As is evident from the bountiful photos on the blog of the boys helping me cook, you can tell they love to cook in the kitchen with me. But before they started learning to cook, we went over a few safety rules to help keep everyone healthy and safe.
These are great basics to go over with children as they start to work in the kitchen, but they are also great reminders for the seasoned cook as well. It never hurts to have a reminder of what we can do to while we are preparing food for our families.
Before you do anything at all, wash your hands. Wash them well. Don’t skip out on this because your hands can carry bacteria that will then be transferred to the food you are prepping. Make sure to practice safe hand washing: use hot water, use antibacterial soap, wash for at least 20 seconds, dry with a clean towel. But remember, it’s not only essential to wash your hands before you start cooking, but also any time you come in contact with a contaminant in the kitchen.
Don’t Touch your Hair
One of those contaminants that you want to watch out for is your hair. I don’t care how often you wash your hair, you don’t want to be touching it while you are cooking. For one thing, hair is not always clean. And another, you really don’t want any hair to fall into the food you are preparing. There’s a reason chefs wear a hat or hairnet besides the style!
Avoid cross-contamination at all costs. Cross-contamination is defined as ‘the process by which bacteria or other microorganisms are unintentionally transferred from one substance or object to another, with harmful effect.’ In other words, keep raw ingredients away from finished foods. Raw meat is the worst, especially chicken. Anything that touches raw foods needs to be thoroughly cleaned before used again.
Clean as you cook to help keep surfaces free from bacteria (no cross-contamination, remember?). