I’m currently kicking up the surf in Mexico with my family and -count them- fifteen of my in-laws! As my kitchen is temporarily closed, I thought I’d share excerpts from this archival post. It’s an important one and well worthy of a review.
I believe that safety awareness is a very important first step for the home cook, rather like reading a manual before you operate a new appliance. Safety in the kitchen was a topic that was discussed on my very first day of culinary school, although at first I didn’t understand why.
There we were, 23 fresh-faced and eager students, ready to jump into the kitchen and start glazing éclairs… but instead we had to sit and listen to a lecture about safety. “This is silly.” I remember thinking to myself, “Everyone knows these fundamentals.” But then a young guy a few seats over from me raised his hand to speak.
“Have you ever had anyone, like, fall face first onto the griddle?” He asked the instructor, slamming his entire torso down onto his desk in physical demonstration. The girls in the class gasped, the guys chuckled; the face of our petite, five-foot-zero instructor didn’t move above her starched white chef’s coat and she disinterestedly informed him that, no, they hadn’t.
He wasn’t finished. “What about blenders?” He brandished an invisible knife, “Has anyone ever, like, thrust a big knife into a running blender?”
The teacher wasn’t fazed by his dramatic demonstration; however, I made a mental note to stay far, FAR away from this thrill-seeker. Fortunately, I didn’t have to worry about him for long; he left the program after a few weeks. I guess it wasn’t exciting enough for him.
It certainly emphasized why we were starting our module with “Safety” and was a disturbing reminder that, yes, kitchen injuries can be gruesome.
Essential safety tips
It’s no secret that the kitchen is a zone filled with objects that can burn, cut, and seriously injure the body. Fortunately, by adopting good work habits such as those listed below as well as being attentive and cautious at all times, these kinds of injuries can be avoided.
Steps to take as soon as possible
- Keep a small fire extinguisher handy.
- Keep a first-aid kit handy and keep it well stocked.
- Install a child-proof latch for cleaning products under the sink.
- Invest in a sturdy stool to reach high shelves and out of the way places.
- Keep a list of emergency phone numbers posted in a visible place.
Begin by implementing what you can immediately, such as compiling a list of emergency phone numbers or assembling a first-aid kit. Then look through the rest of the list and make a note of items to purchase.
Make it a priority to pick up a sturdy stool, a latch for the cupboards or whatever you are missing and don’t put off installation.
Actions to integrate into daily cooking
- Keep fridge/freezer organized and not overly stocked to prevent objects from falling when the door is opened. Same for the pantry and cupboards, especially the upper shelves.
- Keep the underside of your stove range hood clean, and follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for changing and/or cleaning the filter regularly to avoid a grease fire.
- Always chop on a stable, non slip surface. Professional’s TIP: Place a damp dish towel or rag under your cutting board to prevent it from shifting about on the counter.
- Position pot & pan handles inwards and not protruding out from the stove, where they could be bumped or grabbed by little hands.
Assess your cupboards, fridge and stove the next time you open them and follow these suggestions for safety. It will only take a minute!
More kitchen safety tips to remember at all times
- Clean up spills the moment they happen.
- Always check that small appliances are switched to ‘Off’ before plugging in.
- Unplug appliances as soon as you are finished using them.
- Never try to catch a falling knife. EVER.
- Use equipment for its intended purpose only.
- Position oven racks correctly before preheating the oven–it’s much easier to do when they are cold.
- Never adjust an oven rack while there is a casserole or tray of food on it.
- Never place a dirty knife in soapy dishwater where it becomes hidden and can be a hazard for the dishwasher’s hands.
- Stay close to the stove when cooking over high heat.
- Keep a pot-holder or towel over the handle of a pot or pan that has just come out of the oven in case you forget the handle is hot and try to grab it.
- Keep knives and other sharp objects away from the kitchen counter’s edge where they can fall or be reached by children.
- If you must walk with a knife, keep it tip down, at your side.
Print this list and keep it visible for a few weeks in the kitchen as a reminder. Share the list with anyone else who is regularly in the kitchen, such as older children or your partner.
Implement, Practice and Share
By incorporating these safety practices into your daily life, they will eventually become habit and your kitchen will be a safer place because of it!
Which habits do you practice to ensure that your kitchen stays safe?