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Am I going to burn my house down?

I have a 6 lb. roaster chicken I want to cook for dinner tonight, which will take a couple of hours to cook, which means putting it in the oven by about 3:00. But, I have to go get my daughter at daycare at 4pm and it's about a 30-minute round trip. Do I:

a) Put the chicken in and leave the oven on while I go get her (please don't tell my insurance company);

b) Put the chicken in and turn the oven off while I'm gone, and turn it back on when I return (will I have Sam and Ella over for dinner?); or

c) Just cook the damn bird tomorrow?

I have stuff in the oven right now which should be done by 3pm, so I can't put it in there now.

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  1. I wouldn't leave it unattended for fear of the smoke detector. Anytime I roast a chicken, the drippings set off the smoke alarm which could be a serious concern if you aren't home.

    Roast it tomorrow or late at night, at a time when you will be there to monitor the progress.

    1. I wouldn't leave it in the oven while you're gone - on or off. Off is asking for sickness, and on... well the splatters that set off the smoke detector are splatters that can easily start a fire. I'd go with the "Just cook the damn bird tomorrow" option.


      1. I've never cooked a 6lb bird, but I've done a 4lb one in an hour ... at the highest temp for 20 minutes then down to 425 or 450 - that may be a solution for you.

        1. You could also cut it up and cook it more quickly as parts.

          1. While the prudent thing is to err on the side of caution, how many times in the past have you roasted a chicken and "burnt the house down" or even had to put out a fire in your oven so as to avoid burning the house down?

            1 Reply
            1. re: DanaB

              Perhaps I shouldn't admit it "in public", but even though I'm an accomplished cook, many times I have opened my oven to alarming amounts of smoke, which - left unchecked - quite easily could have been a fire to put out. Funny - I almost never cut myself, but burn myself or my food with embarrassing frequency!

            2. You are all the voices of reason! Thank you.

              Since I don't have anything else for dinner tonight, I'm going with Karl S's suggestion of cutting it up and cooking it as parts. I must have inhaled too much nonstick spray today, as that idea never even occurred to me. Duh.

              1 Reply
              1. re: dukegirl

                Karl S. is *always* the voice of reason!

              2. Well, the cut-up roaster is in the oven. Hopefully, we won't be eating too late. I've been running late all day!

                Anyway, this reminds me of another question: If we aren't supposed to leave things in ovens unattended, why do they put that silly timer feature on ovens?

                4 Replies
                1. re: dukegirl

                  The posters were recommending that you not leave the house with something in the oven. The timer is just like a kitchen timer - to let you know when whatever you've got in the oven is done.

                  1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                    My oven has a function on it to allow you to set the time for the oven to turn on automatically. For instance, I could set a pan of cinnamon buns in the oven overnight and set the oven to turn on at 7am whilst I slumber.

                    1. re: dukegirl

                      Okay, I see what you mean. Well, you'd be at home if you did that, waking up to freshly baked cinnamon buns [g]. Actually, my mother has a wall-mounted electric convection oven with that function, and she first hauled out the manual and learned how to use so she could start baking something while she was (gasp) out of the house after she'd had the oven for about 10 years. She makes a fancy filled Danish wreath for Christmas breakfast, assembled the night before, and she and her husband like go to a race (they're runners) xmas morning. So she puts the pastry in before she leaves and sets the timer, then comes home to a lovely warm Danish. She uses it once a year, and hasn't burned the house down yet, contrary to much of the advice you've gotten here.

                      I wouldn't leave the house with something in the oven or on the burner of my rental unit's cheap electric range, or use the timer feature, but YMMV.

                  2. re: dukegirl

                    I wondered about those new ovens where you put in whatever you want, in the morning, and it keeps it cold until whatever time you program and then it turns on automatically and is supposed to ready by the time you're home. That doesn't seem safe either.

                  3. I guess I am a person who runs with scissors. I often put something in my oven and leave the house. Today it was the pork and cabbage I was braising, it had moisture in a Le Cruset pot and off I wnet to the office to take care of a few things.

                    This is coming from some one who came around the corner to see fire engines in front of my house after being gone 45 minutes and came home to 1/3 less house. No it was not my oven or my dryer which I left going but was on the cool down cycle, my house did not have circuit breakers but fuses and the room my fuse box was in had old wood paneling. A fuse blew up and the melting wires dripped down and caught linen place mats on top of my dryer on fire which in turn ignited the old tinder dry paneling. I got to remodel my kitchen and expand it to double and add a screened porch. Not all bad!

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Candy

                      If I remember correctly, Candy, you weren't too jolly about it at the time...

