Why can a fryer explode or catch fire?

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Nothing is more delicious and comforting than recipes for homemade fries, good fresh onion rings or fried chicken with a breadcrumb seasoned to our liking: the fryer is always synonymous with joy in the kitchen!

However, the fryer is also one of the most dangerous kitchen appliances if you do not take a minimum of precautions because oil at very high temperatures and in large quantities can be a risk of a fire starting or even explosions. , and the risk of severe burns.

Unfortunately, there are still incidents and severe accidents in domestic kitchens due to frying baths that turn tragic because the flaming oil can quickly become uncontrollable and spread at high speed.

So one wonders what exactly are the dangers of a deep fryer. How and in what situations can an explosion or fire occur?

How can this type of accident be prevented, and what should be done in the event of an oil fire that breaks out? Do we have to equip ourselves with a fire extinguisher every time we make homemade fries?

Here are some useful concepts to better understand and understand the possible risks of cooking with boiling oil, and how to brown fries without grilling the house…

The danger: the combustion of oil

To brown and crisp food and To give them that delicious fried flavor, they must be immersed in a bath of hot, simmering oil: this is the principle of the good old fryer.

For this, cooking oil baths must be heated between 155 and 180°C / 311 and 356°F. However, from 200 or 220°C / 392 or 428°F, most oils begin to evaporate into smoke, which becomes very dangerous, because oil smoke can ignite suddenly as soon as that the moment is right for combustion, creating a blast of extreme heat, which can ignite the rest of the oil and cause a chain reaction.

Around 235°C / 449°F, most vegetable oils will ignite, and animal fats will ignite even before this point, potentially creating a grease fire, which can also happen if grease in food diffuses in frying oil, hence the importance of always cleaning thoroughly after use.

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And unfortunately, all the elements conducive to combustion are often brought together in the kitchen: the flammable fuel, here the cooking oil, the heat source, the oil boiling in the deep fryer, but also the electric hob or the gas burner. gas, and the oxidant which is oxygen, the ambient air, often reinforced by the kitchen hood which turns fully when frying, to eliminate odors.

The fryer fire is therefore an extremely dangerous fire since it can spread at lightning speed by creating explosions, splashes of boiling oil, and spread very quickly everywhere because of the oil which ignites, even be reinforced by the extractor hood, and make a very violent chain reaction.

A few prevention tips Prevention

is better than cure, especially when it comes to second or third degree burns from fryer oil, explosions and spontaneous combustion, boiling oil splashes and fires.

Make sure on the electricity side

If you use an electric fryer, you must first check that the outlet you are using is in good condition, either an earthed outlet, or an extension cord equipped with a plug. ground in case of overheating or incident.

It is also necessary to be certain that the voltage is compliant and able to support a flow of electricity sufficient to supply the type of electrical appliance that is used, some fryers today being quite imposing electrical machines, even if most models are secured with, for example, an integrated circuit breaker.

It is also advisable to identify any possible sign of wear on the wire or the connection of the fryer’s plug, anything that could create a short circuit, an electrical problem which could for example disturb the thermostat and cause the appliance to heat up. oil, or worse, create a spark which could cause flames and an explosion.

Take precautions, be prepared

To avoid any accident, you must also consider the place where you are going to use the fryer, preferably a clear place, without flammable objects around, such as the roll of Scott Towel for example, or the bottle of oil, but also a flat and stable place to prevent the oil from spilling, strong enough to support the weight of the fryer.

Before starting, it is also necessary to take care to respect the quantity of oil, never to exceed, even to put a little less: most fryers come with a user manual indicating the procedures of recipes, with for example nuances and precautions for frozen foods.

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You can also be prepared for any eventuality by keeping a large, thick damp cloth nearby that you can possibly use to cover the fryer in the event of a flame, or a large fireproof lid to try to smother the flames, such as for example a large baking sheet.

Watch, stay close to the fryer

Even though every kitchen should be equipped with smoke detectors, the stage where the fryer oil starts to smoke is to be avoided as much as possible because it is the most dangerous, and for this reason, it is better to stay nearby to react as soon as the slightest smoke escapes.

Keeping an eye on the fryer, or staying in the same room while cooking, is highly recommended to be able to react quickly to the slightest apparent problem, such as seeing smoke coming from the fryer, and to be able to unplug it immediately before the smoke is too great and the risk of fire too high.

In the event of a frying fire

Why can a fryer explode or catch fire?
Kitchen fire in pot.

If you ever happen to have a deep fryer catch fire, even if it is difficult, you must try to panic as little as possible to take the necessary measures and measures to protect the people around you, starting with by trying to stop the fire if possible.

In particular, it is necessary to avoid a sometimes primary reflex which seems logical but which is in fact very dangerous: trying to extinguish an oil fire with water, which is absolutely to be avoided.

Why shouldn’t water be thrown on a smoldering fire?

This is one of the physical and chemical particularities that make it a formidable fire: oil does not mix with water, and in a combustion context, this can have the opposite effect.

By throwing cold water on the boiling oil, the water will instantly vaporize, being able to create bubbles which, when exploding, will have the effect of throwing the oil on fire and creating new flames, which would therefore aggravate the situation with the risk of receiving boiling oil on oneself, in addition to the clouds of intoxicating smoke which invade the room.

Water and oil therefore do not go well together, even less so in the context of a fire, and if we say that we should not add oil to the fire, this also applies to not putting fire. water on burning oil.

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Trying to smother the flames

In the triangle of fire, therefore of combustion, it is here impossible to remove the fuel, therefore the oil on fire, or the source of heat, the oil already boiling in the electric fryer, although unplugging the device is one of the things to do.

It is therefore on the oxidizer that it will be necessary to play, the oxygen supply, to try to put out the fire, here by covering the fryer either with a large damp cloth, which does not make water drops for the reasons we have mentioned, either with an airtight lid, for example a large metal cooking plate to smother the flames.

If we are able, turning off the kitchen hood will stop one of the fire’s sources of oxygen, in addition to quickly unplugging the fryer from the wall.

There are also kitchen extinguishers with baking soda that can sometimes be enough to control and put out the start of a fire, if the brazier is not too big.

In all cases and manipulations, do not try to move the fryer, at the risk of overturning or being splashed by boiling oil or on fire.

And of course, if the flames are too big and the fireplace is out of control, you will have to evacuate the house and call the fire department…

Cooking in the deep fryer: stay careful

Certainly, you should not fall into fear, and decide to put the deep fryer in the cupboard to cook only frozen meals in the microwave, but you must remain aware of the risks to remain careful and alert when we use this kitchen appliance.

In addition, most of the good current fryer models are safer, built in materials that protect against heat, do not become hot, with secure cooking baskets and lids, optimized to avoid splashing, as well as cutting systems. -circuit in case of overheating.

And with a few precautions and prevention, you can easily enjoy the delights of frying without taking risks:

  • Check the correct power supply, prevent short circuits
  • Place the fryer in an open place and without flammable objects around
  • Respect the quantity of oil and the manufacturer’s instructions
  • Stay nearby during cooking, watch
  • Never let the oil smoke
  • Be prepared to cover with a lid or damp cloth possibly
  • Have a small kitchen extinguisher with sodium bicarbonate
  • Do not clean your fryer after use
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