Recently, I had a kitchen mishap. I was cooking Chicken pepper soup for my Renaissance Man and I had a lot on my mind. All I can remember is, me about to pour ground spices into the pot of boiling stock and me trying to catch the said pot of boiling stock from falling off the cooker…very smart!!! Anyway, both forearms were scalded.
I immediately rushed to dunk my arms into a bowl of cold water in the sink, only to realise that I had dropped my sharp chef’s knife into this same bowl of water earlier. Thank God I had the presence of mind to remove the knife before putting my hands. I rinsed with dish soap and cold water from the tap, slathered them in petroleum jelly and held them in front of the fan while wallowing in self-pity. Did I cry? Maybe, maybe not…
The pain was excruciating, to say the least. This got me thinking, how safe are we in the kitchen? There are a lot of kitchen hazards we take for granted. Cooking is fun and the kitchen which gives us so much pleasure is also a dangerous place, therefore safety is very important.
Here I have put in place hopefully, a list of kitchen safety tips. It is not exhaustive and I will be glad if you can point out more to be included for the common good.
Please share to inform others.
Let’s stay safe while we Pretend to be chefs.
10 SAFETY TIPS FOR THE KITCHEN
A. Wear safe clothing and hair
- The sleeves of your clothes should not be long if so, fold them back.
- Loose clothes could get into the food or flame.
- Long hair should be tied back and held in place with a net or scarf, so it doesn’t enter the food or flame.
- Synthetic fabrics and hair extensions and wigs are particularly dangerous. They easily catch fire and when they melt as they burn, sticking to the skin so be extra careful and vigilant.
- Jewellery shouldn’t be dangling e.g bracelet, it can get caught or tangled with a pot handle.
B. Human traffic in the kitchen
- Do not rush around the kitchen especially when moving hot pots.
- Keep kids and pets out of the kitchen. They are a distraction and can hurt themselves or you.
- If you are teaching kids to cook, no cutting, heating or use of appliances for them until they are old enough.
- Make sure there is always a vigilant adult with kids in the kitchen.
- Teach children to respect the kitchen and fire, nothing there is a toy.
C. Concentration and Distraction
- Do not cook under the influence of drugs, medications that can alter the state of your mind, cause drowsiness etc.
- Do not cook under the influence of alcohol.
- When under extreme stress, take care of yourself first before venturing into the kitchen to cook, remember, self-preservation is the first law of nature.
- Do not make unnecessary and extensive phone calls while cooking.
- Always make sure all oven and cooker dials are turned off when you finish cooking.
- For kerosene stoves, wood or charcoal burners, be sure that there is no life flame burning or smouldering when you finish cooking.
- Recheck your cooker dials and stove before going to bed. I always pass through my kitchen on my way out of the house.
D. Know your limits and don’t take undue risks.
- Be careful and know your limits when lifting heavy pots especially hot ones.
- Do not underestimate the weight of the pot.
- Use oven mitts, dish cloth or kitchen napkins to lift or handle hot pots and pans.
- Also, when pulling things out of the microwave, they can be surprisingly hot.
- Do not use the end of your wrapper or a wet cloth to carry hot pots or pans. A wet fabric will transmit heat more readily than a dry one.
- Never leave home while food is cooking on the cooker or oven even if you think it is just for a short while or a short distance, like seeing someone off, you could be held up. An exception is slow cookers which should be put on top of a heatproof place e.g cooker top.
- Do not try to catch a falling pot of boiling food or a knife.
- Treat knives with respect.
- Use sharp knives and never blunt ones. Sharp knives are safer than blunt ones, they will not slip when cutting.
- Go slowly when cutting with a knife until you have learnt to cut like a chef and even then until you are confident enough.
- Handle your knives with dry hands. Both knife handle and your palms should be dry.
- Always point your knife downwards when holding it or walking with one in your hand.
- Do not put knives in a sink or bowl of soapy water, you might not remember it is there.
- Store knives in a block or drawer.
- Do not throw a knife at someone or into some place, just don’t throw knives.
- Do not try to catch a falling knife.
F. Equipment (Appliances) safety
- Read instructions for appliances and follow carefully.
- Unplug appliances when not in use.
- Change frayed cords of appliances.
- Be sure cords of appliances are not hanging loosely over the counter.
- Do not put electrical appliances in or near water to avoid electric shocks.
- Do not handle sockets and switches with wet hands.
- Always service, clean and be sure appliances are in good working condition to avoid accidents and fires.
- Do not put fingers into blenders, food processors, mixers and grinders, if you must, unplug from socket.
- Don’t use any metal utensil to bring out toast from a toaster it could lead to an electric shock.
- Clean microwave ovens, ovens, and toaster crumb tray.
- Do not blend hot liquid in blenders, they can explode even when covered. If you must then be careful.
G. Kitchen floor and counters
- Clean spills, water, oil, food, cooking spray, kerosene etc. on the floor as soon as they happen to prevent falls which might involve falling into something dangerous.
- Do not leave toys or utensils lying on the floor.
- Use a stepping stool to reach high and hard to see places, this can prevent you from knocking something down which can land on your head.
- Steam can burn just like boiling water, so when opening a pot of boiling liquid, pull cover towards you.
- Be careful when opening hot food parcels straight out of the oven.
- When pouring out hot food into a sieve e.g pasta, rice, pour away from you and always wear a mitt or use a dishcloth.
- Do not spray any aerosol (insecticide etc.) when there is a naked flame in the kitchen.
- Always extinguish your matches properly before throwing it into the bin. (I leave mine on the stove top until I am done cooking then I wipe with water when I am cleaning the cooker).
- Pot handles should always be turned away from the front of the cooker, so children can’t reach it or adults bump into it.
- Store dangerous cleaning agents and chemicals in a very safe place, if possible locked.
- Place gas cylinders far away from the cooker, where possible outside.
- Have a functioning fire extinguisher handy.
- It should be serviced regularly.
- Every member of your household should know how to use it.
- When putting out a fire with a fire extinguisher, aim at the base of the fire and not the flame itself.
- To extinguish oil/grease or electric fire, use baking soda, detergent or fire extinguisher, never ever use water.
- If the hot oil in a pot or pan catches fire, cover with a non-glass pot cover to starve the fire of needed oxygen then turn off the burner. You can also use baking soda, even salt but never water.
- For a microwave fire, turn microwave oven off and shut the door, the fire will be starved of oxygen and go off.
- For the oven, use baking soda or fire extinguisher.
- Do not use a cloth to whack the fire, it will fan it and make it grow.
- Do not pour kerosene into your stove when the stove is lighted, it can explode.
- keep oven mitts, dishcloth, kitchen napkin etc. away from the stoves and ovens.
- If all fails and the fire is spreading, get everyone out and call your local fire service.
Teach your household the fire safety technique ‘Stop-drop-roll’ in case clothing catches fire. If clothes catch fire:
- Do not try to pull them off over the head or rub off the fire, just stop any movements that can fan the flames of the fire.
- Drop to the ground, cover face with hands.
- Then roll on the ground. If there is a rug nearby, roll it around the victim. Use the extinguisher if necessary.
Have a first aid kit in the kitchen with gauze, burn salve, scissors, important phone numbers, e.g fire service, doctor etc.
In the case of a first degree or superficial burn, which affects the top skin layer and is characterised by redness, minor swelling and pain, put affected area under cool running water for a while but no longer than 30 minutes. Pat dry, you can sprinkle salt over the affected area but do not rub. Aloe vera and coconut oil are good too.
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Cook well but stay safe.
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