                      Actually, if the chicken in question - long since cut into parts and enjoyed for dinner - had been placed in a low oven, I doubt that the OP would've had a problem. I have run errands with stuff in a 250 degree oven and been gone for at least an hour, since I live a considerable distance from civilization, without burning anything down...so far.

                      1. re: Candy

                        My mom ALWAYS told me growing up that you should never leave the house with the oven on. Last time I visited, she promptly did just that, and I berated her for it!

                      2. I'm always worried about leaving the coffee machine on. I tend to double check every time I go out. Once I actually did leave it on. Guess what? Nothing happened.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: Glencora

                          Some friends of mine lost their house thanks to an automatic coffee machine. This is the kind that turns on at a preset time. It seems the machine was defective because even though it was turned OFF, it was still plugged in and it turned itself on during the day when no-one was home. It overheated and started a fire. All the fire alarms (6) went off but the house sat on a big estate, back from the road. It was only when a neighbor walking a dog noticed the smoke above the trees that anyone called the fire department. The entire house was destroyed with everything in it. The last I heard there was a legal argument going between the insurers and the manufacturers of the coffee maker.

                          1. re: cheryl_h

                            That's awful. All that happened to me was that the coffee in the pot evaporated and was hard to clean out. I guess I'll start double checking again.

                            1. re: cheryl_h

                              Oh for crying out loud! Just when I thought I had found the answer to my obsessively checking that the coffee pot is off now I am going to worry that the timer is defective on the new machine. I drive myself batty trying to convince myself I have not left it on.

                              Just a small note about appliances burning the house down... I had a toaster oven that liked to get blazing red hot when it was turned off. Walked out in the kitchen one night to see that the bread bag on top of the toaster had melted and become one with the oven and would have very soon torched the kitchen if I had not sauntered in looking for a goodie.

                              Thank god for midnight munchies!

                              1. re: Wanda Fuca

                                I solved the problem of worry about the coffee pot. When it's not being used, I pull the plug out. DH doesn't have coffee waiting for him in the morning but we both sleep well at night not worrying about it. BTW this problem only affects coffee pots that have an automatic turn on feature.

                          2. Re: the roast chicken in the oven. I'm sure you are roasting it on some sort of rack. If you put an inch or so of water in the pan underneath the rack, this will prevent the dripping fat from spattering and smoking.

                            1. My wife and I have had this very argument. I say cook when not home and she says no.

                              I asked an electrician friend of mine and he said that it would be perfectly fine. The only risk is inherent in a defect in the oven. Which could catch fire when you're in the house and you're still on fire. Ovens are designed to be on while you aren't there.

                              Just don't leave a news paper on top of it or something like that.


                              6 Replies
                              1. re: Davwud

                                I always thought one of the risks was if something happened to you and you couldn't get home (unconscious, no phone coverage,...).

                                Plus, if it catches fire and you are home, you can call the fire deparment sooner.

                                1. re: chowser

                                  Well ya, you can call the FD sooner. But you're still gonna burn your kitchen down.
                                  I don't think you go out for 6 hours while your oven is at 450*. But if you need to run to the store or pick up the kids, leave it alone. If you're worried about becoming unconscious while you're gone, pin a note to yourself saying you left the oven on and your address.


                                  1. re: Davwud

                                    Maybe I could just write it in marker across my chest so when they go do to CPR, they'll know.;-)

                              2. I guess I run with scissors too, because I've left the house with stuff in the oven. I did it last time I made beef bourignon, because otherwise I would have been up until 3 am -- I also do this sometimes when leaving things in the toaster oven with the timer on.

                                1. Bad idea.

                                  What happens if your tire goes flat and the 45 minute beconmes three hours?

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: jlawrence01

                                    Then the chicken gets overcooked.

                                    The oven is enclosed, sealed and insulated. My oven is self cleaning. If it can heat itself up to 800 degrees for 2 hours to incinerate everything on the inside of the oven, I can't really imagine any issues with leaving a roasting chicken unattended.

                                  2. OMG what would you do if you are wrong. House down.

                                    Take absolutely every other suggestion on this post and try first. You are betting your house on this wager and I can not think of anyhting you could say to yourself, your neighbors or you family if you are wrong.

                                    1. You could always just tell the neighbour and ask them to have an eye.


                                      1. My no-knead bread is proving in a warm place (70F) as I type. And I'm safe in my office.

                                        Dreading to think what conflagration might await me on my return.. teehee.

                                        - Sean

                                        1. Well, how about a crock pot then? As far as I'm aware, they're supposed to be left on all day, and I can't imagine that's attended time. Seems to me that the low heat of a crock pot should minimize the danger, but I'll make sure not to put it too near anything combustible, just the same.