National Chip Week for better or worse
February 16, 2009barriehol
The 9th-15th February was National Chip Week when the Potato Marketing Board and others were promoting the Nations favourite side dish -the great British chip. It’s amazing to think that 1 in 4 of all potatoes consumed in the UK are eaten as chips. Fish and Chip shops alone account for nearly 300million portions in a year. Add on the fast food chains, restaurants and home cooking and the total must be into 10 figures. The healthy living lobby and increasing scarcity of fish had an impact. In the 1920’s there were around 35000 Fish and Chip shops in the UK. Less than a quarter survive today.
In tandem with National Chip Week (how we can have this and not celebrate a Nations Day is beyond me), the fire services have also been highlighting the very real dangers of cooking chips in the home.
Chip pan fires are the biggest cause of fire related injuries in the UK with statistics pointing to 12000 chip pan fires each year resulting in 4600 injuries and some 50 deaths.
The main cause is people overfilling chip pans such that when they add the chips the pan overflows and ignites the fat on the burner. The fat can also overheat and catch fire spontaneously.
Chips are often put in the pan wet causing the fat to bubble up and spit violently again igniting the fat on the burner. It is always best to dry chips in a clean tea towel before frying.
Best tips are: Don’t overfill the pan -don’t leave it unattended and don’t overheat. Finally if you have a choice, buy a deep fat fryer as they are intrinsically safer to use.
Within a Kitchen if a fat fire does break out be very careful how you put it out.
If it is already burning out of control to the extent you cannot get near to hob don’t try -close the doors and windows, get everyone out of the house and call the Fire Services.
If the fire is relatively small and you have a Fire Blanket turn off the heat and throw the blanket over the pan and hob to smother the flames. Leave for several minutes until you are sure it is completely extinguished. An economy 1m x 1m Fire Blanket is adequate for most standard cooker hobs and costs a good deal less than £10.
The only type of fire extinguisher fully rated for animal fats and cooking oils is the Wet Chemical extinguisher supplied by Fire and Safety Centre. This is a Class F rated extinguisher specific to this application.
All this said you just can’t beat a good chip even if we have the French to thank. The first “pommes frites” are thought to have been served there in 1790’s. My own favourite is double fried chips lightly salted with a mayonnaise dip (comme les Belges) made of course from our own King Edward potatoes.