5 min read
As we enter the holiday season, millions of Americans will gather around their tables to share a special meal with family and friends. Some families will try new recipes and others will relish the opportunity to prepare traditional favorites, but the kitchen will be the center of activity either way. Amidst all the hustle and bustle, you’ll want to be extra careful to avoid kitchen fires, food mishandling, and accidental injury.
Here are some tips to get you started.
Preventing Kitchen Fires
Since half of all house fires start in the kitchen, it’s especially important to practice excellent safety habits during this busy time of the year. Grease fires can erupt when hot oil or fat overheat or come in contact with a flammable substance. Combustible fires can flare up quickly if materials like plastic, fabric, or paper come in contact with a hot coil or open flame.
- Never leave appliances unattended. If you stay close, you’ll be able to intervene in the event of a faulty appliance, excess smoke, or fire.
- Keep a fresh fire extinguisher in or near the kitchen. Salt or baking soda can also help for a small flare up, but never put water on a kitchen fire – it can make it worse.
- Remove combustible materials from cooking surfaces. Keep a lid handy for pots and pans just in case – turn the cooktop off and use a lid to smother any flames.
- When cooking, don’t wear loose clothing or sleeves that dangle. In addition to interfering with easy movement, the excess fabric can easily come in contact with a hot surface or open flame.
- Use a timer to remind yourself that the stove or oven is on. Also, check food regularly if you are simmering, roasting, baking, or broiling.
You can also make your cooking experience safer and more enjoyable by cleaning the area thoroughly before you begin food preparation. Pay particular attention to cooking surfaces to avoid grease buildup.
Safe Food Handling
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 48 million people get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die from foodborne infection and illness in the US each year. Many of these are children, older adults, or people with compromised immune systems. It’s important to minimize risk by knowing and practicing safe food handling behaviors.
- Go straight home from the market after purchasing your groceries. Perishable foods should be refrigerated within 2 hours, so don’t run errands after you have made your food purchases.
- Check the labels for dates. If a product does not have a date, write the purchase date on it with a Sharpie. Place newer items in the back so you’ll use older products first.
- Place raw meat, poultry, or seafood in separate plastic containers or sealed bags. This prevents juices from dripping and causing potential cross-contamination.
- Wash your hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds prior to food preparation. You should also wash after handling food, using the bathroom, changing diapers, or touching pets.
- Follow the CDC’s 6 steps to preparing your holiday turkey safely. Turkey and its juices can be contaminated with germs so be sure you know how to handle this before you begin.
Harmful bacteria can contaminate kitchen surfaces and quickly spread to cutting boards, utensils, and countertops. Start with a clean kitchen and use hot, soapy water and a clean dish cloth (or paper towels) to wipe up spills. Wash dish cloths after each use in the hot cycle of your washing machine.
Preventing Injury in the Kitchen
Accidental injury can occur in any room in your home, but the kitchen is a particularly high-risk environment. Hot surfaces, open flames, and sharp objects are regular elements of meal preparation. The holidays present wonderful opportunities for meal preparation and social gatherings but having too many people present in your kitchen can be hazardous.
- Keep children and pets out of the kitchen. Children are particularly susceptible to burns either from their curiosity or from hot liquid spills. Pets present a tripping hazard, so keep them out.
- Sharpen knives before using them. Dull knives can be more dangerous than sharp ones. Since cuts from knives are the most common kitchen injury, carefully handle and store them.
- Don’t wear open-toe shoes in the kitchen during meal prep. Exposed toes are far more likely to sustain an injury. Consider wearing sneakers or slip-ons with a rubber sole for extra grip.
- Turn pot handles toward the back of the stove during cooking. This way they won’t be accidentally bumped, and children can’t grab them.
- Arrange your work surface so you won’t have to carry hot liquids too far. Consider using a tray or trolley if you need to carry hot liquid to another room.
If you get a mild burn while working in the kitchen, run the area under cool water or wrap it in a cool, damp cloth. You can download the Red Cross First Aid App for free. Accidents happen, but this app can help you be ready to help with the click of a button. And just in case of more serious injuries, make sure you know where the closest urgent care or emergency room is located.
Make sure your family has a safe and joyful celebration this year. Keep these tips in mind and you’ll be well on your way to a happy holiday.