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Near Kitchen Disasters

While reading another post it got me thinking about kitchen disasters, or near disasters.

Personally, I've been fortunate not to have had any, other than nearly cutting off the tip of a pinkie - but like my mom used to say "almost doesn't count".

However, while temporarily crashing with one of my best friends in NYC during a rough period of my life, she did nearly burn down the apartment one night.

She had this terrible habit of going out, getting somewhat inebriated, coming home late and suddenly feeling the urge to cook up some chicken.

It was always chicken. She had some kind of late night cravings revolving around them. In fact, for a tiny women, she sure could pack away a chicken - could eat an entire one in one sitting, skin and all and leave only the bones behind. It was rather impressive if not disgusting at the same time.

So, this one night, she got in not too late, before midnight and pulled out a couple of chicken breasts and threw them into the broiler.
She got into bed and turned on the TV to watch the soap operas she'd taped while at work (a bone of contention between us when sharing a studio apartment as there was nowhere for me to hide other than to put in a pair of earplugs).

Since she was quite tipsy, she evidently fell asleep (i.e.; read as "passed out").

Well, I too had fallen asleep. I awoke around 2am to the smell of smoke. A lot of it. I dashed into the kitchen, opened up the broiler only to find two meteorites, blackened beyond description, shriveled and smoking. I think the only thing that saved them from going up entirely in flames was that the broiler itself was pretty clean since she always had someone come in to clean the apartment regularly.

I ran to her bed and gave her a really good shaking, yelling at her to wake up, hurling explicatives, etc.

Her response? She got up, went into the kitchen and proceeded to see if the chicken was still edible!

I kid you not!

Anyone else have anything to share?

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  1. A friend called to tell me she was making scallops for dinner. She told me she'd fried them, broiled them, then baked them and they STILL weren't any good. "What should I do next?" she asked. "Throw them away," I replied. Doesn't this count as a kitchen disaster?

    1 Reply
    1. Well, I was once talking to my now-husband on the phone while cooking, and the phone cord was slowly bisected by the gas flame, w/o my noticing until it was too late and I was "cut off". He was furious with me for days for not calling him back from a pay phone to let me him know everything was okay (we lived in different cities then) ...I guess I was rather vocal upon the discovery and just before the line went dead.

      1 Reply
      1. Somes garlic butter snails in the oven... I dont know how or why but fire begin... I took the first thing i have to extinguish and it was some dried milk... the smell...!!!

        1. My biggest disaster was when my mother was away and my father invited friends over for New Year dinner. We were going to have turkey. I was in my teens and expected to prepare a complete dinner for about 6 people. I got the turkey prepped and in the oven set to the same temperature my mother always used, looked up the roasting time in a cookbook and sat back.

          Unfortunately my mother roasted her turkey at a much higher temperature than the book. I hadn't checked this basic fact. Turns out I roasted the turkey for twice as long as I should have. I made a *lot* of gravy and took everything out. My Dad's friend offered to carve, he grasped a drumstick which just fell off. It was bone dry. I still remember how awful it was, like chewing sawdust.

          I went out and bought my mother a meat thermometer, though she never did get the hang of it.

          Her personal disaster was boiling a can of condensed milk to make caramel. She fell asleep and woke up just in time to burst into the kitchen as the can exploded. No-one was hurt but the mess was impressive.

          1 Reply
          1. re: cheryl_h

            Oh wow, my sister did that caramel thing too. The exact same thing; fell asleep, went to the kitchen just as the can exploded. They cleaned up caramel for months as they found it in every crevice in the kitchen.

          2. a few years ago i took a huge, flimsy foil tray of stuffed shells out of the oven. it caved in with some of those steaming hot shells landing on my bare feet. ouch and an utter mess on the floor.

            3 Replies
            1. re: ericalloyd

              This very disaster happened to me just a couple of weeks ago...a foil pan of lasagna buckled as I was taking it out of the oven. The lasagna (that I was making to bring to friends for dinner) slithered out of the pan and splashed down onto the floor and my bare toes, and up onto cabinets and the stove and into a drawer as well. I scooped up as much as I could (i.e.: the part that wasn't directly touching the floor) and dumped it back into the pan, and I described it to the people I was serving it to as "deconstructed lasagna."

