On the back burner

On the back burner is a fairly modern idiom. We will examine the meaning of the idiom on the back burner, where it came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.

On the back burner describes something that has a lower priority, something that is not of immediate concern, something that can be dealt with later. Something that has been put on the back burner is not forgotten, it is simply postponed. The idiom on the back burner evokes the image of a modern gas or electric stove top. Many gas and electric stove tops have four burners, with a back burner that is smaller and meant to keep food warm, not to cook it at a high heat. The expression on the back burner came into use in the mid-twentieth century; it may have originated as advertising jargon.

Examples

Re-prioritize projects and deadlines — identify what can be put on the back burner (or even cancelled altogether) and what deadlines can be extended. (The Harvard Business Review)

Recognizing this, council members have decided to put replacing the borough hall roof on the back burner. (The Wyoming County Examiner)

A spokesman for XR Furness said: “Apparently the climate emergency has been put on the back burner till the autumn budget because of what is seen as the more pressing need to act on the coronavirus crisis.” (The Daily Mail)