the flames, using a glass lid is not advised. 
    2. Glass lids can shatter due to the sudden temperature change caused by the fire, increasing the risk of injuries from shattered glass.
  5. Do Not Leave The Kitchen:
    1. Leaving the kitchen when a pan of oil is on fire, even briefly, can lead to an uncontrollable situation. 
    2. Fires can spread rapidly, so it’s important to stay present and monitor the situation closely.
  6. Do Not Delay Action:
    1. Procrastinating or assuming the fire will die down on its own is a dangerous mistake. 
    2. Pan fires can escalate quickly, and timely action is crucial to prevent further damage and injuries.
  7. Do Not Use Flour Or Baking Powder:
    1. Flour and baking powder are not effective extinguishing agents for oil fires. 
    2. They can also combust and contribute to the fire, worsening the situation.
  8. Do Not Use A Wet Cloth:
    1. Using a wet cloth to cover the pan or douse the flames can have the same effect as pouring water. 
    2. The cloth can ignite, and the steam produced can carry burning particles.
  9. Do Not Rely On Personal Breath: Blowing onto the flames can introduce carbon dioxide into the fire, which can cause it to intensify. It’s not an effective method to control the fire.

Note: In the context of dealing with pan fires, it’s important to clarify that baking soda can be used as an extinguishing agent due to its ability to release carbon dioxide when heated. This can help suppress the flames by displacing oxygen.

On the other hand, baking powder contains additional ingredients, such as acids, that could potentially contribute to the fire, so it’s not recommended for firefighting purposes.

Also Read – Why Do Baking Sheets Bend In The Oven?

Preventing Future Kitchen Fires

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Here are some tips to reduce the risk of a pan catching fire in the first place:

  • Never leave a pan unattended while cooking.
  • Keep flammable items, such as kitchen towels and paper towels, away from the stove.
  • Use a thermometer to monitor the oil temperature when frying.
  • Opt for a deep-fryer if you frequently cook with a lot of oil.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher rated for kitchen fires within easy reach.
  • Regularly clean your stove and oven to prevent grease buildup

Final Verdict

Cooking mishaps can happen to anyone, but with the right knowledge and actions, you can ensure the safety of your kitchen and loved ones.

Remember to remain calm, act swiftly, and follow the steps outlined in this guide if a pan catches fire. By prioritizing safety and being well-prepared, you can continue to enjoy the pleasures of cooking without unnecessary risks.

Remember, safety is a recipe that should always be followed. If you found this guide helpful, be sure to share it with others so they can be informed too!

Also Read – Why Is Cast Iron Pan Sticky After Seasoning?


  1. Can I Use A Wet Cloth To Cover The Pan-Fire?

    No, wet cloth can cause steam and spread the fire. It’s best to use a lid or baking soda.

  2. What Type Of Fire Extinguisher Do I Need For A Pan-Fire?

    You need a Class B or Class K fire extinguisher designed for grease fires.

  3. What If I Don’t Have A Fire Extinguisher?

    You can use baking soda, salt, or a lid to smother the flames. Always have a fire extinguisher on hand, though—it’s a crucial safety tool.

  4. Should I Try To Move The Burning Pan Outside?

    No, moving the pan can cause the fire to spread. It’s safer to contain it using a lid or fire extinguisher.

  5. Is It Safe To Leave My Cooking Unattended For A While?

    No, leaving cooking unattended increases the risk of a pan-fire. Always stay in the kitchen while cooking.

  6. How Often Should I Clean My Stove To Prevent Grease Buildup?

    Regularly clean your stove after each use to prevent grease accumulation and potential fires.

  7. Can I Use Flour To Put Out A Grease Fire?

    No, flour is highly flammable and should never be used to extinguish a fire.

  8. How Do I Clean A Pan After A Fire?

    Allow the pan to cool, then clean it with a mixture of baking soda and water. Scrub gently to remove any residue.

  9. Is It Safe To Use The Pan Again After A Fire?

    If the pan is minimally damaged and properly cleaned, it can usually be used again. However, if it’s severely warped or charred, it’s best to replace it.

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