              Mopping up involved a mop and many rags, sponges and paper towels - it was like cleaning up a crime scene.

              I told my friends what had happened - how could I not? The lasagna was a mess. But even though it looked ugly, it tasted fine.

              1. re: Pumpkinseed

                Those things and anything beibng prepared in a foil pan, like the disposable turkey roasters and toss away cake pans really need to be on a sturdy baking sheet. If not you are just asking for disaster.

                1. re: Candy

                  Same story but a pumpkin pie that folded in half when my sis was removing it from the oven and squirted its filling all over the green carpet.

            2. I love to cook so I have many near and even complete kitchen disasters.

              They only get more infrequent over time (I hope)

              But one that comes close to yours involves frozen french fries and alcohol.

              When I was in college, my roommates and I went out for some bevvies and got home late. Really late.

              None of us really cooked at the time (we all love to cook now with our families)so when we came home hungry from the bar you had to deal with what was in the kitchen.

              So we came home LATE one night and the only thing we had was a bag of frozen french fries. Big french cut fries.

              One of my roommates decided to fire up the oven and put the spuds on a cookie sheet for a last minute treat.

              Well, we all went to "sleep" and they cooked all night.

              When we woke up, they were black sticks of carbon.

              Literally. Just sticks of black carbon.

              But most of my roommates were either artists or architects.

              So we used them to draw with. We actually used them to write on the walls of the place (we lost our security deposit) or take to school to use for projects.

              The lesson we may have learned is that you should not fire up the oven when you have had too many bevvies.

              But if you do, and put frozen fries in the oven, you can salvage the mess by by putting them to more artistic pursuits.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Tugboat

                Too bad we didn't know each other then LOL. I'm sure you could have put our meteorite to good use too :-)

              2. When I first got married, (which was 43 years ago), I tried to make some fudge for my new hubby. I mixed all the ingredients in a pot, then put it on to boil. It didn't seem to be getting thick, so I boiled it, and boiled it, and then boiled it some more. Then I got disgusted with the whole thing, and went in the other room to watch tv. (I was sort of impatient and immature back then, lol). By the time hubs got home the fudge had cooled, and was about 3 times as hard as your average block of cement. It wouldn't even come out of the pot, which I ended up throwing away.

                1 Reply
                1. re: ClairfiedButter

                  My nephew did the same with rice pudding...not enough liquid. It turned into sort of a glass-like substance on the bottom of the pan, which we soaked for weeks without making any progress in pudding removal. The pan had to go.

                2. My first thanksgiving with my DW's family 25 years ago. my MIL placed the turkey (20#) in the oven. my FIL (not a cook in the least) wandered over a few minutes later and thought he would "lock" the oven. what this did was turn the oven off. Two hours later my MIL went to check on the bird and saw that the oven was off, and the bird was still in its pristine state. Calls to me to fix the situation and calls to my FIL to go walk the dog

                  1. Young, recently married, late 70's and really into cooking but not a very disciplined cook especially when it came to reading recipes all the way through. We were celebrating an anniversary with another couple who were also into food and cooking and had been married the weekend following us, decided to celebrate with a Chinese banquet. I said I would make the duck we all wanted. Until cooking time I had not read all the way through and managed to miss the hanging and drying instructions. Dang! What am I going to do now??? I had gotten the loosening the skin and blanching and all but skipped the drying. Solution? Put the duck on a rack in a large covered pot insert hose to my hair dryer (hair dryer had hoses and bottnets to go over your rollers back then) and crank it up high. It saved what was close to disasted and the duck came out almost as crispy as a restaurants but I learned my lesson and always read a new recipe all the way through.

                    1. As a new bride, I wanted to bake my husband's favorite - cherry pie. I labored over the crust, made the filling and wove the top crust. What no one thought to mention was pitting the cherries! It was beautiful, but like eating gravel.

                      However, it was nothing in the disaster dept like setting the kitchen on fire when I tried to make my first BLT. Black iron skillet, stick of butter (everything tastes better with butter, right?) half pound of bacon over high heat with fan running -- and I left the kitchen. In the days before smoke alarms, the fire was raging when I finally found it.

