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I recently had a run-in with cooking spray. My friends came over for brunch to help me test out my new pancake griddle. Having never used a stovetop griddle before, I fired up my gas stove without greasing it and noticed my  pancakes began to stick and rip. “Use something to grease the pan,” suggested one of my friends. I grabbed a bottle of cooking spray out of my pantry and sprayed ⁠— big mistake. Flames quickly roared up on either side of the griddle and into the air like I was the grill master performing tricks at a Hibachi restaurant. The smoke alarm went off, right on cue. Honestly, I was lucky my eyebrows didn’t burn off. That was the day I learned you don’t use cooking spray near an open flame. 

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Turns out, I’m not alone when it comes to kitchen mishaps. A lot of people don’t know how to properly use and store cooking spray, so Dr. Oz decided to get to the bottom of it along with the help of Oz food investigators Ali Rosen and chef Danny Boome. Here’s everything you need to know about using it — including if cooking spray adds calories to your meals.

Don’t Spray Near an Open Flame 

As we’ve seen in my own personal mistake, it’s tempting to quickly just spray cooking oil right onto a pan while it’s on the stove. The reason you shouldn’t do this is because there’s more than just oil compressed inside the can. There’s also a propellant (like butane or propane), which enables the spray to come out of the can when you press on the nozzle. These gases are flammable, which is why they’ll add fuel to the fire if sprayed near an open flame.

Boome says you should always spray in the center of a cold pan that’s removed from the stove. Then turn on the flame. 

Don’t Store Too Close to a Heat Source 

Putting all your cooking supplies like spices, oil, and even cooking sprays near the stove can be helpful for ease of access when cooking. However, you should not put your cooking spray anywhere near the heat because when heated up the can itself could explode, causing not only a mess, but a fire, and potential burn injuries to yourself or others. 

The issue again is caused by the flammable gases that are used as propellants. Rosen admits it can be hard to store cooking spray somewhere else if you have a small kitchen, but recommends keeping it in a pantry or cabinet. The one cabinet you don’t want to store it in is the one next to our on top of your stove. Why? Heat rises; which means it can still increase the temperature of the can and cause problems. 

Most cooking sprays, including ones The Dr. Oz Show tested, have warning labels that say things like: 1) This product is flammable and shouldn’t be left on a stove or near a heat source. 2) Don’t spray near a flame. 3) Don’t store anywhere that is more than 120°F.  Boome and Rosen advise to take these warnings seriously. 

Is Cooking Spray Adding Calories to Your Meals?

Boome and Rosen found out a surprising fact that doesn’t have to with your cooking spray being flammable, but rather, its nutritional value. Most cooking sprays that are labeled as “zero calories” and “zero fat” actually aren’t once you use them. The reason why is because the serving size that allows you to be at “zero” is spraying for around 1/4 of a second. Boome and Rosen performed an experiment on the show to illustrate that 1/4 of a second is no time at all — especially not enough time to coat the pan. When they used enough spray to coat the entire pan, they found it added about 30 calories to the dish.  The good news is, that’s actually fewer calories than traditional cooking oil from a bottle, which can add about 120 calories per tablespoon. So continue to use your cooking spray, just be careful when it comes to open flames. Or, in the case of my pancake disaster, just switch to butter. 


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