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Leaving the stove on, leaving the house

When I cook stock for a looooong time, sometimes I leave it simmering when I go out or go to bed. The flame is on low; an occasional bubble comes to the surface. I can't possibly imagine where this could go bad, but my husband worries. Am I reckless?

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  1. I could never do it --particularly leaving the house.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Megiac

      Me either. I'd imagine returning at the end of my errands to a pile of ashes where my house used to be.

    2. This is why I love my new crock pot.

      1. I typically only do stock when I'll be around. If I have to go out briefly (say half hour or so) I turn the stove off while I'm gone and start it up again when I get back. If I'm gone longer, I'll sometimes put it in a low oven; I feel ok leaving the (electric) oven on, but not the (gas) stove. One issue with the gas is that it is *slightly* possible that something might extinquish the flame, then you have gas leak--I don't think I've ever gone to sleep with something on the stove either. Guess I'm just a worrier.

        1. It wigs me out too. Though I do do things like this and then go and have a bath, which is basically the same thing since I am out of reach and ear range of the stove.


          1. Nothing hot stays on while i sleep or am away. The downside is waaaaay too much. I will not even run to the grocer which is 1.5 miles away while something is in the oven.

            Wrt the crock pot, correct me if I am wrong but it does cook with heat so if you are concerned about an oven being left on why are you comfortable with a crock pot? I am being serious not snarky with this question.

            3 Replies
            1. re: jfood

              The OP mentioned the 'flame' being on low. There is no way I'd leave a gas stove on if I was out of the room for more than a minute. As someone mentioned above, if it boils over just a little and the flame goes out or if something else hits the flame, yikes!

              My crock pot is set so that it maintains a constant temperature. It never bubbles over. There is no direct contact with the heating element, unlike on an electric range. The outside of the crock pot doesn't seems to get any hotter than my laptop when left on. Crock pots were designed specifically so that chance of flame is almost nil.

              1. re: jfood

                The Slow Cooker is electric. The oven is gas.

                I leave my Slow Cooker on low on my granite counter.

                1. re: jfood

                  I totally agree with jfood. I would never leave my house with the stove or oven on. (I also never leave the house with the dishwasher or dryer going either.)

                  I don't like crock pots for just that reason. I don't like leaving hot things cooking while I'm away from the house. I only use my crock pot as an additional heat/cooking source when I am entertaining a large group of people.

                2. I don't think you're reckless. I'd do it. I have done it. But I once left a enameled cast iron pot of dried prunes slightly simmering in water from Friday till Monday. I went a way for the weekend. The prunes were crusty ash and the enamel was of the pot was pitted in the outline of the prunes, but no fire. I loved that pot, but... I wonder if any of these naysayers would leave the dog home alone all day--that could be really dangerous.

                  1. I won't leave the house while a burner is on, no matter how soon I expect to be back, nor how low the setting. I nearly burned a house down a long time ago, with a pot of rice. Several years before we got a rice cooker, my mother asked me to start some rice before I left for work, and I did. I normally left for work at about 4:10, and my dad normally got home around 4:15, so I figured, "Five minutes on low...no problem." Well, BIG PROBLEM. Dad didn't come straight home from work, but instead ran some errands on the way, and by the time he got home he found flames shooting out of the ricepot.

                    Stuff can happen when you're out...suppose you have a flat, or get into an accident. Who's going to know that you've got a pot of stock simmering away? Turn the burner off when you leave, then turn it back on when you get back, or use the oven as DGresh suggests. The peace of mind will be worth it.

                    1. I wouldnt call you reckless, but it isnt something I would ever do. I love my house, and cats too much to risk it.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: swsidejim

                        i would never do it. i don't even like to leave the washer, dryer or dishwasher on when i leave. but i did forget about some chicken stock i had simmering in a le crueset pot, went to bed, in the morning it was ashes........whew, lucky me

                        1. re: budlit

                          I have left the house many times with the washer and dishwasher on, but I really try not to with the dryer on. Oh great. To answer the OP's question, I would really try not to do it, but if it was to run to the store to get something for the meal, I suppose I would. So it is something to think about. If your DH is worried, then I wouldn't do it... if anything happened, I would hate to have to face him. :-)

                      2. How about moving the pot into the oven on lowest temp?
                        And make a habit of it.

                        Friends had a "pilot to co-pilot" list by their door of things he wanted her to check each time she left the house.
                        It was right next to the "co-pilot to pilot" list that were things that she thought he would forget.

