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While cooking a kielbasa in a toaster oven today, I noticed that periodically there would be flashes near the heating element. At one point there was a very large, bright flash of light and pop as though a flammable gas was being detonated. Some of the ignitions I was able to see in detail. Next to the heating element a small round flame would illuminate and waver then go out. It was obvious that some lighter than air gas was rising up and upon reaching a high enough concentration, igniting.

What gas would the kielbasa be emitting? My first guess would be methane, but why would a cooked kielbasa be giving off methane?

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Cured meat should not be emitting methane- or any other flammable gas. That would be an indicator of advanced spoilage and you would notice the smell.

A more likely culprit, in my opinion, would be fat.

Fat burns well, of course, and sausage is full of it. Tiny splatters of fat can become aerosolized and travel a good distance where they would ignite on the burner.

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    You beat me by a few seconds – Chris H Dec 30 '16 at 19:51
  • That makes sense. It would seem to be clouds of fat vapor. – Drisheen Colcannon Dec 30 '16 at 19:52
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    @DrisheenColcannon : yup, that's completely normal. A popular way to reduce this (and other consequences - such as bursting - of heating up a mostly air-tight food container, which is what a typical kiełbasa is) is to simply make a couple of regular shallow incisions of the food's skin. – mikołak Dec 30 '16 at 23:28
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    @DrisheenColcannon - Note that it isn't actually a vapour, but as stated in the answer an aerosol. This is important, because it means you can avoid it igniting simply by moving your sausage further away from the source of heat. If it were a vapour, that wouldn't work, as it would eventually fill up all the space and you'd just end up with an even larger flash detonation. – Periata Breatta Jan 1 '17 at 17:34
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It's spitting hot fat - still a liquid rather than a gas. This then touches the element and ignites. Sometimes more ignites than other times. You get the same effect when frying, even without added fat. I've had flames up to face height from frying sausages on a rather fierce camping stove.

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