I suspect that many of us worry, at least occasionally, that we might fall asleep or leave the house with the stove left on and have visions of the burner overheating and catching fire and destroying everything. I have on numerous occasions gone back into the house after leaving it, just to check the stove. But how bad could it really be? According to this article by Steve Rousseau, John Drengenberg, the Consumer Safety Director at Underwriters Laboratories, says that the manufacturers of stoves have taken this possibility into account.
“A stove is designed to run indefinitely,” says Drengenberg. “Do we recommend that? Absolutely not.” While it’s not the best idea to leave an open flame unattended, If you leave your stove burner on, your house will, in all likelihood, not burn down.
UL tests just about every stove that hits the market. Part of that testing involves ensuring they hit thermal stability. In other words, they turn the stove on, and check the temperature of the burner, and keep checking the temperature until it stops increasing — just to make sure the burner doesn’t ultimately set the entire stove on fire.
“If you leave it on, and there’s nothing on the stove or near the stove, it probably will stay running until you come back,” he says.
So nothing would happen. And yet, the leading cause of house fires is unattended cooking. So just what is going on here?
You see, the problem isn’t the burner itself, but rather what’s on top of the burner. Let’s say you start a nice ragu, and then leave it to simmer away while you go enjoy the park for a few hours. Maybe you left the heat on a smidge too high, and all the liquid boils off before you get home. Then baby, you got a kitchen fire going.
A pot with too much liquid could also set your home ablaze as well. Maybe you’re making a nice pot of pulled pork, and maybe that fatty greasy goodness boils over… while you’re outside chatting with a neighbor. That’s a kitchen fire.
But if you’re making yourself a cup of tea, and you might have forgotten to turn off the burner after pulling the kettle off the stove. (It happens!) Then, well, it’s not the end of the world. You should maybe just text your roommate just to be sure, though.
I am reassured, sort of. I will still likely go back to double check the stove if I can but if I think of it when I am far away, this article will help me to worry less.