The kitchen is one of the most exciting parts of the modern home. It is not only a place where we transform bland-looking ingredients into magical, mouthwatering dishes. For some of us, the kitchen is used as an extension of our living rooms, entertaining our guests as we prepare a sumptuous recipe for them. However, accidents can happen. As a matter of fact, there are more than 170,000 domestic fires that originate from the kitchen every single year. This is not counting the other “accidents” that can result in injuries or illness. The modern kitchen may be one of the most stimulating places to be in a modern house. However, it can also be a very risky place. If you want to make your kitchen a safer, more functional, and more fun place for everyone, then you have to observe these 10 kitchen safety tips.
Always Wash Hands Before and After Every Kitchen Activity
Everyone knows that the kitchen is where we make magic happen. We can make fantastic dishes out of ordinary ingredients. Unfortunately, handling different ingredients also increases the risk of transferring germs from one object to another. For example, cleaning fish can transfer microorganisms and substances from the fish to the hands. When you hold another object or another food item, there is a chance of transferring the same germs or substances onto this object or food item.
It is important to understand that the food ingredients we have in the kitchen are not 100% sanitary. The air in the kitchen is often filled with bacteria, viruses, and other microscopic particles. Unless your kitchen is in a tightly-controlled environment, the risk of pathogenic transmission is ever present.
It is for this reason that you should wash your hands every time you perform any activity. The rule is to wash the hands before any kitchen activity and right after. It may seem so tedious, but it is the only way you can reduce the risk of transmitting disease-carrying germs. Take note that we said “reduce”, as tt is impossible to “eliminate” the risk altogether.
Keep Children and Pets Out
As exciting a place as the kitchen is, it is not a playground for kids and pets to frolic. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule, such as when you are training your little one to be the next Master Chef Junior. In such cases, children should always be under the watchful eye of their parents, regardless of how proficient they can be in the kitchen.
The kitchen is a place where there are a lot of situations that can go wrong. A pot of water can boil over and scald a child playing on the kitchen floor. Spills on the floor are hazards in themselves, increasing the risk of falls and causing bruises and fractures in little kids. A knife handle dangling on the edge of the countertop can fall and cut the hapless child. Worse, a kid can reach for sharp objects on the table or countertop and injure him- or herself.
As for pets, the main danger is in the ingredients that we use in our recipes. Garlic and onion are two of the greatest no-nos in canine nutrition. These ingredients contain substances that can make the dog’s cardiovascular and nervous systems go haywire. Chocolates, raisins, and grapes are dangerous for dogs and cats, too. This is not to mention the amount of fat that they can gobble up from that delicious fried food you have on the countertop.
Moreover, the presence of kids and dogs in the kitchen will divide your concentration. Instead of focusing on food preparation and cooking, you will also have to check on children and pets every once in a while. You can also trip on them while carrying a pot full of steaming-hot soup.
Use Kitchen Items the Correct Way
You might laugh but there are home cooks who are at a loss as to the proper way of using certain kitchen items. Not only is this a safety issue, it also increases the risk of damaging the said kitchen item. This means you will then have to purchase a new one.
For example, oven mitts and hot pads may be very common kitchen items but a lot of novice home cooks fail to use them. These are important contraptions that can help improve safety in the kitchen, especially when handling hot items. You avoid burning yourself, thus allowing you to cook more delicious dishes.
The same is true with electric kitchen appliances. While modern appliances are very easy to use, it is always best to read the owner’s manual. This contains vital information on the correct use, cleaning, and maintenance of the appliance. You will do yourself a favor if you spend a few minutes reading through the manual.
Knives, spatulas, and other kitchen items have their specific functions. Learn these well, so you can ensure safety in the kitchen.
Observe a Clean as You Go Policy
Cleaning is an activity that should never be compromised in a modern kitchen. With so many things going on at the same time, it is easy to miss a spill, slip on the floor, and break your back. Worse, the pot of boiling hot sauce can splatter all over you and burn you in the process.
The kitchen sink can be such a mess, too. Most home cooks fill the kitchen sink with water, ready to dunk anything and everything. Unfortunately, by the time you are ready to wash and clean these items, you already forgot that you have several knives in the bubbly and soapy kitchen sink.
Hence, the best way to ensure safety in the kitchen is to observe a clean-as-you-go policy. Professional chefs always tell their staff and crew to clean up as they go. This means wiping the chopping board and the countertop after every ingredient prepared. It also means washing the dishes, utensils, and other items before they start piling up on the counter or the kitchen sink.
