Adapted from Your Shirt Is Not an Oven Mitt!
By Debbie Puente (St. Martin’s Press 2004)
Avoid Getting Burned, Cut, or Electrocuted
The kitchen can be a hazardous place where so many things go wrong. Be cautious and prepared. You can avoid getting burned, cut, or electrocuted in the kitchen—things that put a damper on any dinner party—by following some basic safety rules.
- Take your time. Accidents happen when you become frustrated or when you’re in too much of a hurry. Three-minute eggs become an all night affair when you're delayed in the emergency room.
- Keep potholders and oven mitts dry. Damp potholders will transfer heat from the pan right to your hand. Also, when buying potholders, look for thick, well-insulated, heavy-duty oven mitts that cover your entire hand plus part of your forearms.
- Lift lids away from your face when peeking into a pot. Steam is very hot and can be completely invisible.
- Make sure the long handles of pots and pans are away from foot traffic. Turn them to the back or center of the stove.
- Roll up your sleeves. The singed and blistered look is never in.
- Don't use the toaster, blender, or other kitchen appliances near the kitchen sink. You could receive an electric shock and be seriously injured if water touches these electric appliances.
- Keep a small fire extinguisher, or at least a box of baking soda, within reach of your cooking area. It’s impossible to blow out a grease fire. And never use water on a cooking fire or an electric appliance—which may result in an explosion.
- Never plug or unplug appliances with wet hands. Or any other wet body part.
- Always cut on a proper cutting surface. Placing a damp towel under a cutting board will keep it from sliding around. Or, use cutting boards with rubber, non-skid feet.
- Keep your knives sharp. Dull knives can slip and end up cutting you because you’ll use more pressure to cut.
- Immediately dispose of aluminum cans and sharp lids. I have a few scars to remind me of how important it is to dispose of that jagged lid properly.
- Never put a utensil or your hand inside a working blender or mixer.
Vomiting and Other Bathroom Stories: Food Poisoning and Other Food-Borne Illnesses
Nothing impresses a potential date less than vomiting. With that in mind, you may want to consider these hints to avoid food poisoning and other food-borne illnesses.
While grocery shopping…
- Don’t let juice from raw meat, poultry, or fish drip on to your hands or on any fresh produce in your grocery cart. Raw juices contain bacteria. Use the plastic bags offered at the counter.
- Shop for cold and frozen products last. Use a cooler for the ride home, especially during the summer or if you’re running other errands.
In the Kitchen…
- Always wash your hands in hot, soapy water before preparing and after handling raw meat, poultry, seafood, or eggs.
- Sanitize your dishcloths or sponges on a regular basis, or use disposable cloths. A contaminated dishcloth can house millions of bacteria after a few hours. Consider using paper towels to clean up and then throw them away immediately. Always wash your hands after handling raw meat.
- Cook all meat and poultry — or casseroles that contain meat or poultry — at a minimum oven temperature of 325°F. Cook meats thoroughly, but don’t overcook them. Heat kills bacteria, but too much heat causes meat, poultry, and fish to form possibly carcinogenic compounds. Use a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the meat, avoiding bone. A thermometer should never be inserted into meat that has not yet been seared; the thermometer can transfer bacteria from the exterior into the interior. According to the USDA, meat should be cooked at least to these internal temperatures: beef, lamb, or veal roasts, steaks, and chops—145°F; ground beef, pork, lamb, or veal—160°F; ground chicken or turkey or stuffing—165°F; poultry—180°F.
- Keep your refrigerator at no more than 40°F and your freezer at 0°F. A temperature of 40°F or colder slows the growth of most bacteria. The fewer bacteria there are, the less likely you are to get sick. Date leftovers so they can be used within two to three days. If in doubt, throw it out! There’s no such thing as homemade penicillin.
- Store uncooked food on racks BELOW cooked food in the refrigerator to avoid contamination from drippings. (Or better yet, keep everything in well-sealed containers to eliminate the possibility of dripping.)
- Marinate raw meat and poultry in the refrigerator, not on the counter. Don't serve the marinade unless you've boiled it at least one minute. And don't baste your food with the uncooked marinade.
- Don’t store raw fish in your refrigerator for more than 24 hours. Raw poultry or ground beef will keep for one to two days; raw red meat will keep for three to five days.
- Thaw frozen food in the refrigerator or in a microwave, not at room temperature. Defrost meat, poultry and fish products in the refrigerator, microwave oven, or cold water that is changed every 30 minutes. Changing water every 30 minutes ensures that the food is kept cold, an important factor in slowing bacterial growth on the outside while the inside is still thawing.
- Cook microwave-defrosted food immediately after thawing.
- Never put cooked food on the same plate that was used for raw food until the plate has been thoroughly washed.
Cuts and Burns
- If you cut yourself, immediately wash the area with antiseptic and apply pressure to the area with a clean towel. If the cut is not too deep and the bleeding stops, apply an antiseptic cream and bandage. However, if the cut is deep and there is heavy bleeding, apply direct pressure and seek medical help.
- If you burn yourself by touching something hot, immediately apply an ice pack or submerge your hand in ice water. If the ice water becomes too cold and uncomfortable, remove until the pain begins to return and keep repeating until the pain subsides. If the burning pain lasts more than an hour you should call a doctor. Do not apply a burn cream until after the burning sensation is gone. A first-degree burn will turn red. A second-degree burn will blister. For anything more serious, you need to seek medical help.
© 2004 Debbie Puente
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You may print for personal use. However, without written permission you may not reproduce, reprint or distribute.