                      The following Spring, I "saved" all the cheese from an Officers' Club wine & cheese tasting to make Welsh Rarebit for a Sunday Brunch and poisoned an entire Navy flying squadron.

                      From this woeful beginning, I made a career .......... it could only get better.

                      1. As a new bride nearly 40 years ago, I made stuffed peppers. The ground beef stuffing called for rice in it. I didn't read the recipe correctly. I didn't pre cook the rice. It was a little crunchy.

                        But my favorite, not quite a disaster is my husband's flying lobster. He was getting ready to drop one of the lobsters in the pot, the band on the claw had come off. DH finger was nipped and the lobster went flying across the kitchen. DH is bleeding like a stuck pig. The lobster is crawling across the floor and trying to attack our DIL who was barefoot. She jumps on a chair screaming, and I get my own chair. (I did get down and stop my husband's bleeding ) Our son put on fireplace gloves and grabs the lobster and throws it in the pot and covers it with a lid. We settled down and that d#+* lobster kicked the lid off and tried to crawl out. My son ended up leaning on the pot lid until the 2 lobster quit beating on it. We really did enjoy eating those two lobsters.

                        1 Reply
                        1. A disaster in the positive sense.

                          Our first daughter was three months old and was not a great sleeper. My DW always heard me speak of one of my favorite dishes, Canneloni. So one day she grabs my Hazan cookbook and decides to entertain our daughter in her sling seat by singing and cooking. She mistakenly opened to the totellini page and not canneloni. Fresh pasta, fresh herbs, cheese, whole nine yards.

                          I wonder home from work around 7'ish and daughter fast asleep in her seat and my wife finishing 100 tortellini's. When I asked what she was doing she said she was making one of my favorite dishes that i mentioned the other night. We had a good laugh when I mentioned it was Canelloni, but Tortellini is also one of my favorites.

                          We ate a huge plate of the most wonderful filled pasta and remember and laugh about this 20 years later. Needless to say DW was a huge "keeper."

                          1. First One: I was ten years old, home alone and decided to cook myself a hamburger. The frozen patties were stuck together so I used a chef's knife to pry them apart and jabbed my hand in the process. Couldn't stop the bleeding (ala Dan Ackroyd's Julia Child on Saturday Night Live) and had to call my mom at work.

                            Next: It was the late 60's in the Haight Ashbury, we were hippies in love. I was cooking garbanzo beans in the pressure cooker when it exploded. We had beans dripping from our 12' Victorian ceiling. I had Fear of Pressure Cookers for a few years. Today's pressure cookers are explosion-proofed.

                            Another: too much multi-tasking in the kitchen and in a rush to get everything done at once; I poured the 8-qt. pot of hot pasta and boiling water into a colander to drain in the sink and it backsplashed onto me in a thin t-shirt. I had bad burns and blistering down my front. Very painful.

                            I've learned better, but who hasn't grabbed a hot pan by the handle without a hot pad/potholder? Now, when I take the roaster from the hot oven, I remember to fold a kitchen towel on the handle while it sits on the counter to remind everyone that it's too hot to handle.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: Cynsa

                              I learned that kitchen towel trick too after a few too many burnt fingers and palms :-)

                              1. re: Cynsa

                                This may count as a real disaster. I got into the habit of putting an oven mitt on pan handles which got too hot to handle. I'd slip the mitt on and it would stay there, both a reminder and a help. Until one day it caught fire. Fortunately it was caught quickly and the fire put out.

                                1. re: Cynsa

                                  One of my step-aunts had a pressure cooker disaster too which has always had me leery. Potatoes on the ceiling when the safety thing blew. They all just went straight up.

                                  Oh did you know that bacon grease all over the floor creates a skating rink? Pulling Angels on Horseback out of the oven and managing to tip the pan so all of the fat just coated the floor really created a disaster.

                                2. Having 2 dogs leads to mischief in the kitchen on a regular basis. Rufus, the shepard mix loves to park himself in front of the range as I am cooking. Fortunately, I have not had any near misses with him at the range (but I do scoot him away if I am making pasta or frying). Loading the dishwasher with him around used to be hard because he liked to pre-rinse the dishes with his tongue. Despite my sending him out of the kitchen he would sneak back and try again. So one night while I am unloading the dishwasher I get distracted and go into another room. Rufus finds the open DW and gets curious and starts nosing around in there, he manages to get his collar hooked on the bottom tray of the DW and goes charging through the house still attached to the tray. I was lucky that it was empty, it could have been dangerous if there were dishes or sharp objects left in the tray. When it hit the floor it made a loud noise and he doesn't like loud noises so he was a little traumatized, now he pretty much stays away from the DW when it is open.

