The kitchen is a wonderful place. But for me, it’s a dangerous one, too! Sure, the room is the heart of my home, but it’s also where I’ve gotten my share of battle scars in the form of cuts, burns and a variety of other injuries. Although I’m confident I could be elected as the president of the “Klutz Club,” I recently discovered that a few of my colleagues deserve seats in my Cabinet. Here are their culinary close calls — and their tips on how to avoid causing an accident while trying to create a meal:
1. Be mindful.
I now know it would be risky if registered dietitian Keri Gans, author of “The Small Change Diet” and fellow U.S. News contributor, and I were roommates; both of us have the same bad habit of multitasking — say, folding laundry or doing work — while cooking. “At times, I actually forget that I have something on the stove,” Gans says. Heating oil or boiling eggs has even led Gans to burn her frying pan and smoke up her kitchen. “The trick for me,” she says, “is turning on the timer app on my phone — even if it is for only one minute.” Now, we just have to remember to set it!
2. Know where your knives are.
When registered dietitian Amy Gorin, owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition, was in a nutrition school cooking class, she had an accident with her chef’s knife and ended up in the ER to get her finger glued back together. Ouch! She now takes extra precaution when using her knives by washing them and then immediately placing them away in a secure knife block. Gorin’s takeaway: “Never, ever leave knives in a pile of dirty dishes in the sink,” she says.
3. Stay sharp.
“A sharp knife is a safer-to-use knife,” says registered dietitian Cindy Silver. Although it seems counterintuitive, when a knife is dull, it can more readily slip off the food you are cutting and find its way to your fingers. To prevent your fingers from being the target, enroll in a knife skills class — I know that helped me to save on bandages and doctor visits.
4. Hold onto your pot holders.
Registered dietitian Betsy Ramirez had a serious craving for pumpkin pie when she was eight months pregnant, which led to a serious injury. “I was so focused on my pie, I forgot about my belly being so big,” she recalls. “When I pulled the pastry out of the oven, it hit my stomach and put a nice 2-inch burn on my baby bump.” Although it would have been great to have used some type of abdominal protective gear, extra-long oven mitts also could have done the trick by providing a little more distance from the heat. Another solution? Using super-long silicone tongs, suggests registered dietitian Kati Mora. Because they are longer than normal, I can flip foods in a pan without oil splattering all over my hand,” she says, “and they’re perfect for helping to keep a safe distance from the barbecue grill.”
5. Put your best foot forward.
Registered dietitian Mandy Enright found out the hard way that your choice of footwear in the kitchen matters. “While I typically love to wear just socks or flip-flops around my kitchen, they can be hazardous,” she says. “I’ve had some close calls of slipping on my hardwood kitchen floor or dropping a knife just a little too close to my toes when I’m in sandals.” Although you don’t necessarily need steel-toed boots, you should wear close-toed shoes around the kitchen in order to prevent accidents.
6. Stop crying over hot peppers.
To prevent uncontrollable tearing when accidentally touching your eyes after slicing or chopping hot ingredients, Jessica Fishman Levinson, the registered dietitian behind Nutritioulicious, suggests using a pair of latex, first-aid-type gloves. “When I’m working with hot peppers like jalapeno, serrano, habanero and so on, these gloves prevent uncomfortable, painful eye burns,” she says.
7. Handle it.
“The one item that has helped me stay safe and sane in the kitchen are plastic trays with handles,” says registered dietitian Robin Plotkin. Instead of making multiple trips from the kitchen to the kitchen table, she uses trays to take everything in one direction per trip. “The fewer the trips back and forth, the fewer chances for spills and messes on the floors and counters,” she says. “And, if something does spill, the tray catches it and it can be washed off with minimal effort.”
[See: 5 High-Tech Kitchen Gadgets.]
8. Control your cutting board.
Both Ellie Krieger, a registered dietitian and host of “Ellie’s Real Good Food” on public television, and registered dietitian Christy Wilson had the same tip to show your cutting board who’s boss: “You can anchor a cutting board by laying out a damp paper towel underneath it to prevent it from wobbling and to avoid potentially slipping up with your knife and cutting yourself,” Krieger says.
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