                        Seemed to be a brilliant idea ...no gripes, just here's a list.

                        1. First, if you want your insurance to cover you if something goes wrong, don't do it...because it would likely be considered negligence on your part that relieves the insurer from covering the loss.

                          Second, you assume nothing will happen that will prevent your timely return. What if you get into a car accident? What happens then? Who knows to check on your place?

                          That said, I have taken the risk of having my gas oven on moderate or low while I go on errands on occasion. But not the stovetop. I will leave the stovetop (usually to boil water or simmer soups, et cet) while I work in the yard or elsewhere in the house.

                          1. Couldn't pay me to do this....

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: jinet12

                              I won't leave the house with oven or stove top on for any reason. I do have a suggestion, which I've used. I use a slow cooker for stock, a lot. It keep the temperature consistant and don't hard boil helping me get good (fairly clear) stock. With this method, I can plug in a slow cooker over night or while I'm off at work. One think I have done lately, is that I've put the slow cooker out on the patio about 10 feet away from the house. Really helps with the smell.

                              Also, you might want to think about a pressure cooker from which you can produce stocks really fast so you don't have to worry about leaving the house.


                            2. Now that we are talking about Stoves - I accidentally left my stove on overnight after making cookies (so at like 350). Didn't burn down the house, but the floor was warm in the morning... I certainly wouldn't do it on purpose.


                              1 Reply
                              1. re: daily_unadventures

                                I had a cousin who apparently fell asleep AT THE KITCHEN TABLE shortly after putting a skillet with chops in it on to saute...The kitchen filled with smoke, the stove (an electric stove, by the way) caught fire, the house caught fire...and he was not able to get out of the house. Would I ever leave the stove on while I left te house? Not a chance.

                              2. When that day finally comes when they find my dead body slumped somewhere in the house, I hope that they will have been alerted to my death by the smell of scorched and burning ragu wafting through the neighborhood.

                                It's the culinary equivalent of "He died with his Boots on."

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: FoodFuser

                                  Ya know....not exactly. Having a death by age or medical incident while you are cooking is not quite the same thing as awaking in utter panic, HUNTING for the door and not finding it because the smoke is too thick and you are already having breathing problems. My cousin was a professional chef, and while he wouldn't have minded a good death while cooking, this was not, I don't think, quite what he had in mind. If you'd like an account of a good death in the midst of dinner prep, I would suggest searching for Philadelphia food writer Rich Nichols' account of his mother's death. (She died - in her bed, where she apparently went to lie down, briefly - after all ingredients were prepped for dinner. She had, though, stopped to have a slice of rhubarb pie before she started dinner! Yes...eat dessert first!l

                                2. Yikes, after reading these posts, I will think twice about leaving a pot of soup simmering on the stove while making a quick grocery run. Yes, I admit that I occasionally run out to the store (usually 10-30 minutes) for a missing ingredient while I have a pot cooking on the stove. I usually take my dog with me so not worries there.
                                  Hmmm, what if I had an accident or car trouble and was not able to make it home? Definitely something to think about.

                                  1. I think it is very unwise. I've done it with poor outcomes (scorched pot, burned countertop, fire alarms going off). A friend of a friend did this a few years ago and lost her house to a fire-- it was not covered by insurance as a result of her negligence.

                                    If I need to run out and I have some braising in the oven I just turn it off while I am gone and then crank it up when I get back. The residual heat helps a bit.

                                    1. I've left stock on the stovetop overnight, also oats in the slow cooker. Perhaps I've been lucky but so far no accidents. The cats will sometimes curl up against the warm pots but haven't (yet) knocked anything over. But I wouldn't leave the house with anything on that could cause a fire.

