Our most delightful new neighbors, parents of four hopelessly adorable young children, are busy doing battle with insurance companies and contractors to get their home restored after a kitchen fire did some startling damage. Mercifully, only the dad was hurt, and he is recovering nicely.
Dad decided to cook up a skilletful of bacon for the kiddies. He put the pan on the glass-topped stove and wandered off to chase children. He didn’t wander far: only into the family room, which opens into the kitchen — really, the kitchen could be regarded as part of the family room/dining area. The floor plan is pretty open.
Wouldn’t you know it, with no visible flame under the pan, what’s happening with the bacon goes unnoticed until the grease in the pan bursts into flames.
Four kids and a woman in the house, Dad’s testosterone also bursts into flames. He grabs the blazing pan with his bare hands, hauls the thing outside, and heaves it into the pool.
In the process, he blisters his hands pretty mightily.
He’s OK, though, thank God. Today he seems to already be healing up, his fingers wrapped in antiseptic-infused bandages.
Meanwhile… The microwave over the stove MELTED! It literally dripped down like melted wax. The stove itself was trashed, as were the cabinets around it. The firemen punched holes in the drywall searching for fire that might have made its way into the walls. And the whole house is permeated with toxic-smelling smoke fumes.
Sooo… What can we learn from this?
First: In a fire, get everyone out of the house, including yourself. Better that the place should burn to the ground than that anyone be harmed. Don’t…pick up…a burning pan — it’s extremely dangerous.
Second, obviously: GET INSURED AND STAY INSURED, even if you have no mortgage requiring it. Their insurance will cover repairs and replacement of the appliances, walls, cabinetry, countertops, and smoke-damaged goods. This, as you recognize if you’re a home-owner, represents a ton of money.
Third, less obviously: Buy your insurance through a broker, who will run interference for you with claims adjusters. At first, Dad and Mom were a little worried about how they were going to approach their insurer, since a) this is the first house they’ve ever owned and b) this is not their first homeowner’s claim. The previous owner had either let the insurance lapse or, more likely, pocketed the settlement for the roof damage from the late, great hailstorm. As a result, their present company has covered three large claims that resulted from the prior owner’s neglect, including one for reroofing the house. Needless to say, they called their insurer with trepidation.
I put them in touch with my broker, who was able to advise on what they would be entitled to, what they should say and ask for, and what the outcome is likely to be. He knows a lot about the insurance industry and gave them some useful guidance.
Fourth: Learn to cook bacon. More generally: never turn your stove to blow-torch setting under a pan that contains grease or oil in any form.
Aside: How to cook bacon.
Bacon does not need to be cooked over high or even medium heat. In fact, it should not be cooked that way.
Lay the bacon slices flat in a skillet. Place the pan on a burner and turn the burner to low heat. Allow the bacon to cook slowly and gently until it reaches the state of done-ness you prefer. Turn the bacon slices over several times during the process.
This takes a while, but if you put the bacon on before you start preparing the rest of the breakfast, it will be cooked by the time you’re ready to serve the food.
Never turn a burner to “high” under a pan of bacon. And do not leave the kitchen while food is cooking on the stove.
Alternatively, you can cook bacon in a microwave. Lay several layers of paper towels on a dinner plate. Arrange bacon slices, flat, on top of the paper towels. Cover with several more layers of paper towels. Cook on “high” for one minute per slice, more or less. Watch carefully. And experiment: the one-minute-per-slice thing is a rough rule of thumb. It works for two to four slices but is less perfect for larger amounts.
Fifth: Always have a container of baking soda within easy reach on the kitchen counter — preferably not too close to the stove. Baking soda is an effective fire extinguisher and can be used safely on grease fires. Just grab a fistful and toss it into the flames.
And item six, IMHO: if you can possibly manage it, get a gas stove. Electric stoves, especially the glass-top numbers, have as their sterling disadvantage that the user can’t see at a glance how hot the burner is — or in some cases, even whether it’s on. You can’t miss a gas burner when it’s on…and you can easily gauge the heat simply by looking at it.
I wouldn’t own a house that doesn’t have gas service. 😉