The kitchen is a dangerous place. Not only are you working with hot surfaces, and boiling liquid, but you’re handling sharp knives and utensils that can injure you in a second. So let’s learn how to stay safe in the kitchen.
Keep Kids and Pets Out!
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Children and pets do not belong in the kitchen. Unless the kids are helping you or learning how to cook, keep them out of the area. Not only can kids and pets be a distraction, but they can easily hurt themselves by getting into raw food, pulling hot pots down, and tripping you while you’re carrying something heavy.
When you want to teach your kids about cooking be sure to start with simple recipes that don’t involve a lot of cutting, heat, or appliances. Don’t hold a baby or child while you are cooking. And remember to teach children to respect the kitchen. It’s not a place for horseplay or fighting.
Wear Shoes and Safe Clothing
Like Chandler in Friends, I once dropped a knife on my foot. I did need stitches, although I didn’t actually sever my toe. From that day on, I learned that wearing shoes, good sturdy shoes, is essential to kitchen safety.
Make sure you are wearing safe clothes too. Sleeves should not be long and flowy. Do not wear loose clothing or anything flammable, and avoid synthetic clothing, which can melt onto your skin if it catches on fire.
Rushing around the kitchen will almost guarantee accidents. Unless you’re a pro, cut food slowly, do not run from station to station, and take your time when moving hot pots and pans. Saving a few minutes here and there will be negated if you need to make a trip to the doctor’s office.
Also never try to bake or cook if you are under the influence of alcohol or medications, or are very sleepy.
Always Use Hot Pads
Keep a good selection of hot pads and oven mitts on hand. Always use them for any bowl, pot, or pan that has been in an appliance. It’s especially important to use these items on bowls you are pulling out of the microwave oven. Even microwave-safe bowls can get quite hot, and it’s easy to burn yourself. And if a hot pad or oven mitt gets wet, don’t use it until it dries. A wet pad or cloth will easily transmit heat.
Stir Away From Your Body
Last year, I got a severe burn on my arm when I was stirring some pasta boiling away on the stove. Some of the water bubbled up and hit my hand, which jerked, sending a spoonful of boiling water onto my arm. This caused a second-degree burn.
Now, when I stir pasta, I use a slotted spoon, and I position the spoon so the bowl is facing away from me. This way, if my hand does jerk again, I won’t scoop boiling water toward myself. So, even though it’s counter intuitive, hold the bowl of thespoon away from yourself when stirring something hot and boiling.
Learn how to Use Knives
Learn how to use a knife and treat them with respect. Knives should always be sharp. A dull knife can slip and cut. Learn how to chop and slice as chefs do, holding the food with your non-dominant hand, fingers curled under. Go slow until you are confident, and always pay attention.
Know Your Equipment and Handle it Properly
Read instructions that come with appliances and understand how to use them. Never use an appliance that has a frayed cord, and keep small appliances dry and away from water. And never use your fingers to release something caught in food processor blades or mixers.
Be careful with the blades on food processors and blenders; they can be very sharp and can cut you if you just brush against them.
Let appliances cool down before cleaning them. And don’t use an appliance for a purpose for which it wasn’t created.
Clean Up Spills Promptly
Cleaning up spills as you go not only helps save time when cleaning the kitchen, but will help prevent accidents. Water, food, and grease on the floor will almost guarantee a fall.
Watch out for cooking sprays too. If they are sprayed on the floor, the surface will become very slippery. I always hold the pan I’m spraying over the sink so any over spray will not land on the floor.
Know Your Limits when Lifting
Lifting a hot pot of boiling pasta is one of the most dangerous of kitchen techniques. Think about getting a pasta cooker that consists of a strainer inserted into a larger pot. You just lift the pasta out of the water to drain it, instead of moving a heavy pot of boiling water from the stove to sink.
Lift using your knees and back, and know your limits. Ask for help if you need to move or transfer something heavy.
Watch Out for Steam
Steam can burn just as easily as boiling liquid or a hot burner. Be especially careful around covered microwaved foods, and foods that have been cooked in packets. Open these packages away from your face, and remember to use hot pads. And when you lift a cover off a boiling pot, pull the cover toward you so you don’t burn your hand with steam.
Learn how to Extinguish Fires
Always have a fire extinguisher handy in your kitchen, and be sure that you know how to use it before you need it.
Know a little bit about different fires. Never try to extinguish grease and electric fires with water; baking soda or a pan cover work best. Smothering a fire by removing air is the best way to put most out. Use a pot cover, baking soda, or salt, not water.
A fire in the microwave can be put out just by turning the appliance off and keeping the door closed. A fire in the oven should be extinguished with baking soda or a fire extinguisher.
If you can’t douse the fire in a few seconds, call the fire department. Fires can spread so quickly and can get out of control in minutes.
Be Careful Around Stove Burners
Always keep pot handles turned away from the front of the stove; it’s too easy to accidentally brush against them and spill hot food on yourself. Never reach over a hot burner to another pan. Push back your sleeves when cooking food on the stove top. And keep pot covers handy to smother flames.
Don’t Leave Food Unattended
Never leave the house when food is cooking or baking, except for a slow cooker. I put my slow cooker on my cool stove top just so it’s on a heatproof surface. Food can quickly go from browning to burning to bursting into flame.
If there are children or pets in your household, make sure an adult is in the kitchen at all times. Accidents happen in seconds.
Stop, Drop and Roll
Learn personal safety and fire safety. Teach your children about ‘stop, drop, and roll’ if their clothing catches on fire. In fact, teach your kids to respect the kitchen, fire, and heat. Nothing in the kitchen is a toy.
Keep a First Aid Kit in the Kitchen
Most people keep a first aid kit in the bathroom. One belongs in the kitchen as well. Make sure it’s stocked with up-to-date equipment, including gauze, burn salve, scissors, and the phone number for your doctors and nearby hospitals.