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Safety Question: Leaving a Burner on Overnight


jogoode
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My girlfriend today expressed her worry about my leaving a simmering stock on the stove overnight. She said that our apartment smelled like gas already and asked how it could be safe to leave the stove on for so long.

The only answer I could come up with was "If I can't leave the stove on, then how can I make my stock?" And then, "How do you think other people make stock?" But I soon realized that I couldn't explain why it's OK to leave the burner on for hours when there's a pot on it, when I know I'd freak out (as I think many would) if I ever accidentally left a burner on without a pot sitting on it. Am I being ridiculous here, or is the explanation not obvious?

JJ Goode

Co-author of Serious Barbecue, which is in stores now!

www.jjgoode.com

"For those of you following along, JJ is one of these hummingbird-metabolism types. He weighs something like eleven pounds but he can eat more than me and Jason put together..." -Fat Guy

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OK...I'm going to go out on a limb here....back in the day (like before I was married 6 yrs ago) I would have had NO problem doing it....however, my dh has made me see the error of my ways. Maybe lots of people DO do it and have no problems....but in my older and hopefully, wiser years.....I think it's always better to be safe than sorry. I would think about what could possibly happen if things didnt' go uneventfully as planned, and how I'd feel. I just don't think anything to eat is as important as my home, my pets and my life, and there's just too many stories out there to prove it. Even with a very low flame, there are too many things around the stove and that area that can overheat and catch fire. And esp. if your gf thinks there's a smell of gas already....I just wouldn't take the chance. What about a crockpot?....maybe that's dumb, but I don't even leave the house with the clothes dryer going anymore....I like coming back to my house just the way I left it! Whatever you do, please be safe...your life and your gf's life is much more valuable than any stock!

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I don't leave anything on the stove overnight either, and also subscribe to the better-safe-than-sorry attitude. Instead I start stocks early in the morning (having all my mise-en-place done the night before) and I only cook them on days when somebody will be in the house all day, preferably me.

I don't make a lot of veal stock, though, and I might reconsider if I did.

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If the apartment smells of gas when the stove isn't in use get it checked out. (Additionally, when the oven is cold, open the door and sniff. If you smell gas in the oven it's the sign of a potential problem). Sometimes you'll get a bit of a gassy smell if the flame on the burner goes out or if it takes a bit of time for the starter to kick in but that's nothing to be concerned with -- just open a window for a bit.

That said, I've kept a single burner on for as long at 72 hours straight and have never had a problem. There's no reason you can't make the stock using the overnight simmer method -- I do it fairly frequently.

"Some people see a sheet of seaweed and want to be wrapped in it. I want to see it around a piece of fish."-- William Grimes

"People are bastard-coated bastards, with bastard filling." - Dr. Cox on Scrubs

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I have been tempted to leave it on the electric burner overnight but I haven't done it yet. I would be leary of gas. When I have wanted to leave it overnight, I have put the pot in the oven at about 220 or 225. I check to see that it is barely moving, no real boil.

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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You can also move the stock off of the stove and into a low oven for much the same effect.

I always attempt to have the ratio of my intelligence to weight ratio be greater than one. But, I am from the midwest. I am sure you can now understand my life's conundrum.

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I never leave a pot on a stove overnight or if I have to leave the house. Not only are there dangers as mentioned in the other posts above, but I've dried up/burned too many soups and porridges. I've learnt that it's better to be safe than sorry. Now, I boil the stock on high heat for 15 minutes, simmer for 1 1/2 hours, then transfer that to a Taiwan thermal pot. Result - good stock after 4 hours.

TPcal!

Food Pix (plus others)

Please take pictures of all the food you get to try (and if you can, the food at the next tables)............................Dejah

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I have frequently left a stock pot on the stove overnight when making veal stock and never had a problem. I feel even more comfortable with the idea now that I have a new stove which has burners that are supposed to reignite automatically if the flame goes out. The oven is certainly an option, especially if there is no simmer burner, but lifting a heavy stock pot out of an oven is no fun.

