“Approach love and cooking with equal abandon,” advises the Dalai Lama, but emergency room doctors beg to differ. Although spending time in the kitchen can be magic for the soul, it can be brutal for the body. Most of know we are supposed to handle razor-sharp knives and searing hot pans with care — but we persist in misusing them, not to mention all of the other dangers awaiting us in the kitchen. Consider the following:
1. Playing with fire
FEMA reports that cooking equipment, most often a range or stovetop, is the leading cause of reported home fires and home fire injuries in the United States. The agency, which notes that the leading cause of fires in the kitchen is unattended cooking, offers some tips for avoiding being a statistic:
- Stay in the kitchen when you are frying, grilling or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove.
- If you are simmering, baking, roasting, or boiling food, check it regularly, remain in the home while food is cooking, and use a timer to remind you that you’re cooking.
- Keep anything that can catch fire — potholders, oven mitts, wooden utensils, paper or plastic bags, food packaging, towels, or curtains — away from your stovetop.
- Keep the stovetop, burners and oven clean.
- Keep pets off cooking surfaces and nearby countertops to prevent them from knocking things onto the burner.
- Wear short, close-fitting or tightly rolled sleeves when cooking. Loose clothing can dangle onto stove burners and catch fire if it comes into contact with a gas flame or electric burner.
2. Contact burns from equipment
The oven is magic. No longer do we have to sear our food on an open fire like our ancestors did; we have a nifty box that keeps the heat contained and cooks our food to perfection. But all that heat combined with metal components and cookware leads to loads of burns. Quick tips (which are obvious, but good to keep in mind): always use oven mitts, replace them when they’re old; don’t use a wet towel as an oven mitt; don’t reach your arm in to check baked goods, pull out the rack to test; don’t touch the stove top; and stir simmering food with a wooden spoon, not a metal one, which will get hot.
3. Food burns
Some of the worst kitchen burns come from hot food, so avoid scalding yourself by following these rules:
- Use back burners when possible, or turn pot and pan handles in towards the counter when on the stove so that they can’t be knocked into and over by a passer-by.
- Use a pot holder when removing tops from cooking food to prevent the dreaded steam burn.