Kitchen Safety Practices

Today is the last day for a while that we’re spending in the kitchen.  I have a few more safety practices I want to share with you today, so let’s dive in.

Previously, I mentioned a few tips on knives so just as a reminder – knives should be kept sharp.  Dull knives cause injury more often than sharp ones because when our knives get dull, we tend to use more pressure to cut through food.  You can sharpen your own knives with a whetstone, an electric grinder, or you can have them professionally sharpened by an expert.  One knife topic that causes much disagreement is which brand you should use.  While I have a certain brand I like to use, my advice to you is to spend a little time researching and a little money to get a good quality blade that feels good in your hand.  If you take care of it, it will last for years.  You don’t need to go out and buy a huge set of knives.  Most home cooks can get by with a chef’s knife, a paring knife, and a serrated knife for bread.  Never put knives in the dishwasher as this can dull them much quicker than handwashing.  And never leave knives in soapy dishwater because you might forget they are there and reach your hand down in the water and cut yourself.

Another topic I’ve talked about is cross-contamination.  I take a deeper dive into this in another post, which you can find here.  Just know that it’s a good idea to use separate cutting boards for raw meat and poultry and fruits and vegetables.  You should clean as you go, and never use utensils that have touched raw meat on cooked meat, or anything for that matter.  For example, if you use a spoon to stir raw chicken before putting it in the pan to cook, don’t use that same spoon to get it out of the pan as you can contaminate your already cooked chicken.

You’ll also want to rinse produce before consuming and wipe cans before opening.  Canned goods are typically stored in warehouses and critters, like mice, like to live in warehouses.  They can defecate on the cans and if you don’t wipe them down first, you can contaminate your food.  Another note on canned goods – it’s not a good idea to store half-used tomato products in the fridge in their cans, like tomato paste.  Instead, store the unused tomato paste in another container.  The reason for this is sometimes, the material used to seal cans can leach into the food and contaminate it.  Tomato products are very susceptible to this.

As for storing food items, make sure you properly label leftovers with dates.  You can either label it with the date you made it and then throw it out after 7 days.  Or, you can label it with the future date 7 days out to know when it’s time to throw it away.  Just pick one and go with it.  To thaw meat, do it in the refrigerator, under cold running water, or the microwave.  Never thaw foods in standing water or under running warm water as this can cause bacteria to grow.  Remember, bacteria thrive between 80 and 120 degrees.  Refrigerate meats while marinating and never re-use a marinade.  Finally, return food to the fridge or freezer quickly, within two hours of cooking.

Make sure and tie back your hair or wear a hat, for obvious reasons, and roll up loose sleeves.  Loose sleeves can cross-contaminate foods and they are also a good way to catch yourself on fire.  Also, be aware of the jewelry you wear while cooking.  Remove anything that can trap food particles such as watches with metal bands and rings with stones.  Remember to wash your hands often.  If you’re sick, don’t cook for others.  When I’m home, I rarely wear shoes, but you really should wear them in the kitchen and protect your piggies.  You’d hate to lose a toe because a knife slipped out of your hand.  Lastly, keep pets out of the kitchen.  Not only do you not want their hair in your food, but they can also easily get injured by hot food items, or they can cause injury to you if they get under your feet and trip you.

And speaking of fire, never try to put out a grease fire with water.  This is a HUGE no-no as the water will cause the grease to splatter and the fire to spread.  You can put out a grease fire with baking soda or better yet, a fire extinguisher.  If you burn yourself either with fire, steam, or simply a hot pan DO NOT USE BUTTER TO COVER IT!  The butter traps in the heat and can cause infection.  Rather, if the skin is unbroken, run the burn under cool water for at least 5 minutes.  Once the skin is cooled, you can use aloe vera to soothe it.  Don’t use ice or very cold water as this can damage the tissue.  For major burns, you likely need to visit the ER.  Don’t remove clothing that is stuck to the skin or try to peel away dead or blistered skin because this can create open wounds and make you more susceptible to infection.

Before jumping to the next topic, I have to tell you a quick story about my husband.  For those of you who know Chad, he is a sugar junkie.  The man would put sugar on top of his sugar.  One day, he was making some sort of dessert that called for cooking down sugar.  In case you don’t know, sugar burns are the worst!  It can get super hot and cause scarring.  So, for some reason, he decides that he needs to taste it.  Thankfully, he didn’t put the caramel in his mouth, but he touched it to his lip and immediately caused a blister.  When I got home and saw this blister, he then had to tell me the story of some crazy dessert he was making and that his lip was attacked by hot caramel.  If you look closely, you can still see the scar it left behind.  All that to say, be very careful when cooking sugar and that avoid getting it on your skin.  Good story, right?!?!  Moving on.

I also want to mention a few quick notes about the grocery store.  This is more for the ladies, when you grab a cart, don’t sit your purse down on the little plastic piece.  Instead, lift it up and put your purse on the wire.  Better yet, strap your purse to your body.  Why, you ask?  Babies in diapers sit on the little plastic part and as everyone knows, diapers leak.  And then you put your purse there…you get the picture.  While you are shopping, make sure you keep raw meats separated from fruits and veggies.  When you put your foods on the belt at checkout, try to keep these foods as separated as possible, and speak up if you need to.  Not everyone is going to be as well-informed as you now are, so don’t let the bagger put raw chicken in with your blueberries.

There are so many other tips and tricks I have in this area, but I don’t want to overwhelm you or gross you out more than you probably are so we’ll cover more topics like these in later posts.  But please let me know if you have any questions because I would love to hear from you!


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