Ruth Friedman

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I think that the big problem with leaving a burner on all night is the 'flame out' condition that might come to pass. For example, you have the stock simmering at low flame and the a gust of wind blows out the flame. The burner stays on releasing gas into the building. If there is enough gas and you do not notice, the next time an arcing device is used (lightswitch) you could have serious problems.

I admit that it is an unlikely event but there is some risk.

An oven is designed to have the flame source reasonably protected from air movement and would be less risky.

Another thing to consider if you decide to do use the burner or oven all night is to purchase a CO detector. If you apartment is reasonably tight, a very long session of stove operation and no forced air changes (from an open window or opening and closing an exterior door) can result in an elevated CO level that will make you drowsy. Again it is an unlikely event but there is some risk.

What about using a slow cooker? They are electric so there is not product of combustion to worry about. Probably the worst event I can think of would be a ruined pot if you were to leave it on so long that the stock boiled away dry. You can get them on ebay pretty cheap.

Stephen Bunge

St Paul, MN

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Thank you all!

My stock has been simmering for five hours. The smell of gas is gone, though every five minutes I think I smell it again and I imagine it filling my apartment! :unsure::smile:

I think that the big problem with leaving a burner on all night is the 'flame out' condition that might come to pass.  For example, you have the stock simmering at low flame and the a gust of wind blows out the flame.  The burner stays on releasing gas into the building.  If there is enough gas and you do not notice, the next time an arcing device is used (lightswitch) you could have serious problems.

This quote best illuminates my basic question. Is gas only released into the apartment when the burner is in "flame out condition"? Why doesn't the burner, when flaming, release gas?

JJ Goode

Co-author of Serious Barbecue, which is in stores now!

www.jjgoode.com

"For those of you following along, JJ is one of these hummingbird-metabolism types. He weighs something like eleven pounds but he can eat more than me and Jason put together..." -Fat Guy

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Thank you all!

My stock has been simmering for five hours. The smell of gas is gone, though every five minutes I think I smell it again and I imagine it filling my apartment! :unsure::smile:

I think that the big problem with leaving a burner on all night is the 'flame out' condition that might come to pass.  For example, you have the stock simmering at low flame and the a gust of wind blows out the flame.  The burner stays on releasing gas into the building.  If there is enough gas and you do not notice, the next time an arcing device is used (lightswitch) you could have serious problems.

This quote best illuminates my basic question. Is gas only released into the apartment when the burner is in "flame out condition"? Why doesn't the burner, when flaming, release gas?

Gas is not being released from the burner when flaming, because the gas is being burned! Granted, there is a residual, different type of gas being released, but not one that is flamable.

And, for the record, for over a dozen years now, I have left stock on the stove top overnight with no problems. Nothing will get me to change this technique as I find it the most economical of my time.

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You can also move the stock off of the stove and into a low oven for much the same effect.

Not necessarily: some ovens turn themselves off if left on for more than a certain amount of time. Like mine. :sad: I was drying tomatoes (yes, overnight) and woke up to a cold oven and still-damp tomatoes. :angry:

Oops, meant to add: for small batches of stock (total volume 6 quarts or less), I use my slow cooker. Works like a dream. :biggrin:

Edited by Suzanne F (log)
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Oops, meant to add: for small batches of stock (total volume 6 quarts or less), I use my slow cooker. Works like a dream.  :biggrin:

Now that is sheer brilliance. I am having one of those why-didn't-I-think-of-that moments. (I seem to be having a lot of those lately.) Here I am trying to downsize my cooking, both because my freezer storage is limited and because I hate waste. I was moving some of the stuff around in the storage room... er guest bedroom... and I was eyeing one of the smaller stock pots and thinking that maybe I would make some stock with a smaller chicken and make a smaller version of Mayhaw Man's chicken pot pie. The whole concept of making a smaller batch of stock wasn't on my radar screen until then and I was all excited about the possibility. Then you come up with this. :biggrin: The crock pot never entered my mind.

