Tips about Kitchen Safety

The kitchen can be a wonderful place, full of heavenly aromas and warmth, but it can also be dangerous. Every counter top has the potential for sharp items, hot surfaces, and spitting liquids. Here are a few tips to help you make your kitchen a little safer.

The lid of a to-go coffee cup reads: "Caution Hot!"
Caution: hot liquid | Photo by Elizabeth Layman
  1. Be careful when pouring hot liquids: Make sure that the room is adequately lit and pour slowly. If you can, listen for changes in pitch as the liquid fills the cup; alternately, use a lightly colored cup and watch for color contrasts. Use a tilting aid if you have trouble lifting the hot liquid.
  2. Set a timer: When you’re cooking something, always set a timer to know when it’s finished. There are timers of all different types—timers that vibrate, beep, flash. Find one that works for you so that you never forget about the food that’s in the oven.
  3. Watch out for grease: First of all, when it gets really hot, it can spit at you and burn you. Secondly, grease can cause fires. If you experience a grease fire, do not douse it with water. Instead, cover it with either baking soda or a pot lid. If you do get burned, run the burn under cool water for ten to fifteen minutes and then cover it in a bit of honey, vinegar, soy sauce, or baking soda made into a paste using a bit of water.
  4. Keep your handles facing in: Don’t let handles on pots and pans stick out toward the kitchen. This makes them easy to bump and sends hot food flying. If you turn the handles inward toward the stove, instead, it will ensure you don’t bump them.
  5. Keep your knives sharp: A dull knife is more likely to lose its traction and cut you than a sharp knife is. Other ways to minimize dangerous slippage of your knives is by only using them when your hands are dry and by keeping your fingers out of the way of the blade as you cut.
  6. Watch your sleeves: Long sleeves and draping pieces of clothing (and even long hair) can be a danger when cooking. They can easily catch fire when you reach over the top of the stove or into the oven. Instead, roll up your sleeves, tie back your hair, and be mindful of where your body is in relation to the stove and oven.
  7. Don’t leave a pot unwatched: Though the old saying insists “a watched pot never boils,” watching a pot enables you to keep kitchen dangers low. You can see when the water is boiling over, the grease is splattering, or the food is burning; and you can adjust accordingly.
  8. Don’t use dangerous stepping stools: Instead, place your items on lower shelves and within easier reach for everyone. If you must, use a stepping stool that is sturdy and have someone spot you as you climb up it.
  9. Label your foods: In order to avoid eating food that’s old or has gone bad, label your food, such as your frozen meat, so that you know when you bought it. Most canned goods and dry foods have a “use by” date stamp on them, but these can sometimes be hard to see. By making labels yourself, you can ensure that the date is impossible for you to miss.
  10. Use oven mitts: Pots and pans get very hot while in the oven or on the stove top, so make sure you protect your hands with oven mitts when you want to lift them. Even pots and pans with specially designed handles may get hot once in a while—it’s better safe than sorry.
An oven mitt and a dish towel, hanging on hooks
An oven mitt and a dish towel | Photo by Elizabeth Layman

Bonus Tips

These tips are good for everyone, but they are especially important if you are sharing a kitchen with others or working in an industrial kitchen like a kitchen at a restaurant.

  1. Manage spills: Spills happen to everyone, but it’s important to clean them up immediately. This is especially important for spills that involve oil, grease, butter, and salad dressing. Use a little soap and warm water for particularly stubborn spills.
  2. Sanitize: Thoroughly wash all cutting boards and other surfaces that have touched raw meat, especially feathered animals like chicken, in order to avoid salmonella and other foodborne illnesses. Also, wash your hands with warm water and soap after handling raw meat.
  3. Choose glass over plastic: Use glass containers as much as possible, especially if you live in a particularly hot and/or humid environment. Many kitchens around the world prefer using glass over plastic because kitchens get quite warm, and warm plastic releases toxins that are harmful to the human body.
  4. Secure cutting boards: Dampen a towel with a bit of water and lay it flat on the surface you plan to use for cutting up your food. Place your cutting board directly on top of the dampened towel to  ensure your cutting board will not move around while chopping, slicing, or hammering food on it.
  5. Announce dangers: Always be clear with others in the kitchen if you are walking with a knife in your hand by saying,”Knife!” to those in close proximity of you. As you walk, make sure that the point of the knife is facing downward to avoid accidents. Similarly, when you are carrying a hot container, announce loudly, “Hot!” so that others know you are around them.
A sharp knife with a blade measuring several inches long
Be careful with your knives | Photo by Elizabeth Layman

A special thanks to Charles Houston, our resident kitchen safety whiz.

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