February 9th to the 15th saw the celebration of National Chip Week throughout the UK. Fronted by well known television personality Keith Chegwin, it saw him travel the length and breadth of Britain in search of the perfect chip. Whilst Keith was sampling the delights to be found in our nations legion of chip shops, many people still like to prepare their own chips at home.
Unfortunately, statistics show that our love of home fried chips could be costing lives. Chip pan fires are responsible for around one-fifth of the fires that break out in peoples homes, and up to twenty people a day are injured or even killed as a result of fires that start in the kitchen. Oil is known to be an ideal fuel for fire and can be extremely difficult to extinguish. Many of these fires start because people leave the chip pan unattended, so it is imperative to always supervise your chip pan.
Other measures that can help prevent your chip pan catching fire include never filling the pan more than one-third full with oil, always dry food before placing it in the chip pan – as the water making contact with the oil can cause an explosion, if the oil starts to smoke, switch the cooker off and let it cool down, do not continue to cook with it, and whilst there is nothing like some freshly cooked chips after a few drinks – never be tempted to use your chip pan if you have been consuming alcohol. According to government research, a large percentage of chip pan fires are caused by men frying chips after they have been drinking.
Should you be unlucky enough to have your chip pan catch fire you should immediately call the Fire Service and turn off the heat (if you can do so safely). Do not move the pan or throw any water at the fire as this could cause an explosion. Previous government guidelines advising the use of a wet tea towel to throw over the pan are no longer considered safe.
Despite all of the advice and warnings, a cursory glance through local news headlines will nearly always find a chip pan fire story. The safest way to enjoy your chips is to do what Keith Chegwin did and get the from the chippy. Failing that, a thermostatic deep fat fryer is the best option if you really must prepare your chips at home!