                                  1. Same thing happened to my mom. Nervous nelly golden retreiver got a little too interested in the dishwasher. Problem was...it was clean and full. She took-off with dishes flying everywhere. Nobody was hurt (except of course the dinner plates)...but I think the dog was traumatized.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: sad2k

                                      I have a kitchen lurker too. 3 St. Poodles, yeah I know a whole herd, but my youngest Loulou has got to be right where the food is. To her everything is potential edibles, she is the counter surfer extroidinaire. She has also ingested a wedding ring, a needle and thread and almost anything left within a nose reach. Some of this has been expensive. Luckily no china or crystal has bitten the dirt on her behalf.

                                      1. re: Candy

                                        Did you get the wedding ring back? Had a similar experience w/ a favorite earring disappearing, but fortunately reappearing.

                                        1. re: MMRuth

                                          Oh no, never saw it again. my husband got a new one this spring for our anniversary. I called the vet after the needle anbd thread incident but he was concerned about how long the thread was not the needle. He said she'd pass the needle but the thread if too long could get wound up in her intestines and require surgery to undo. Luckily it was short. I am so glad she has stopped eating library books. That was getting expensive. But the Lou is my gourmand. Everything has to be tasted, windows, cabinets you name it they all have been thoroughly licked and tasted by her.

                                    2. I got home early from work one night and was going to surprise my newly wed wife with some braised lamb and roasted potatoes. I heated up my 14" Lodge cast iron frying pan on my apartment's stovetop (always be aware of the previous tenant's "cooking" habits) and waited for the olive oil to start smoking. It went from smoking to flaming quicker than I’d ever experienced and so I immediatedly popped the lid over the pan to extinguish the flames. As I removed the pan from the burner, the coil popped and exploded showering me in sparks. I yelped in pain, jumping backwards and promptly disjarred the lid. Flames exploded again. I was still able to remain calm enough to reach under the sink for the extinguisher... I pulled the safety tab and fired point blank at both flames. The oil flew out of the pan and all over the tile back splash but was quickly extinguished. The coil, OTOH, kept popping and sizzling at me. I fired the extinguisher three times to keep the stovetop from re-igniting. I was getting nervous on the fourth snap-crackle-pop when I remembered where the breaker was and flipped it off. As I stood in the entry way to our galley, I realized the haze I was standing in the middle of was more than simple smoke; it was the powder from the extinguisher, too. I moved out of the kitchen and throughout the remaining rooms in our apartment. All three rooms had a vaporous haze drifting lazily throughout. When my wife came home, she was a little alarmed and annoyed but soon started to help clean up the mess I'd made.

                                      Once the stove cooled down, I removed the coil unit and looked underneath. That was when I also discovered the previous tenant had used the stove as his grease can. The entire cavity under the coils was one giant grease dump.

                                      When I showed the landlord, he didn't argue; just promised us a new stovetop the next day. He also didn’t charged us for any damages.

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: The Ranger

                                        That definately qualifies for the "disaster" category!

                                        1. re: sivyaleah

                                          And reminds me to check my fire extinguisher - can they "expire"?

                                          1. re: MMRuth

                                            yes, they depressurize over time. i'm not sure what the "official" recommendation is, but i check mine annually. call your local fd for inspection intervals and service locations.

                                            1. re: MMRuth

                                              Yes; watch the gauge.

                                              I'd also recommend taking one out to a vacant lot or field and "testing" it. You'd be surprised at how much pressure even a small canister will shoot. It's not like popping a round off from a .22. There's some serious kick. Costco sells several 2-fer-1's so you can test with one and keep the other under the sink. The case above was a mini-extinguisher. I was very surprised by the volume it kicked out in four quick bursts which resulted in that after-haze.

