Imagine a fine morning when you wake up hungry and lazily saunter over to the kitchen. You choose to take out bacon, eggs and, potatoes from the fridge, settling for the classic American breakfast. You start to turn up the heat and to pour oil into your pan. After a minute or two, you put the juice bacon slices and cut potatoes and begin frying when the real alarm clock wakes you up: oil sputtering, hitting your precious skin.

The struggle is so real. Although the pain is worth the food, there are ways to avoid oil sputters.

Why, then, does oil pop violently when we cook?

Cooking Onions photo by Fancy Crave (@fancycraveofficial) on Unsplash

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To eliminate this somewhat annoying yet risky cooking move, we need to understand the science of it.

According to Cucina Moderna, oil splatter comes from ingredients releasing small amounts of liquid into the hot oil. Once the tiny water droplets come into contact with the oil on the pan, they vaporize into gas right away.

This process of “tiny explosions in your pan” is what results in sizzles. However, the process occurs within seconds, so fast that you barely have time to react before it happens.

How to Avoid Getting Hurt:

Bela Cooking photo by Cassiano Barletta (@cassianobarletta) on Unsplash

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Although a lil bit of splatter is inevitable when cooking meat and vegetables with oil, there are some ways to prevent oil from sputtering or getting into contact with those painful pops.

According to a video created by Howcast, adding salt into the pan even before adding oil reduces the likelihood of oil pops.

When preparing your meals, try to defrost your ingredients early if they happen to be in the freezer. Remember, the presence of water means oil will sputter.

Another piece of advice is to remove as much moisture from the ingredients you’re about to cook with a dry paper towel to absorb as much moisture as possible.

Of course, one way is to cover your hands and arms with a piece of cloth as self-defense.

If you like to be extra (like myself), you can buy a porous splatter screen to cover your pan while cooking so that it will catch the oil popping out but still allow steam to escape.

In short, you don’t have to suffer through the oil pops that bite your skin. Knowing the scientific process of vaporizing helps to get to the bottom of the problem, and there are ways to curtail oil sputters, too. Just make sure you don’t get mad at the oil the next time you cook, ‘cos it’s only a natural process.