Holiday feast or disaster waiting to happen?

Cooking accidents and what might be covered by your home insurance

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Susan Meyer

Senior Editorial Manager

Credentials
  • Licensed Insurance Agent — Property and Casualty

Susan is a licensed insurance agent and has worked as a writer and editor for over 10 years across a number of industries. She has worked at The Zebr…

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Ross Martin

Manager, Content Quality

Credentials
  • Licensed Insurance Agent (former) — Property and Casualty

Ross joined The Zebra as a writer and researcher in 2019. As a licensed insurance agent, he specializes in writing insurance content to help shoppers…

The holiday season is underway! That means lots of cheerful memories made with friends and family, cozy nights and…many people who don’t normally cook suddenly creating multi-course meals.  

Whether you’re an accomplished home chef or someone who’s generally more adept at ordering takeout, it’s important to remember that amid the hustle and bustle of preparing a holiday meal, accidents can happen in the kitchen. 

From grease fires to accidental cuts and spills, these mishaps can turn a joyous occasion into a stressful one. Let’s explore common holiday feast cooking accidents and delve into whether they might be covered by your home insurance.

Common holiday cooking accidents

The holidays often mean cooking is combined with lots of kitchen activity and often kids running underfoot. These distractions can contribute to accidents and injuries. Here are a few of the most frequent:

Fires

Did you know more cooking fires in residential buildings occur on Thanksgiving Day than any other day of the year? In fact it’s more than 2.3 times more common on this day than on a normal day[1]. An oven gets left on. A dish towel is left too close to the stove. Turkey grease drips on the bottom of the oven and ignites. These are just a few of the potential culprits.

Burns and scalds 

Even if you don’t set your kitchen on fire, with multiple dishes cooking simultaneously, burns and scalds from hot pans, pots or liquids are common accidents during holiday cooking preparations. 

Knife injuries 

Peeling, chopping and carving can result in accidental cuts and wounds, especially when the kitchen is busy or drinking is involved. 

Slips and falls 

The kitchen floor can get wet and slippery, making it easy to slip and fall, leading to various injuries. Falls are also prevalent during the holiday season due to ladders and outdoor decorating. While falls might not be top of mind, they’re actually the second leading cause of unintentional injury-related deaths. In 2020, 42,114 died in falls at home or at work[3]

Food poisoning 

Improper handling, undercooking or cross-contamination of food can lead to foodborne illnesses affecting multiple family members. It’s important to not only practice safe food handling and proper temperatures during cooking, but also with storage of leftovers. According to the CDC, the bacteria which is the second-largest cause of food poisoning has its most frequent outbreaks during November and December[4]. Why? It grows in cooked foods that are left at room temperature for too long.

Deep-fried trouble

Every year, deep-fried turkeys cause an average of five deaths, 60 injuries and over $15 million in property damage[2]. Heating up large amounts of cooking oil to a high temperature is a recipe for burns or grease fires. If you insist on deep-frying a turkey, follow manufacturer directions on your fryer very carefully and make sure the turkey is completely thawed before frying.

What home insurance may cover

Home insurance typically provides coverage for various types of accidents that can occur in the home year round. But in terms of the above holiday feast-related snafus, what can you claim? Here’s what might be covered:

Damage to your home and personal property 

The dwelling coverage of your homeowners insurance should cover the cost (up to your coverage limits) of repairing or rebuilding your home if a fire gets out of hand. In addition to covering your home and belongings under personal property coverage, your policy may cover additional living expenses, meaning it will pay for a hotel if your home is unlivable during the repairs.

Damage to other buildings

If you burn down your detached garage because of that deep-fried turkey, that would be covered under your Other Structures coverage, which is usually 10% of the value of your main coverage. 

Medical payments 

If a guest is injured on your property, your home insurance may cover their medical expenses, regardless of fault. This can include burns, cuts or injuries sustained due to slips and falls.

Liability coverage 

If you accidentally cause damage to someone else’s property while cooking, your liability coverage can help pay for the repairs. For example, if a grease fire damages your neighbor’s property, your home insurance may cover the costs.

Food spoilage 

Some home insurance policies provide coverage for the cost of spoiled food if a covered event, such as a power outage, leads to spoilage.

How to keep yourself and loved ones safe

Obviously, you don’t want to give the gifts of intestinal distress or third-degree burns this holiday season. So what are some ways you can keep your kitchen and home safe?

  • Stay in the kitchen when cooking on the stove. 
  • If the oven is on, set multiple timers as reminders. Do not leave the home while the turkey is cooking.
  • Keep young children far away from hot stoves, ovens and sharp knives.
  • Test your smoke alarms to make sure they are working. Make sure your fire extinguisher is accessible from the kitchen and is not expired.
  • Keep the floor of your kitchen free of obstacles and keep your counters clear of debris. Never leave flammable items like dishclothes or paper towels near the stove. 
  • Having a glass of wine while cooking is tempting, but save it for when the oven is off and the food is on the table. 
  • Practice safe food handling. Never use the same cutting board for raw meats and vegetables. Wash your hands thoroughly after touching raw meat to avoid cross contamination.
  • Make sure the turkey reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Refrigerate leftovers to 40 degree Fahrenheit within 2 hours of cooking.

Wrapping up

Holiday cooking accidents can happen to even the most experienced chefs. While home insurance can provide valuable coverage for unexpected mishaps, it's crucial to prioritize safety and take precautions to prevent accidents in the first place. By staying vigilant, following safety guidelines and being aware of your insurance coverage, you can enjoy a safe and delightful celebration with your loved ones.