Kitchen safety isn’t just for professional chefs in award-winning restaurants. Everyone should know how to be safe in the kitchen to prevent accidents, injuries and food poisoning. It doesn’t take a crash course in commercial cooking or a food hygiene certificate to learn your way around the kitchen. All it takes is a little common sense. To help, we’ve put together a few tips to make your kitchen a safer place.
- Dress properly
There’s nothing wrong with wearing your comfiest clothes around the house, but they may not be the best outfit for cooking. Try to avoid wearing loose or baggy clothing as it can catch onto pot handles or get caught in an oven door. Loose clothing also presents a greater fire risk as it’s more likely to come in contact with flames while cooking.
It’s also important to wear long sleeves and long pants when cooking. This will protect your arms and legs for hot splashes, spitting oil and other cooking hazards.
Pay attention to the material your clothes are made out of though. Avoid synthetic and flammable clothing that can catch fire easily and even melt onto your skin.
Don’t forget to wear closed-in shoes too. When you’re in the kitchen, you’re handling sharp, hot and heavy objects and you don’t want to drop anything on your bare feet.
- Learn how to handle knives
Good knife skills and safe handling practices can drastically reduce the number of cuts and knife-related injuries in a kitchen. Make sure you know which knives to use for which jobs. Always use the correct cutting techniques. And keep your knives sharp, as sharper knives are easier to handle and cut with.
- Be ready for fires
Fire is a real risk in any kitchen. Do what you can to prevent fires, like not leaving food on the stove or the oven on when unattended. You should always be especially careful when cooking with flammable ingredients, like oils and alcohol. Make sure you know how to handle these ingredients and what the risk are.
Despite your best efforts, fires can still occur, so it’s essential that you’re prepared. Make sure you have a fire blanket and fire extinguisher close by and you know which to use for what kind of fire.
Grease and oil fires, for example, should never be dosed with water. Water won’t put out a grease fire. It will actually make it worse by splashing and spreading the flaming oil. You should instead smother grease or oil fires using a fire blanket.
- Prevent and treat burns
With the risk of fire, comes the risk of burns. As with fires, you should always first look to prevent burns. Keep the handles of pots and pans turned inwards when they’re on the stove to keep them from getting knocked over. Make sure you have potholders and oven mitts for handling hot pans and dishes.
No matter how careful you are, accidents can happen. So, you should know how to treat different burns. First- and second-degree burns should be held under cool running water, the latter for as long as 15 minutes. You may even need to take some mild painkillers, since burns are notoriously painful. Make sure the burn is dry before putting a clean non-adhesive bandage over it. If the burn blisters, you may need to use an antibiotic cream to avoid infection. See a doctor if you have any concerns.
For third-degree burns, call emergency services immediately. While you wait, do not touch the burn and keep the area elevated. Burnt arms should be held above the level of your heart to reduce circulation. Likewise, burns on your legs should be elevated above your hips. Elevating your burns can help reduce swelling and lessen the eventual scarring.
- Wash your hands
Your hands can quickly pick up germs in day-to-day life. So you don’t contaminate the food or spread germs to other people, remember to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water before cooking anything.
You should always wash your hands after handling any raw meat, poultry or seafood. These raw ingredients carry harmful bacteria. Although these bacteria are killed off when the ingredients are properly cooked, when raw the bacteria can easily transfer from the raw meat to your hands. When you then touch other food, the bacteria can spread.
- Learn safe food-handling practices
Knowing how to handle food safely in the kitchen can help prevent food poisoning. Start by learning about cross contamination (i.e. how bacteria can transfer between foods, utensils and cookware). Common causes of cross contamination include not washing your hands before and after handling raw ingredients, using the same chopping board for raw meat and other raw ingredients like fruits and vegetables, or not properly cleaning utensils and kitchen appliances between uses.
You should also understand the temperature danger zone. Temperatures between 5°C and 60°C encourage the growth of bacteria. So, if food is left to sit in this temperature range, it can allow bacteria to thrive.
It’s important to have a good knowledge of the safe cooking temperatures for different foods. For instance, processed meats like sausages should be cooked to at least 71°C. When you cook meat to appropriate temperatures, any harmful bacteria are killed off, meaning the food is safe to eat.
You might find it helpful to attend a food hygiene certificate course to learn these food-handling practices.
When you follow these important kitchen safety rules, you help prevent kitchen-related accidents and illnesses.