Wednesday, October 26, 2011


The threat of fire caused in a kitchen both commercially and at home is a serious matter. In a restaurant my hot line is somewhat protected by what is called and Ansel system that is inspected every 6 months or so along with my fire extinguishers. The system has heads over various equipment and senses an excess of heat or smoke and when triggered, either automatically or manually, will release a very fine powdered chemical over my entire line. While I have never triggered one, it will create a nightmare of a cleanup issue, as well as a loss of product. The professionals tell me at least 4 or 5 hours to reload goods and wipe and hose everything down. That will ruin a day of service for any restaurant. While the safety of the people involved is much less of a worry then it is in a home setting because, well no one is sleeping when something in a kitchen will catch fire, the layout is so much different, as is the equipment. It is still a worry. Small burns happen almost daily in kitchen. Saute pans, five hundred degree ovens, hot pans, and boiling liquids can scorch you pretty good. The classic chef jacket is actually double breasted, and the buttons are made how they are, so that if your shirt was to catch on fire it can be ripped off of you in one fluid motion. At work the risk of fire is always there, it doesn't bother me, but we still need to be prepared. Of the most horrid kitchen accidents your hear about they are rarely the slicer, or a knife. They are always the heat of the grill, fryer, or stockpot of boiling water.

Home fires are a whole other story. Even what begins as a small manageable fire in your home kitchen can be devastating. Kitchen hoods aren't able to manage as much smoke as industrial ones, and the tools we have in a restaurant are much different then the ones in most homes. From my home I push my kitchen equipment to the brink. I will leave a cast iron pan on full whack for ten minutes to get a good sear on something. I get my Weber grill so hot sometimes you can't stand within three feet of it. My ovens are on 500 degrees more often then not. At some point earlier this year a family I know well was affected by a devastating fire, and while thankfully no one was injured, the house and all of their belongings were gone. This shook me up and made me look at the way I am cooking in my own home. While I had always had a pee-wee Costco type extinguisher, I knew that in a bad fire with a hot grease accelerent it wouldn't be able to do the job. So the next time the Ansel system service guy came by I started asking some questions. How big a fire extinguisher do you need in a home, how many should you have, where do most home fires start, etc. He was happy to sell me a refurbished extinguisher capable of putting out almost any fire that one could create doing the things I do at home. He sold it to me for $30. Which was about a third of what I thought I would spend on a fire extinguisher that would be effective. I feel safer with it in the house, and even Skyler and Abe learned how to use it in case of a real emergency. While it seems a bit silly to be preaching it, I think it is important. After a few conversations with some friends and some staff almost no one has a capable extinguisher in their own kitchen at home. A simple investment that can protect your family, and potentially save your home, or life for less then $50. It is a no brainer for everyone, but especially if you find yourself pushing your equipment and talent to the limit in the kitchen.

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