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3/29/2013 - Stay safe this Easter by cooking with caution

Practice safety when cooking, particularly when using the stove and the oven at the same time.

This is a time of year for family gatherings and traditions that pass down from generation to generation. What holiday trees, presents and stockings are to Christmas, candy bunnies and painted eggs are to Easter.

But perhaps nothing is more synonymous with Easter than the perennial dinner course of finely cured ham. This meal is had by so many people, the National Pork Board estimates that roughly two-thirds of Americans will serve it to their loved ones and friends on Easter Sunday.

Yet before everyone can gather around the dinner table, the meal has to be prepared. Unlike Thanksgiving, a day that often requires hours spent in the kitchen to ensure the bird is fully cooked, ham's preparation doesn't take nearly as long. That's because many are already cooked, requiring families to simply heat it up in the oven.

Yet the relative ease with which hams are prepared may give the impression that it doesn't have to be attended to quite as often. However, as some families have learned, Easter festivities can be ruined by a kitchen fire. According to statistics, some of the most common homeowners insurance claims result from cooking fires. In fact, the National Fire Protection Association indicates that the leading cause of fires in the kitchen occur when people are away from the stovetop or oven while food is cooking.

With this in mind, NFPA fire officials encourage whoever is preparing Easter's meal to be on alert.

As tempting as it may be to mingle with loved ones, it's important to stay within earshot of the kitchen is if something is in the oven and to remain there if food is being fried or pan-seared.

Should there be an accident, NFPA reminds families not to panic. If it's small and easily containable it may be possible to smother it with a nearby lid. If there's an oven fire, immediately turn off the heat source and keep the door closed.

For other cooking safety tips, click here.

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