Water on Grease Fire Creates Fireball

posted: 04/11/12
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As seen in "MythBusters: Greased Lightning."

Finding: BUSTED

Explanation: Ever hear of the saying "oil and water don't mix"? Smart cooks know that water isn't the secret ingredient for extinguishing a grease fire on the stove. On the contrary, oil catches fire at around 680 degrees Fahrenheit, and a splash of water in the pan can combine with it to create a terrifyingly tall burst of flames — probably not what you had in mind for a show before dinner.

But rest assured, you'd need more than the water in your ordinary drinking glass to bring the myth of 30-foot kitchen pyrotechnics to life. MythBusters' Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage found that a mere 8 ounces of water sloshed on 2 quarts of burning oil only causes a 20-foot tall inferno, because the water vaporizes and expands almost instantaneously, carrying the flaming oil particles with it.

To achieve 30-foot flames, they needed a 2:1 oil-to-water ratio: 2 quarts of oil and a full quart of water. And only then: Voila, fireball!

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