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Susan-Proofing: Must-Have Safety Items for Every Kitchen

True story: I probably shouldn’t be allowed in the kitchen.
In college, I once set my stove on fire, filling my tiny apartment with smoke. Needless to say, my neighbors were not happy to air out the apartment complex during a Wisconsin winter.
I also singed my eyebrows off once while lighting a charcoal grill that had been doused with lighter fluid by my roommate, my roommate’s boyfriend and my boyfriend before I struck the match that would lead to the Great Backyard Fireball of 2008. (Seriously — what is it with men and lighter fluid? Someone please explain this to me.)
I’ve also earned scars on my fingers from sloppy knife work, and a burn mark as a result of extracting a pan from the broiler using a dish towel instead of an oven mitt.
But the granddaddy of kitchen disasters happened last month, when I managed to slice off the tip of my finger and set my kitchen on fire, all in the same day.
Like I said, I probably shouldn’t be allowed in the kitchen.
My morning started off like it always does — whipping up a quick and healthy breakfast with the use of my trusty mandolin slicer for my berries. I’ve been obsessed with this kitchen tool lately — not only does it create uniform slices of fruits and vegetables, but it does it quickly. But that’s not the biggest reason I love the mandolin slicer. You guys, it’s a real-life Fruit Ninja game! I always try to beat my high score with actual apples and bananas, and, yes, I make the sound effects. Don’t judge me.

Fruit video game

I can’t help it, you guys. I love Fruit Ninja.

It should come as no surprise that while slashing a berry with speed and stealth that fateful morning, I lopped off the top of my ninja-loving finger. I’ll protect you from the ick factor by skipping out on the details, but just know this: it wasn’t pretty. Also, explaining “Fruit Ninja” to a doctor is surprisingly difficult.
On my way home from the doctor’s office, I decided to complete my weekly grocery shopping, bandaged finger be damned. After all, I bled all over most of my produce, and nobody wants to eat an actual blood orange. With arms piled high with paper bags, I carried my grocery goods into the house, making my way through an overeager pack of three dogs hell-bent on eating all the food I brought home. As my counter space became more limited, I unloaded a few bags onto the stove and returned to the garage to retrieve the final bags.
My next-door neighbor saw me in the garage and came over to say hello. After catching up for about five minutes, I heard my dogs barking.
“I should go in, Denise,” I sighed. “My dogs are probably going nuts smelling all those groceries on the counter.”
When I entered my house again, I smelled something … but it wasn’t the food I brought inside. It was smoky, like something was on fire.
Holy <bleep>ing <bleep>, y’all! My <bleep>ing groceries are on <bleep>ing fire!
I screamed and scrambled and tried to figure out what to do. I pushed the burning bags off the stove, but that only caused paper-bag ashes and burning groceries to scatter all over the floor of my kitchen, spreading the fire. In my panic, I realized something else — I didn’t have a single fire extinguisher in my house!
In panic mode, I did the only thing that made sense: I grabbed the spray gun in my sink and hosed down my whole damn kitchen.
It worked. My house smelled horrible, there was charred food everywhere, my dogs were dripping wet, and the stovetop was smoldering. But there was no more fire. I got lucky.
As best as I can figure, my dogs had jumped up and down to try to reach the groceries I placed on the stove. At some point, one of their paws hit the oven knob, starting one of the burners — and igniting my bags in the process. Because I was a dumbass who actually put a paper bag full of groceries on a stovetop.
When my partner, Neil, came home that night, he took one sniff of our smoky house, glanced over at my bandaged finger, and sighed.
“Do we need to Susan-proof the kitchen?”
<bleep> off.”
“Ooookay, then.”
But he did have a point. Given my track record in the kitchen, it would probably be a good idea to take some safety precautions … starting with a fire extinguisher.

Kitchen Safety Tips

I’m not the only one who was missing this safety item. According to the National Fire Protection Association, only 25 percent of US kitchens have a fire extinguisher. If you’re in the 75 percent, do me a favor and get yourself one right this second. Don’t put it off — if you’re like me, you’ll never get it done.
To pick the right fire extinguisher, consider your needs: For the kitchen, it’s generally recommended to have a multipurpose fire extinguisher, such as one for Class A-B-C fires, or one that can specifically handle Class B or K fires. Wondering what those letters mean? Here’s your crib sheet:

  • Class A: ordinary combustibles — think cloth, wood and paper
  • Class B: flammable liquids like grease, gasoline and oil
  • Class C: electrical appliances and tools
  • Class D: flammable metals (mostly for factories)
  • Class K: vegetable oils, animal oils or fats in cooking appliances

For my kitchen, I selected the Tundra, a multipurpose extinguisher from First Alert. In addition to taking up minimal space in my cabinet, the spray-can design makes it easy to use, and the spray itself lasts longer than traditional fire extinguishers.

Tundra Fire Extinguisher

It’s on my cookbook shelf now. I am READY, y’all.

I also installed a loud smoke alarm in my kitchen — something I’m ashamed to admit I removed when I first moved into the house (because I set it off all the time with my burnt-food skills). This alarm is different, though — it’s got a photoelectric smoke sensor instead of an ionization one, which reduces the incidence of false alarms.
First Alert

Because dogs barking are not really the best fire alarm …

Though I don’t plan to use my stovetop as counter space for groceries again, knowing my dogs could start my stove with just a bump gets me a little scared. To prevent this from happening again, I purchased stove knob covers from Safety 1st, a company that specializes in baby-proofing your household. Dogs are babies, too, right?
Black knob covers

Yes, I’m baby (dog) proofing my stove. You got a problem with that?

Finally, I “gloved up” — my kitchen is now stocked with an assortment of oven-proof gloves and cut-resistant gloves, like this one from Microplane, which I’m told all the Fruit Ninjas are wearing these days.
I won’t say this new equipment will keep me from doing idiotic things, but at least the kitchen is Susan-proofed now.
Have you stocked your kitchen with these safety items? What else should we all be storing in our kitchen safety stash? —Susan

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