Many of us have fond memories of the many “don’ts” we were given as children when it came to kitchen safety. Don’t run with a knife. Don’t touch a hot stove. Don’t put metal in the microwave. As adults, we take these things to heart, especially when we think about our own children and families. But kitchen safety can be a lot more complex than hot stoves, sharp knives and exploding microwaves.
The reality is that we often ignore some of the more important aspects of kitchen safety. Kitchen hygiene and food hygiene are a major concern, especially when working with raw meat. Preventing falls is important because of the obvious risk of hitting countertops and falling on sharp objects. Kitchen fire safety, and especially kitchen safety for kids, are also issues that we should concern ourselves with. To take out some of the guesswork, here are some tips for keeping your kitchen clean and safe.
Kitchen Safety Tips
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Kitchen Fire Safety
Fire is an essential part of the cooking process, but also one of the most dangerous parts. Much of what we cook with can be flammable, and without proper know-how for kitchen fire safety, a fire in the kitchen can quickly get out of hand.
- Keep the stovetop clean—especially the burners.
- Keep flammable objects away from fire.
- Do not throw water onto an oiled pan.
- Put a smoke detector no less than 10 feet from a cooking area.
- Keep a chemical fire extinguisher nearby
The oven top is usually the most utilized part of a kitchen when it comes to fire. It can also be the most dangerous. Cooking with oil regularly can lead to oil buildup on the stove top if it is not cleaned regularly. To avoid accidental fires, make sure to clean the burners as well as the areas under the burners, and any place where oil might have splashed.
This may seem obvious, but the flurry of activity during cooking can lead to carelessness. For safety reasons, keep easily flammable materials such as paper towels, kitchen towels and pot holders away from the stove, even when it is not in use.
Grease fires have been the cause of a large number of house fires. All oils used in cooking can burn at certain temperatures. If you see that the oil you are using is starting to smoke, the oil is too hot. Remove it from the stove immediately. If a grease fire does occur, do not throw water on it! A grease fire must be suffocated, not drowned. This means turning off the heat, and covering the area (stovetop, pot, etc.) with a top, another pan, or a dry material that won’t easily ignite, such as baking soda or salt.
While our first instinct might be to make sure the smoke detector is close to the kitchen in case a fire happens, it is best to place one at least 10 feet away from cooking appliances. This is to help avoid false alarms that can arise if the smoke detector is too close.
The kitchen is the source of many house fires. Keeping a fire extinguisher here is a logical move. So if a fire does occur, you will have a means of putting it out nearby.
Kitchen Safety for Kids
It’s always fun to bring our children into the kitchen with us. However, they can sometimes be a bit careless in the kitchen. Kitchen safety for kids can change depending on their age.
- Install motion sensors on all lower cabinets and drawers.
Make sure that all cabinets within their reach have motion sensors on them, so that you know if children are opening them. Drawers can be a concern for slightly older children, who are able to pull drawers open and may even pull them all the way out. If these drawers are filled with sharp object, it could result in injuries.
- Keep dangerous chemicals and materials away from reach.
It’s best to keep things such as cleaners, soaps and especially candy-looking dishwasher pods in high places well out of a child’s reach. Similar to the lower cabinets and drawers, it may be a good idea to add some sensors or locks where you store these chemicals.
- Keep pot and pan handles on the stove turned inwards.
Toddlers and smaller children may be interested in what’s on the stove. A pot or pan handle can be too tempting to pass up. To keep small children from scalding themselves with hot water or oil, turn all pot and pan handles toward the inside of the stove.
- Keep medication out of the reach of children.
Younger children may mistake medication as candy or food and try to eat them. Therefore, you should make sure that you store medicine and pills out of their reach. Another thing you can do is add a door sensor on that cabinet so that you are notified immediately if any child is trying to access your medication.
Tell children to not stick objects into the toaster.
Children may be tempted to stick metal objects into the toaster. This can cause electrocution or damage your appliance. Teach them about the dangers of doing this.
When we think of good hygiene we often think of our own bodies. We learn at a young age that keeping our bodies clean is important for disease prevention. The same holds true for our kitchens. We expect good hygiene in the kitchen for the restaurants that serve us food. We should also expect the same from our own home kitchen. This includes paying close attention to the overall cleanliness of the kitchen itself, and in food hygiene.
- Clean kitchen surfaces regularly with a disinfectant.
It is important to ensure that all of the surfaces in your kitchen are routinely disinfected, especially after cooking with meat. Chicken in particular is known to carry several kinds of bacteria that can cause serious infections, including Salmonella.
- Wash your hands with soap and water before and after handling food—especially raw meat.
Kitchen and food hygiene starts with avoiding cross contamination. As with cleaning surfaces, cleaning your hands regularly during food preparation will avoid spreading material from one piece of food to another. This is not only important in avoiding cross contamination of bacteria, but also the potential for moving food particles from one type of food to another. The increase in allergies to such things as peanuts and shellfish make avoiding cross contamination extremely important.
- Fully wash and cook all foods, especially meat.
Here again, bacteria are the number one concern for food and kitchen hygiene. While some meats, such as steak and pork, typically only carry bacteria on the outer portion of the meat, chicken can carry the bacteria all the way through. Ground meats can also carry bacteria all the way through. This includes meats like beef and pork. Meat must reach 145 degrees Fahrenheit in order to effectively kill bacteria in the food. Some vegetables may also carry bacteria. Organic greens, which are often grown with animal-based fertilizers, have been known to carry the E. Coli virus. Fully cleaning and cooking food will help prevent these from spreading.
- Keep hidden areas around the kitchen clean from crumbs and fallen food.
Bits of food left around in the kitchen can rot, which itself is not desirable. However, these same pieces of food can also attract rodents, roaches and ants, all of which lead to a dirtier kitchen. Keeping surfaces clean after cooking and the areas around where food was prepared will help avoid attracting pests.
Other General Kitchen Safety Tips
There are many kitchen safety tips that move beyond very clearly defined categories. These especially are things every person needs to consider.
- Keep electrical appliances away from water and regularly check for frayed wires.
If your appliances get in contact with water, it can cause electrocution. Make sure your outlets and cords attached to your appliances are not near water. All cooking appliances get old eventually. Check to make sure that the cords or wires on your appliances are still in good order. Frayed wires can cause sparks, which can lead to fires.
- Store knives away from children’s reach and handle with care.
Even dull knives can cause cuts. When using knives, always ensure that you are
a) using a cutting board,
b) cutting away from your body and not toward it and
c) never handling a knife with slippery hands.
- Avoid using chairs as stepping stools.
While some chairs may be fairly stable, most chairs are not designed for standing on. A good, stable stepping stool should help reach tough-to-reach places. And especially, never use a regular stool made for sitting on as a replacement for a stepping stool!
- Have someone responsible clean up broken glass.
Anytime glass breaks in the kitchen, make sure you, or someone responsible immediately cleans it up properly. This should include vacuuming any shattered pieces and properly disposing them before allowing others into the kitchen again.
- Keep first aid kit close by.
Accidents happen in the kitchen fairly easily. Keep a first aid kit, including bandages, close by in the case of a cut or any burns.