                                        2. I'm now very careful whenever handling boiling water. For a little party I was making those lil' smokies, or whatever you call tiny bite-size cocktail wieners, and I guess I had filled the pot with too much water. I was trying to take it off the stove to drain them, and spilled water all over my fairly tight-fitting pants. OUCH! Spent 10 minutes in the tub running cold water over my upper thigh. No one came to the party either. :-(

                                          DH is a real cut-up, and a former punk rocker who tries to instill a sense of fun with his kids. When my pre-teen stepdaughter was visiting for the summer, we decided to make meatball sandwiches. She and DH mixed the meatballs while blasting Marilyn Manson's "The Beautiful People" really loudly, except singing "the beautiful meatball, the beautiful meatball." I put the meatballs in big split Italian loaves, covered with sauce and cheese and put them in the oven to broil and melt the cheese. But the bread was too big and came in contact with the broiler, producing fire -- which we took as Satan's approval of our dinner. :-P (Cut the black parts off the top of the bread and they came out just fine!)

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: Covert Ops

                                            Your post made me laugh till tears started rolling.

                                          2. when i was young, i'd cook rice before my parents got home from work. my dad always called home before he left work so we'd know when to expect him home. one day i fell asleep while a pot of rice was on the stove. my dad calls home and i tell him still half asleep that there's something wrong with my eyes and everything looks foggy. after that i instantly remembered the rice and hung up the phone. my parents bought a rice cooker after that incident. and the carpet still smelled of smoke months later.

                                            1. I learned a very painful lesson when making laggtarta, a butter cake of six thin layers that is baked in a frying pan in a blazing hot oven. I only had one frying pan, so I would make a layer, take it out, cool a bit, loosen the layer, turn it out, clean the pan and repeat the process.

                                              In the middle of it, I forgot that I had just taken the pan out of the oven...frying pan handles aren't hot, right?

                                              Oooh. Ouch. Ouch. OUCH!!!!

                                              But the cake was so delish that I forgot about the pain.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: Snackish

                                                One time, not long ago. Okay, like five weeks ago, my boyfriend, normally a great cook and I (also normally a decent cook), were on vacation out on the North Fork of Long Island. We had a great lobster dinner one night and came came back (with leftovers) to the motel and continued drinking some great LI wine until we were, let's say, in a state of misfortunate inebriation. We were staying in a place with a kitchentette. All I know is that I was grateful when I woke at 7:00 in the morning that the lobster meat, olive oil, garlic and cilatnro mix on the stove (we had brought those ingredients for other meals) was just at a full boil after several hours because he had a few too many and was unfamiliar with the range and set the oven on instead of one of the burners. After five hours or so, the heat building up starteed to cook what was in the pot. I am pretty sure had he put the actual stove top burner on...we might have burned the place down. A moment of terrible embarassment and good luck. I must say, though, it was an awesome smell to wake up to!

                                                1. re: Justpaula

                                                  P.S. - and I can't say that I did not stick my fingers in the pot after turning the heat off...and grabbing a few bites before going back to bed :)

                                              2. I've just had two that I can remember; first was once when I was visiting some friends in Colorado, and we decided to make chili for some other friends who were going to come to visit. We were making enough for at least twenty folks...after several hours of prep and cooking, I decided that the chili didn't have enough heat, so I dumped in quite a lot of what I thought was standard Mexican hot sauce (Tapatio or something like that)... but I guess even though this was long ago perhaps I needed reading glasses, because it was (serious) habanero sauce that one of the crowd had brought back from the Caribbean! The chili actually was delicious, (or so I thought, but then I love spicy foods) but I will admit that it was so spicy and hot as to be on the edge of being inedible as more than just a condiment, even for me.... :-)

                                                My other kitchen disaster didn't happen in a kitchen at all, at least not in the traditional sense. I used to cook for backcountry trail crews doing trail repair in the Sierra back country, as a summer job when I was in college. We'd cook on large propane stoves that were brought in on muleback. For one crew, we had set up a basecamp near where the trail work was going on, and we had two large tanks and burners as our kitchen...I was starting to light the burners to make dinner, and something went wrong. To this day, I am not sure what exactly happened, but for whatever reason the tank blew, and next thing I knew I was lying on my back a good twenty feet away from our stove! Fortunately, perhaps amazingly, I wasn't injured at all (except my pride), but I have hated lighting a gas stove ever since! Indeed, I went camping with hubby this weekend, and he made fun of me all weekend long because I did almost all the cooking, but made hubby light the stove every time.. :-)