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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I don't leave anything on a gas flame if I am not nearby, certainly not while I am asleep or away. I have a safety cutoff on the gas at the meter in case of earthquake. However we have high winds here and there is always the possibility of a broken window - which has happened in the past or someone could open a door and cause the flame to blow out.

That is one of the reasons I bought an induction burner. It can't cause a fire, it is plugged into a GFI plug for safety and it has a timer so will shut itself off at the time I set.

It is an excellent solution for this problem but not the only one. For large batches that have to be cooked for long periods I also have large electric roasters and crockpots for smaller batches. A couple of the roasters are very old but have been rewired and checked by an appliance man to make sure they are safe to use.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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maybe that's dumb, but I don't even leave the house with the clothes dryer going anymore....I like coming back to my house just the way I left it! 

Yep! If the house is going to catch fire you want to be sure to be in it...

=Mark

Give a man a fish, he eats for a Day.

Teach a man to fish, he eats for Life.

Teach a man to sell fish, he eats Steak

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You can also move the stock off of the stove and into a low oven for much the same effect.

Ever try to shove a 60 quart stock pot into an oven? :blink:

If I worried about every thing that could destroy my home every time I left something unattended, I'd be nuts. After reading these posts, I am thinking about call the contactors and having master cutoffs for the gas, electricity and water installed in the garage so I can shut off all this stuff whenever I leave home.

Seriously, overnight is the only way I make stock. Just be careful. Make sure your flame is not so low that it is likely to blow out. Make sure there is some ventilation in the kitchen. Most importantly, make sure your flame is not so high that you boil all the liquid away -- that could eventually result in a fire.

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I second the idea of using an induction cooktop. The model I have has a temperature sensor and maintains the bottom of the pot at a constant temperature. I set it 190 F and don't have to worry about it.

The difference between theory and practice is much smaller in theory than it is in practice.

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Gas is not being released from the burner when flaming, because the gas is being burned! Granted, there is a residual, different type of gas being released, but not one that is flamable.

I think I just needed to hear someone say this! :smile:

And it's good to hear that it's common to tend to be over cautious about stove stuff.

JJ Goode

Co-author of Serious Barbecue, which is in stores now!

www.jjgoode.com

"For those of you following along, JJ is one of these hummingbird-metabolism types. He weighs something like eleven pounds but he can eat more than me and Jason put together..." -Fat Guy

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I second the idea of using an induction cooktop.  The model I have has a temperature sensor and maintains the bottom of the pot at a constant temperature.  I set it 190 F and don't have to worry about it.

Somebody please tell me something about induction cooktops. Is this something you just plug into the wall, kind of like a hot plate, and then you set the temperature (JerzyMade's 190 F sounds like a good stock-simmering temp) and leave it be? If so, that's great. Put it in a GFP outlet and your worries are over!

Don Moore

Nashville, TN

Peace on Earth

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You can also move the stock off of the stove and into a low oven for much the same effect.

Most importantly, make sure your flame is not so high that you boil all the liquid away -- that could eventually result in a fire.

I was once awakened at 3 am by choking smoke when a stock I was making boiled dry and then charred the bones halfway up the pot. No smoke detectors and no brains.

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I am starting to get interested in the idea of an induction unit. The concept of setting a temperature and not haveing to worry about it is appealing.

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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Two comments:

1. One morning I awakened to find my dishwasher had been stuck on the "dry" cycle all night long...that is...from about 9 pm until about 8 am. I opened the door, and many items, including the rubber coating on the racks, were melted and brown. How much longer till a fire occurred? I don't run the DW anymore, unless I'm going to be home. Even though I have a new one now. And I do recall a story about a woman who put clothes in the dryer and left the house...the house burnt down. Not fiction, but truth. I guess one's experience is what controls the level of caution....

2. I have read of people making stock in pressure cookers with great success. Has anyone here tried this?

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