In a previous article, we discussed the benefits of having your children help you cook. But the kitchen does contain implements and food that can be dangerous. It is important to be aware of these dangers and to minimize them.
How to Cut Back on Kitchen Mishaps
Food Preparation Safety
Germs are one of the biggest kitchen dangers. The most basic way mitigate the spread of bacteria in the kitchen is to keep hands, cutting surfaces, counters, and utensils clean. Make sure you wash your hands in warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds before you start cooking. Just remember that hand sanitizer should be used in addition to, not instead of, hand washing. It is especially important to wash your hands after you handle meat, fish, poultry, or eggs, to prevent the spread of dangerous food-borne illnesses.
Other good methods to prevent the spread of food-borne bacteria are cooking meats to the appropriate temperature, storing perishable items in the refrigerator, and throwing away any moldy food. If you have to prepare meat, fish, or poultry, use a different cutting board than the one you use for fresh produce. Finally, don’t place cooked food on a plate that previously held raw meat. All of these methods will reduce the chance of your family getting sick.
When you or your child are in the kitchen, make sure to keep long hair tied back. Wear shorts sleeves, or your sleeves rolled up, while in the kitchen. This way, you prevent them from falling into raw foods or catching on fire. Teach your child to wait until food is finished cooking before tasting it. Wear aprons to protect you and your clothing against spills, and use oven mitts any time you use the oven to protect against burns. Michelle Stern, at What’s Cooking, recommends keeping your work area clean of everything except your cutting board and tools.
Knives are one of the most common kitchen tools, but they can cause serious harm if they aren’t handled properly. Don’t let your child start handling kitchen knives until you’re certain that he is mature enough to understand the dangers. Here are some safety tips to teach him before letting him handle his own knives:
- It is incredibly important to keep your blades sharp and to hold them properly! It may seem counter-intuitive, but a sharp blade will cut food cleanly and in fewer strokes. A dull blade is more likely to catch or slip, which can lead to injury. When you’re holding your knife, pinch the back of the blade between your pointer finger and thumb to give you better control over the blade. Hold the food you’re cutting by using the “claw” method, curling your fingers under and using your thumb to stabilize your grip. This method keeps your fingers out of the way of the blade, but allows you to guide the blade edge.
- Rest your cutting board on a damp towel or non-skid mat so that it doesn’t move around while you’re cutting. The easiest way to injure yourself is having your cutting board or knife slip. Another good tip, from Cheryl Arkison on SimpleBites, is to have your child keep their hands away from the cutting board unless he is cutting something.
- Carrying and handing knives are common situations where injury can occur. However, there are easy ways to cut back on that possibility. When carrying a knife, keep the tip pointed toward the floor with the edge pointing backward, and the blade angled very slightly away from you. That way, if you bump into someone or something, you’ll be much less likely to harm yourself or anyone else. If you have to hand someone a knife, the safest way is to grip the back edge with the blade facing away from your hand. Present the handle to the person to whom you’re giving the knife. When the other person grips the handle, they have control of the blade.
- The last involves how to safely react to a knife being dropped or knocked off a work space. Never try to grab a falling knife! You run the risk of grabbing the blade edge or knocking it into a position where it will cut you when it lands. Always move back and wait until the knife is resting on the floor before picking it up.
With proper food preparation and kitchen safety, you and your children can prepare wonderful meals together. If you respect the tools you use, and teach your children to do the same, you’ll both stay safe, happy, and full.
Do you have kitchen safety tips we didn’t cover? Feel free to share them with us on our Facebook page!
Photo courtesy of ShutterStock and FoodSchool.