                                      1. I have an electric range and have been known to leave something with a LOT of liquid either on low stovetop or in a warm oven for short periods of time. Don't know if I'd feel comfortable while I was sleeping, and I'd never do it for anything in a pan, or anything that will lose its liquid (like rice), but I think it's relatively safe if you're careful about how you do it.

                                        I also leave my slow cooker while I'm away from the house - it's designed to work that way and I make sure it's on a flame resistant surface (like a metal cookie sheet) if something crazy were to happen.

                                        1. I'll leave the oven on, for sure -- can't really imagine what's likely to go wrong here -- but I would never leave an open flame of any type burning, or an electric stove-top element. My next-door neighbor almost burned her house down when her tea kettle boiled dry and caught on fire.

                                          1. Not comfortable with leaving the stove, but I use my crockpot and go to work all the time - I love my crock pot! It is so easy and you can use it for many things. I just used one for the very first time less than 2 months ago and here I am already a true believer and singing its praises. I used to be more reckless and leave my stove on while I slept but something made me stop doing that and I finally got the crockpot and haven't looked back since. It is so convenient and great for your piece of mind.

                                            1. True story. Not exactly the same. Woke up, went to kitchen, made coffee, leaving extra filters on counter, put toast in toaster, left room. Within minutes massive fire in kitchen. Toast sparked, hit filters, room on fire, frightening and devastating, smoke throughout the house, me pregnant with two year old. I will never, ever, ever leave anything on in my kitchen unless I am home, awake and alert. I will leave something on simmer while I am elsewhere in the house, but only if I am close by and alert, meaning not sleeping. All it takes is to lose your house or part of it and you will understand how I feel.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: Jesdamala

                                                It seems that your problem was not leaving your toaster on, but putting the coffeee filters too close to the toaster. This is bad, whether you're in the house or not.

                                                1. re: pikawicca

                                                  Absolutely, cost us years in rebuilding..but it does make one very, very careful about anything...as I said, not the same, still, changed my ways of doing things! I am in the house, nearby, when anything is turned on in the kitchen. Thankfully, I wasn't all that far when this event happened. I was able to call emergency after seeing the flames. Once one experiences a kitchen 'accident', they don't do anything to
                                                  'cause' one again.

                                              2. I've always been too paranoid to leave my stovetop or oven on if I leave the house or go to sleep.
                                                I have an irrational fear of fire though, stemming from my childhood, so that's part of the reason why.

                                                1. I've left things in the oven (especially if it's inside a pot at a low temp), but not the stove on if I leave the house (well, not on purpose, once by accident, and that did not turn out well for my pot, but luckily my kitchen survived).

                                                  1. Ok, I will be the one. I put things in my oven on 200-250 when I come home for lunch and my other gets home around 445. I make giant pots of stock that sit on the stove from 8am-8pm and I barely look at them. Does my life stop because Im making stock? Uhhh, no. I have a house to maintain, a yard to take care of, laundry to do and I have better things to do than stand in my kitchen for 12 hours waiting for it to cook to my satisfaction.

                                                    Yep, I use my crock pot all the time. Nope, Ive never had any fatalities. If I didn't put dinner in the oven in the afternoons, we wouldn't be eating dinner until 9 at night. Screw that, to put it mildly.

                                                    I'm also the girl that leaves the house with the washer, dryer AND dishwasher running for the last 15 years and an electric tart burner that I have never shut off once in 2 years. I don't have time to wait on laundry to be done. I'd never leave my house.

                                                    The good Lord said homeowners insurance.

                                                    6 Replies
                                                    1. re: chelleyd01

                                                      What on earth is an "electric tart burner?"

                                                      1. re: pikawicca

                                                        From Yankee Kitchen Candle. Most tart burners require a tea light to heat the wax tart for the fragrance to be released. This has a small ring of light that heats the tart to release the fragrance. I've never unplugged it since I got it, just change the tart.

                                                        1. re: chelleyd01

                                                          I feel so out of it: What is a "wax tart?"