                                                1. I lived briefly in a co-op dorm in college...where we took turns cooking our own meals for the group of about 60. Generally the food was better than the standard dorm food; much better. In fact, our friends who ate in the "regular" dining halls were always trying to get invitations to dinner. But one day someone decided to make pumpkin pies for the group in honor of Thanksgiving. They used the standard recipe on the back of the pumpkin can...but somehow confused the salt and sugar bins. The mistake was not discovered until the first bites were taken.....

                                                  1. Oh, not my disaster, but my grandmother's:

                                                    We were having a big family Thanksgiving, and she helped by mixing the ground beef for the lasagna. After it started to bake, she discovered one of her press-on fingernails was missing. Everyone bet my dad would get it, but no one ever figured out what happened to it -- unless they thought it was an undercooked piece of noodle? ;-)

                                                    1. Okay, this is a near kitchen disaster in the sense that it happened near the kitchen.

                                                      My husband's family always has their Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve. The house was decorated unbelievably, including a candle and flower arrangement in the guest bathroom next to the kitchen.

                                                      Dinner was wonderful - crab cakes for starters, rare roast beef as the main course, numerous other delightful things and ever so many desserts...and many, many, many bottles of wine.

                                                      And some how not one of us needed to go to the bathroom, despite all that wine and champagne. So the candle in the guest bath burned down into the clever flower arrangement and set the arrangement on fire.

                                                      It was a month before I repainted that bathroom. I just didn't go in there.

                                                      1. I was in college, and just happened to have Chemistry this semester. Our professor told us that chemistry plays an important part in everyday lives, and we would soon realize this.

                                                        I was making Boeuf Burgie for the first time, and I had to heat the brandy before pouring it into the pot and then igniting it. I poured the brandy into the plastic measuring cup to heat it in the microwave, and didn't know back then what overheating it could do. I think I heated 1/4 cup for a minute - MISTAKE. This stuff was boiling.

                                                        I added it to the pot and proceeded to light it. The fumes had traveled and engulfed my arms, head and I blew myself up, taking all of the hair on my arms and head with it. It was bad, and it was scary. I did the same thing trying to light my wall heater's pilot light one winter, only my eyelashes and eyebrows went that time!

                                                        You would think these experiences would steer me in the way of an all electric home and cooking appliances. WRONG. The more BTU's the better! Yes ladies and gents, chemistry does play an important role in everyday living!

                                                        1. Disaster, huh? Well, when first married, we lived in a small house with a "front entrance" into the livingroom and a "side entrance" from the carport into the kitchen. Each door had a different lock/key-set and we only carried the one for the kitchen entrance. My wife put some bread into a warmed oven, to rise, and we left for dinner out. Either there was too much yeast in the bread, the oven was too warm, or the time period too great. When we returned, the bread had risen - oh how it had risen! It had expanded to such proportions that it has opened the oven door fully and was making its way towards the floor. Big problem was that the oven door was open and now blocking the entrance door. We could not get it open more than an inch, or two. We did not have a key to the front entrance, and our poor dog was frantic in the kitchen, barking at the oven with the ever expanding bread dough. It took a late-night call to a relative (across town, of course), who had a key to both doors. He came over and finally let us in. I hope that his laughter at our dilemma was payment enough for his excursion. This tale gets dredged up at about every family reunion, much to my wife's chagrin. It took all three of us ten minutes to extract and compress the risen bread. I will have to say that the bread was nice for breakfast the next morning though.


                                                          1. I had one at work recently while the restaurant was fresh and new. It was late, and someone ordered a cappuccino halfway through my cleaning the machine. The trainer grabbed one of the filter heads out of the cleaning solution, gave it a good thorough rinse, added espresso, put it on the machine, and hit the go button.

                                                            We didn't have enough time to tell her that the head didn't have its filter inside. Half a second later, the two of us and the waiter who needed the cappuccino were all sprayed very liberally with espresso grounds. Thank goodness it was the single-spout filter head and not the double one, we would have been there for hours cleaning that mess up!