Olive oil - the Greeks’ greatest invention (sorry, alarm clock, but you didn’t stand a chance).
It has been one of the most common household ingredients for decades, and has made cooking easier and more enjoyable for centuries. As a healthier alternative to most cooking oils, olive oil has cemented its place in a lot of kitchens across the globe.
But with all that oil living so close to an oven, it has to make you wonder just how safe it is to store olive oil in your kitchen. Sure, you only use a small amount when cooking, but what if you spilled some or a flame came close to your bottle of olive oil? What would happen then?
If you are curious about how dangerous olive oil can be in a fire situation, then look no further for the answers. Here is all the information you need about olive oil to know how to handle and store it properly in your kitchen without putting yourself at risk.
What Is Olive Oil?
Olive oil is a liquid fat used for many purposes. It is obtained from olives by pressing them and squeezing the oil out.
As olives are traditionally grown around the Mediterranean, olive oil has been a staple in Mediterranean cooking and diets for centuries. It is rich in antioxidants, and can also be used for purposes other than cooking.
Olive oil is also used to create products like soaps and candles, and can also be found in some cosmetics. Historically, olive oil has also been used as a medicine due to containing antioxidants.
Due to its wide range of uses and being a favorite oil among chefs and cooks, you most likely have some olive oil-based products around your home, even if they aren’t stored in your kitchen.
Is Olive Oil Flammable?
Olive oil is not considered a flammable liquid.
This is because the flashpoint temperature of olive oil is 410 degrees Fahrenheit. A liquid’s flashpoint is when it gives off enough vapor to ignite in the air, and liquids with a flashpoint of 100 degrees Fahrenheit are the ones considered flammable.
Having a flashpoint below 100 degrees Fahrenheit means that the liquid is easier to ignite at ambient temperatures, making it more likely to catch on fire.
However, due to the high flashpoint of olive oil, it is not considered flammable - however, it is still considered combustible.
While the terms flammable and combustible are easy to mix up and assume they mean the same thing, flammable and combustible have two very different definitions.
Flammable refers to a material that catches fire easily at room temperature, but combustible means that the material can catch fire when heated up.
The difference between the two is the temperature of the flashpoint - so while olive oil is not considered flammable because it does not catch fire easily at room temperature, it is still considered a combustible liquid.
Olive oil would have to be significantly heated up to be able to reach its flashpoint and ignite. To get olive oil to this temperature when cooking, you would have had to leave it unattended for a very long time and so, olive oil is not often a cause of house fires.
But if you have left olive oil cooking for far too long, then you may end up having a grease fire on your hands.
How Do You Put Out A Fire Involving Olive Oil?
If there is ever a fire in your home or anywhere else, the first thing you should do is evacuate the premises and call the fire department.
Firefighters are highly trained and equipped professionals who can deal with fires a lot better than you can. They are the ones with the knowledge and education to put out a fire safely and efficiently, and so it is safer for you to just evacuate and call 911.
If you try to tackle a blaze yourself, you are only putting yourself in danger.
However, if you are expected to deal with an olive oil based fire for whatever reason, then here is some information that will come in handy.
Olive oil is a combustible liquid, so it must have been heated up to a very high temperature to be able to ignite. The oil will begin to boil first and then smoke, so if you can see your olive oil reaching these points, you need to remove it from the heat source immediately to avoid a fire.
Burning olive oil is classified as a grease fire, so it must be tackled in a different way than regular fires. Grease fires are fires involving any kind of cooking oils, and cannot be extinguished using water.
Dousing a grease fire in water will only cause the grease to splash, and the fire may then spread onto nearby materials and surfaces.
Also, do not attempt to take the pan outside as the oil may spill and the fire may spread.
To extinguish a grease fire, you need to cut out its oxygen source. Oxygen is what is needed to keep a fire burning, so smothering the fire will cut off its oxygen supply and it will eventually burn out.
If you have a fire extinguisher in your house, make sure it is a class B fire extinguisher, as these contain carbon dioxide which smother a fire and cut off its oxygen supply.
It may be worth purchasing one and keeping it in your kitchen so if a grease fire ever breaks out, you can use something quick and easy to use from afar.
If you do not have a fire extinguisher in your house or it is the wrong classed extinguisher, then you can still smother the fire by using the metal lid of your pan. A glass lid will shatter from the extreme heat, so only use a metal lid for this method.
Slide the metal lid over the fire until it covers the pan completely as this slowly cuts off the fire's air supply. Leave it for a few minutes before removing the lid, as this ensures that the fire has time to definitely burn out.
However, this method requires you to get up close and personal with the fire, which is why it is better to just evacuate and call 911 to save yourself from any danger.
How To Store Olive Oil?
There are ways to prevent an olive oil fire from breaking out, and one of the ways you can help this is to know the signs when olive oil is reaching its flashpoint and how to store olive oil correctly.
Olive oil will only ignite when it is heated up, so most fires involving olive oil occur on your stove. As we said earlier, olive oil will begin to boil and emit smoke as it reaches its flashpoint so if your olive oil begins to show similar signs, then you must remove it from the heat source immediately.
As for storing your olive oil, you may think it is a good idea to store your cooking oils in spray bottles - but this is definitely not recommended.
While storing your cooking oils in spray bottles may seem convenient, it actually makes these combustible liquids more flammable and more dangerous.
Aerosolizing these oils changes its state from a liquid to a vapor, and this means that the oil is now far more flammable and easier to ignite.
Not only that, but spraying these oils means that there is a greater risk of the oil making contact with flames from the stove and surfaces, making it easier for the fire to spread around your kitchen.
Storing your liquid cooking oils in spray bottles and using them as such is not recommended and can be very dangerous. The same goes for olive oil - you should store your olive oil in a suitable container away from any sources of heat.
A suitable container should be made of glass or metal. Oils such as olive oil can leech off the PVC in a plastic container and mix it in with its liquid, meaning that you may end up ingesting bits of plastic after using olive oil stored in a plastic container.
And that is all you need to know about olive oil!
It is not a flammable liquid, but is still combustible so it should always be handled with care around flames and heat sources just like any other cooking oil.
Do not store it in plastic containers or spray bottles, and if your olive oil does progress into a grease fire, you can extinguish it by smothering the fire either by using a Class B fire extinguisher or by placing a metal lid over the pan.
Do not try to extinguish the fire using water, and remember - it is always best to leave it up to the professionals. Evacuate the building and call 911 for the fire department.
Hopefully, you can now use this information to cook with olive oil a lot more confidently and a lot more safely too.