                                                          1. re: pikawicca

                                                            small flat disk of scented wax, no wick. All the smells of the candle, no flames and no sooty residue. Far superior in long lasting scent versus a candle. Try YankeeCandle.com

                                                      2. re: chelleyd01

                                                        You're not the only one. I work six days a week and love to have freshly cooked food daily. Not the biggest fan of leftovers. This means making good use of my two crockpots. I haven't had an accident yet (knock on wood). I've also left stock simmering while I've been out to run errands. I make sure the flame is low enough and that there is just enough liquid in my pot. Haven't done that with soups and stews for the fear of things scorching.

                                                        According to the majority of people on this thread, guess that will make me reckless. But I agree with chelleyd in that I can't keep my life on hold to cook. About the whole "what if you get into an accident" scenario, luckily I live in a doorman building. I once forgot if I turned off the stove before I went to work (was in such a rush). Called the doorman and he checked on my stove for me.

                                                        1. re: chelleyd01

                                                          I'm with you! When I was a kid, this was the only way my mom could get dinner on the table in a decent time, the clothes and dishes washed. Everything went on when we went to bed or left the house. We're all still alive, house is still standing.
                                                          Me however... I bought a house with a faulty oven temperature regulation, so I now can't walk too far away from the kitchen when something is in the oven, for fear of it scorching - perhaps a built-in safety mechanism for me. I used to put muffins, breads and cakes in the oven, then go walk the dog for the amount of time it took to bake those items. Can't do it anymore... :(
                                                          When someone mentioned to me a year ago that you shouldn't leave the dryer on when you're not home/sleeping, I thought it preposterous. I still sort of think that.....

                                                          However, I do think people who don't wear seatbelts or bike/snowboard helmets are quite insane....

                                                        2. I would never leave a gas stove on and leave the house or go to bed. What if you are delayed? It isn't the food getting burned I would be concerned about, it is the gas.

                                                          I would never leave the oven on either.

                                                          The one thing I would leave on is an electric slow cooker on a granite countertop.

                                                          1. I don't know...

                                                            Do you also have gas heat in your house? If so, do you turn off the heat whenever you leave or go to bed?

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: OldDog

                                                              That's really different. The pilot light on a gas furnace is fully surrounded, so there isn't the same danger of something coming in contact with an exposed flame like with a stove. There's also the inherent danger with cooking that, if you are delayed, your food may cook down to far, turn to ash, melt your pot, etc.

                                                            2. I always turn it off and then back on again if I leave the house.

                                                              I used to own some apartments and one of my knucklehead tenants decided he wanted to fry some fish for dinner only he didn't have any fish but he had the oil. He started the oil on the stove and went to the grocery store to get some fish...that's why I don't have apartments any more, he burnt the building down!

                                                              1. All ya'll leaving your house with food on the stove, please stop!!!!
                                                                My gf was a firefighter for 5 years and they ran so many calls for people who did not get back in time, food cooked faster than expected, the wind knocked something over ... I could go on, but you get the idea.
                                                                It was so frequent the firefighters called it "smells and bells", and the guilty chef was always mortified in addition to the horror of an acrid, food-smoke damaged house. And this was if they were lucky and there *wasn't* an actual fire.
                                                                Trust me, not one of these people ever thought it could happen to them.

                                                                8 Replies
                                                                1. re: mstrimel

                                                                  I'm willing to bet that these were all stove-top disasters; if you're doing things proprerly, this simply won't happen in an oven. Even if you get run over by a truck and don't get home for months, whatever is in the oven will never reach a combustible temperature. (I'm not claiming that this is true for broiler operation!)

                                                                  1. re: pikawicca

                                                                    This is not a theory i would want to disprove at my expense.

                                                                    1. re: jfood

                                                                      Well, I think you could look up the combustion points of different ingredients, as well as the material of your pots/pans. If your oven is set at 350 degrees, it seems to me that nothing in it could get above 350 degrees, which is not enough to ignite anything. I'm not a physicist, however, but propbably one will happen along and read this post and either affirm or denigrate my assumptions.

