Most cooks have experienced the unpleasantness of getting…

Most cooks have experienced the unpleasantness of getting splattered with hot oil while cooking. Here’s a closer look at what’s actually going on. The pan is covered by a thin layer of hot olive oil. Whenever a water drop gets added – from, say, those freshly washed greens you’re trying to saute – it sinks through the oil due to its greater density. Surrounded by hot oil and/or pan, the water heats up and vaporizes with a sudden expansion. This throws the overlying oil upward, creating long jets of hot oil that break into flying droplets. These are what actually hit you. This is a small-scale demonstration, but it gets at the heart of why you don’t throw water on an oil fire. (Image credit: C. Kalelkar and S. Paul, source)