Observe the Proper Handling and Storage of Food
It will not set your house on fire or give you a serious cut on the hands but not observing the proper way of handling and storing food can still land you in the hospital because of food poisoning or other gastrointestinal complaints.
Food that is not handled and stored in the proper way risks spoilage. It also increases the risk of cross-contamination. Either way, the ingredients you use in your dishes will already have other “secret ingredients” that might land you in sick bay.
It is for this reason that washing the hands before and after every kitchen activity is a must. It is also crucial to organize the different ingredients and food items you have. Store dry goods in airtight containers so you get to prolong their freshness and prevent spoilage. Never store raw meats and cooked items in one place. If you have to place them in the refrigerator, it is imperative that the cooked items are on the top shelves, while the raw meats are on the lower shelves. Ideally, however, raw meats should be in the freezer.
If you need to store leftover food, it is best to put them in the refrigerator within 2 hours. If the leftover food is warm (above 90 degrees Fahrenheit), then you need to store it in the fridge within 1 hour.
Keep All Sharp Objects in Secure Storage Solutions
It goes without saying that all sharp objects like knives, ice picks, and other kitchen gadgets with blades should have their own storage compartments. Keep these out of children’s reach, in case you cannot keep the little ones out of your kitchen. Knife blocks are wonderful accessories to accommodate sharp tools. However, having a kitchen drawer organizer is better since you can lock it.
Be very careful when handling these items. As mentioned above, it is best to learn the correct way of using the different items in your kitchen. And that includes the proper way of holding and using the knife to cut your ingredients.
Wear the Correct Attire
You may not think that wearing the proper attire can help you stay safe in the kitchen but it does. Wearing the right attire means you are protecting yourself from accidental hot oil and scalding water splashes. Aprons are a must, not only in terms of keeping you safe from spills and splashes, but also a way to organize your kitchen activities.
Jewelries do not have a place in the kitchen. Rings, earrings, and necklaces are magnets for germs. Hair nets are also a must, especially if you are prone to falling hair. If you do not want to wear one, at least tidy up your hair by tying it at the back.
Do Not Leave the Food You are Cooking
There are recipes that can take hours to cook. These slow-cook recipes often make home cooks want to leave the kitchen and do something else. While you may consider it safe since you’re using a modern electric cooking appliance that has safety features, nothing beats your personal presence in the kitchen.
To give you an idea, of the more than 170,000 home kitchen fires that occur every year, about a third of these occurred because the home cook was not in the kitchen. Think about it. If you are keeping a watchful eye on what you are cooking, then you will be able to avert disasters should a problem arise.
For example, you can turn off an overheating electric kitchen appliance or turn off the stove when the oil in the pan is already smoking like crazy. A sudden spark in one of the outlets should already alert you to an impending disaster. But if you are not in the kitchen at the time that these events “occurred”, then you risk burning your kitchen and your house to the ground.
Have a Fire Extinguisher on Standby
Fires are always a risk in the kitchen. From 2012 to 2016, more than 108,000 home cooking fires involved cooktops or ranges, resulting in about 455 deaths and injuring some 4,160 individuals. In many of these accidents, the cooktops or electric ranges were left on.
The presence of cardboard boxes can also make the kitchen more dangerous. Using extension cords in the kitchen is also a big no-no. These electrical gadgets may not be able to accommodate the electrical load coming from multiple kitchen electric appliances. Gas stoves are also quite risky. Gas leaks can turn a kitchen into an inferno in the blink of an eye. Pressurized canisters can also increase the risk of kitchen fires.
As such, it is imperative that you have a fire extinguisher in the kitchen or some other system to put out a fire in case one breaks out. Make sure that the fire extinguisher is up-to-date. These gadgets have expiration dates and it is best to keep tabs with their validity.
Always Check Everything Before Wrapping Up Your Kitchen Adventures
Make sure to turn off the range, ovens, and stovetop burners. The same is true with food processors, blenders, and other electric kitchen appliances. Check the gas pipes for any sign of leaks or any other issue that may point to a loss of reliability. Store the knives and other sharp objects in their respective drawers and cabinets. Wipe spills and messes. Do not let these dry up or wait until one meets an accident.
If you want the kitchen to be a safe place, then it is crucial that you close it in a nice way. This is what professional kitchens do. They always make sure that everything is in order before they close for the day. If it works in professional kitchens, there is no reason that it will not work for ordinary homes, too.
Ensuring kitchen safety is not only the responsibility of the home cook. Everyone in the family should contribute to the making of a kitchen that is safe for everyone else.
- Home Cooking Fires – NFPA
- 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Cooking Safety – HuffPost Life
- 10 Things You Can Learn About Kitchen Safety from Stock Photos – Kitchn