A Good Cook is a Safe Cook
Hey, cooking is a lot of fun! I love everything about working in the kitchen-how the food looks, feels, and smells and of course how it tastes when youíre all done. But itís really important to remember that cooking is serious stuff. If you donít pay attention in the kitchen, you can get hurt very easily-and I want to be sure that doesnít happen. So before we get started, letís go over some ways to be safe in the kitchen.
Ask for Help!
- Remember to always ask permission from your mom or dad or any adult in charge before you begin cooking.
- Never cook by yourself. Itís always a good idea to have an adult nearby, especially when using sharp knives or graters, electrical appliances, hot burners, and the oven.
- You can do a lot of things yourself if youíre careful, but ask for help when you need it-like lifting heavy pots. Being smart in the kitchen is important!
You have to dress right for the kitchen-not to look good but to be safe and comfortable. Cooking clothes should be roomy but not too loose. Loose clothing can get caught on equipment, and you always have to be especially careful around an open flame. Long sleeves should be rolled up tight so they donít get in the way.
Loose, long hair is a big no-no! If you have long hair, tie it back so it doesnít get in your way or into the food.
Most jewelry isnít safe in the kitchen. Donít wear anything that dangles. If you wear a watch, be sure itís waterproof.
- Always review the recipe you will be preparing before you begin. Make sure you have all the ingredients you need, and that all the tools and equipment are ready. Believe it or not, I still do this.
- If you donít understand how to do something, ask an adult to explain it to you before you begin cooking.
- I like to measure out all my ingredients before I start. I cut, chop, mince, and mix ahead when I can, too. It makes cooking a breeze.
- Cleanliness is very important in the kitchen. I know I sound like a grown-up but itís really true. You want the food you serve to be healthy and safe.
Make sure you wash your hands especially well before and after handling raw meat-particularly poultry (chicken, duck, and raw eggs). Raw poultry can carry a germ called salmonella, which can make you very sick.
Hereís a big secret we professional chefs have that Iíll let you in on: Itís a smart idea to clean up as you go along. That way, any tools that you need again will be clean and ready for you, and youíll have plenty of room on your counter to work. Best of all, you wonít end up with a mountain of dirty dishes just when you want to be sitting down to enjoy your yummy creation.
Never put knives or other sharp objects in sinks filled with water and other utensils-you can cut yourself when you reach into the water. It also damages the blades. Itís best when working with knives to wash them well with soap and water as soon as youíre finished with them.
Cutting boards should always be washed with soap and warm water after each use. When youíre using them to prepare raw meat or poultry, you have to be even more careful than usual! Unclean cutting boards can pass germs along to other foods, and some germs (like salmonella) can make you sick. When in doubt wash, wash, wash.
Stay cool when cooking with fire!
- Itís really important to have an adult close by whenever youíre cooking on the stove or in the oven, and they should be around from start to finish, when you turn the appliance off. Donít ever use the stove-or the oven-when youíre home alone!
Be extra careful of hot surfaces when cooking. Itís easy to tell when a stovetop with a gas (open) flame is on; itís less obvious on stoves with electric or radiant burners, which are just as hot. Check your stovetop or oven controls carefully before you get to work.
Pot holders and oven mitts rule in the kitchen! If youíre not sure if something is hot, use pot holders or mitts just to be on the safe side. And hey-itís really important that pot holders and oven mitts are dry when you use them. If theyíre wet, the heat will go right through them and burn you faster than you can say, "Bam!"
Never, ever leave food unattended while itís cooking!
Always remember that the outside surface of the oven also gets hot when the oven is on, so donít lean against it when itís on.
When cooking on top of the stove, always remember to turn your long pot handles to the side or toward the center. But make sure theyíre not over an open flame. They shouldnít hang over the edge of the stove, either-someone might walk by and knock into them by accident.
Keep as far away as possible from hot, bubbling liquids. The bubbles can pop and splatter, and that can really burn. Itís also a good idea to use long-handled wooden spoons to stir hot things.
When moving heavy pots filled with hot liquids or when lifting heavy roasting pans out of the oven, you need to be smart. If youíre sure you can do it, use pot holders and be really careful. If you even think for a minute that the pot or pan is too heavy for you, donít try to do it yourself. Ask an adult to help you!
Remember to always uncover a hot pot so that the side of the lid farthest away from you tilts up first. This way the steam will be as far away from you as possible. Steam burns can really hurt! The same thing goes for draining a pot that is full of hot liquid-always pour out, away from you, so that the liquid and steam do not burn your hands or your face.
If you do happen to burn or cut yourself, or in case of a fire, call an adult immediately!
Know your tools and be patient!
- Kitchen tools are just like any other tools-you have to know how to use them the right way. This is for your safety and also to help you take care of your tools. If youíre not familiar with the right way to hold and use knives or other equipment, ask your mom or dad or the supervising adult to show you, or check out our techniques section (pages 18-28) for the right ways to use most kitchen equipment.
When learning how to work in the kitchen, be patient. Itís better to practice any technique slowly-particularly chopping, slicing, or mincing. That way you can be precise and safe. You will be surprised to see that with just a little practice, youíll become good at it in no time.
Watch out using graters-theyíre as sharp as knives! Itís real easy to scrape fingers and knuckles when youíre not paying attention.
You have to be really careful when using electrical appliances such as the toaster, microwave oven, toaster oven, blenders, and mixers. These are powerful tools that should be used with caution. Here are some quick tips to follow at all times:
- Always be sure your hands are dry when you plug something in.
- Never, ever put your hands or fingers inside any electrical appliance when itís on.
- Remember to pull your hair back and not wear dangling jewelry.
- Hey, make sure the lid on your blender is on tight-if itís not, your food will go all over the kitchen instead of inside your mouth.
- Always turn your mixer off before scraping down the sides of the bowl or adding ingredients. If a spoon or spatula gets caught in the turning beaters, youíll ruin the mixer and maybe hurt yourself, too.
- When you turn the mixer back on after adding ingredients, start on the slowest speed. That way, your ingredients wonít splash all over you.
To help you stay safe, weíve included little safety icons. You and your folks will know with one quick look how careful youíll need to be. Hereís what they are and what they mean:
This recipe requires adult supervision. With the exception of easy sandwiches, which donít require the use of sharp objects, heat, or electrical appliances, this symbol will be on almost all the recipes.
This recipe requires the use of sharp objects such as knives or graters. You need an adult around to help, and you need to pay attention!
This recipe requires the use of electrical appliances.
This recipe requires cooking either on the stovetop or in the oven. You have to be very, very careful and have an adult in the kitchen.
This recipe requires handling hot objects from either the stovetop or the oven. Be sure to use oven mitts or pot holders!
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