I often cook on the lowest setting my stove has — just one click from “off.” Yesterday, I was cooking a hamburger patty at that setting when I thought it was close enough to done that I turned it off. I checked it after a while and it wasn’t, so I turned it back on and left the room. After a while, I came back in to check on it and probably turn it off again, and there were flames shooting out of the pan, and the pot-holder on the lid over the pan was flaming as well.
For those playing the home game, this is a bad sign.
Although the flames were about a foot high, nothing else was involved. It turns out that I had turned the burner one click to the right, rather than one click to the left, so, instead of being at the lowest low setting, it was at the highest high setting. I turned the burner off, and managed to get the relevant components to the sink where water could be sensibly applied to quench the flames with no significant harm beyond the total loss of the pot holder, singing of the one I used for the job, a bit of burning to the linoleum (already seriously damaged and needing replacement) where the burning pot holder and lid both fell on their way to the sink. The pan is cast iron, and, although it lost some of the seasoning I’d managed to build up, it’s not in terrible shape, and should be back to normal in a month or so (I don’t use it very often anymore).
The drama portion was over in about a minute, with the clean up requiring about fifteen minutes of work beyond that (a bit more for all the smoke to clear — ventilation isn’t all that good). I have some singed hair on the back of one hand and arm, and my throat’s a little sore from breathing the smoke. But the part that’s been worse is the residual fear about it. The “I almost burned the house down” thing. That’s been bugging me pretty much ever since, with this sense that I need to check to make sure that the fire is totally out, or that the house is going to burn down. Getting to sleep last night wasn’t particularly easy either. Nothing debilitating, but it definitely feels yuck. Like wanting to cry yuck.
So I’ve come to a few conclusions. One is that fire on the stove is bad. Next is that I’m probably going to be a bit paranoid about burner settings for a while. Breathing smoke from a burning pot-holder isn’t as bad as breathing smoke from a burning car battery, but it’s still not fun. And I’m hoping that talking about this is going to help get through the fear thing quicker than pretending nothing happened.