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Top 15 Kitchen Safety Tips

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The kitchen is a dangerous place. Not only are you working with hot surfaces, and boiling liquid, but you're handling sharp knives and utensils that can injure you in a second. So let's learn how to stay safe in the kitchen.

1. Keep Kids and Pets Out!

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Children and pets do not belong in the kitchen. Unless the kids are helping you or learning how to cook, keep them out of the area. Not only can kids and pets be a distraction, but they can easily hurt themselves by getting into raw food, pulling hot pots down, and tripping you while you're carrying something heavy.

When you want to teach your kids about cooking be sure to start with simple recipes that don't involve a lot of cutting, heat, or appliances. Don't hold a baby or child while you are cooking. And remember to teach children to respect the kitchen. It's not a place for horseplay or fighting.

2. Wear Shoes and Safe Clothing

Like Chandler in Friends, I once dropped a knife on my foot. I did need stitches, although I didn't actually sever my toe. From that day on, I learned that wearing shoes, good sturdy shoes, is essential to kitchen safety.

Make sure you are wearing safe clothes too. Sleeves should not be long and flowy. Do not wear loose clothing or anything flammable, and avoid synthetic clothing, which can melt onto your skin if it catches on fire.

3. Don't Rush

Rushing around the kitchen will almost guarantee accidents. Unless you're a pro, cut food slowly, do not run from station to station, and take your time when moving hot pots and pans. Saving a few minutes here and there will be negated if you need to make a trip to the doctor's office.

Also never try to bake or cook if you are under the influence of alcohol or medications, or are very sleepy.

4. Always Use Hot Pads

Keep a good selection of hot pads and oven mitts on hand. Always use them for any bowl, pot, or pan that has been in an appliance. It's especially important to use these items on bowls you are pulling out of the microwave oven. Even microwave-safe bowls can get quite hot, and it's easy to burn yourself. And if a hot pad or oven mitt gets wet, don't use it until it dries. A wet pad or cloth will easily transmit heat.

5. Stir Away From Your Body

Last year, I got a severe burn on my arm when I was stirring some pasta boiling away on the stove. Some of the water bubbled up and hit my hand, which jerked, sending a spoonful of boiling water onto my arm. This caused a second-degree burn.

Now, when I stir pasta, I use a slotted spoon, and I position the spoon so the bowl is facing away from me. This way, if my hand does jerk again, I won't scoop boiling water toward myself. So, even though it's counter intuitive, hold the bowl of the spoon away from yourself when stirring something hot and boiling.

6. Learn how to Use Knives

Learn how to use a knife and treat them with respect. Knives should always be sharp. A dull knife can slip and cut. Learn how to chop and slice as chefs do, holding the food with your non-dominant hand, fingers curled under. Go slow until you are confident, and always pay attention.

7. Know Your Equipment and Handle it Properly

Read instructions that come with appliances and understand how to use them. Never use an appliance that has a frayed cord, and keep small appliances dry and away from water. And never use your fingers to release something caught in food processor blades or mixers.

Be careful with the blades on food processors and blenders; they can be very sharp and can cut you if you just brush against them.

Let appliances cool down before cleaning them. And don't use an appliance for a purpose for which it wasn't created.

8. Clean Up Spills Promptly

Cleaning up spills as you go not only helps save time when cleaning the kitchen, but will help prevent accidents. Water, food, and grease on the floor will almost guarantee a fall.

Watch out for cooking sprays too. If they are sprayed on the floor, the surface will become very slippery. I always hold the pan I'm spraying over the sink so any over spray will not land on the floor.

9. Know Your Limits when Lifting

Lifting a hot pot of boiling pasta is one of the most dangerous of kitchen techniques. Think about getting a pasta cooker that consists of a strainer inserted into a larger pot. You just lift the pasta out of the water to drain it, instead of moving a heavy pot of boiling water from the stove to sink.

Lift using your knees and back, and know your limits. Ask for help if you need to move or transfer something heavy.

10. Watch Out for Steam

Steam can burn just as easily as boiling liquid or a hot burner. Be especially careful around covered microwaved foods, and foods that have been cooked in packets. Open these packages away from your face, and remember to use hot pads. And when you lift a cover off a boiling pot, pull the cover toward you so you don't burn your hand with steam.

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