                                                                      1. re: pikawicca

                                                                        Fair point P. But two things to consider.

                                                                        1 - Things happen - I will bet a fair amount of money that there has been a case in which a house fire was caused by something left in the oven. Just a belly-feeler on that with no hard data.
                                                                        2 - Accidents - It's mechanical. What if the thrmostat breaks in the oven while you away and you left it at 350 and the thing turns the element on and does not turn it off. While you left it at 350, mid-afternoon while you are busy at work it goes to 500+. Poof.

                                                                        If people want to take that risk, they're call. I just do not think it's prudent. Maybe because 2 people died in a house fire three doors away from jfood growing up, and it was an accident that i err on the conservative side.

                                                                        1. re: jfood

                                                                          Yup, exactly. I had a professor when I was in grad school, who was also a volunteer fire fighter (small college town) and he missed or was late for class at least twice for calls caused by food left in somebody's oven. Even if your house doesn't burn, smoke damage can be substantial and expensive to repair.

                                                                          I have also had a fire in my oven while using the self clean function.

                                                                          1. re: jfood

                                                                            Again I totally agree with jfood. There are some theories that I personally would not want to test, and this is one of them. I wouldn't even go to bed with the oven on, never mind leave the house.

                                                                      2. re: pikawicca

                                                                        I would think that even if the food doesn't reach a combustible temperature the smoke from the food burning in the oven would set off a smoke detector. This alone is enough to bring the fire department out. Like mstrimel said, there isn't always an actual fire, but the fire department wouldn't know this until they arrive at the scene. I really hate when people waste the fire departments time, especially when it's preventable.

                                                                        1. re: pikawicca

                                                                          I saw an oven "coil" spark up and ignite the fat from a roasting chicken.

                                                                          I am not sure what the correct name is; coil or element.

                                                                          The oven was electric, the element was red hot, started sparking, I saw the flashes (maybe I heard them too), went over to look, saw the coil spark and then begin to burn, left a ~2" gap, something (sparks from the coil?, flame from the coil, or was fat spattering from the chicken onto the coil?) ignited the fat in the pan, caused a small but brief fire, more smoke than flames. If I wasn't watching it happen, I wouldn't have known there was a fire in the pan.

                                                                          It didn't burn the house down, the oven was soon turned off. The element burn- through did not turn the circuit breaker off.

                                                                          The smoke detector went off a few minutes later.

                                                                      3. I find the posts that state "Ive always done it and nothing has ever happend" kind of funny/naive.

                                                                        All it takes is one time to burn down probably your biggest investment/posession. If that happens I doubt these people would be singing the same tune.

                                                                        I also agree with the above posters regarding having the fire department come out for a smoke alarm going off due to someone's food burning on an unattended stove. There could be a real fire somewhere where lives need saving instead of investigating something that happened due to carelessness.

                                                                        For those who leave clothes dryers on unattended, back in the day I lived in an apartment complex where someone was drying their clothes in the moring, they fell back asleep, and one of their cats woke them up, the apartment full of smoke, and the dryer fully engulfed in flames. The lint had built up where the dryer vented, and the maintenance folks had failed to clean it as part of their yearly manintenance. This wasnt a cheap complex either, 2 bedroom apts 10 years ago went for $1300 a month. You never know..

                                                                        "Better safe than sorry"

                                                                        1. I'd never leave an open fire (we have a gas stove), but I sometimes long-cook meats (at 200 degrees) in the oven overnight or all day (where I may be in-and-out). I would not do this with a higher heat, however.

                                                                          1. I actually do this all the time living here in NYC with my wife. It drives her a little crazy but she lets me get away with it. I tried to use a crock pot but it simply not big enough to house the amount of stock that I'd like to cook. So ...I've got to use my big stock pot over the gas flame.

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. re: Legman

                                                                              I had a fire chief tell me never ever leave an oven on and leave the house. And he said that goes goes for crock pots too. I do do that from time to time, but he said he didn't care what the manufacture said, it's a potential fire risk.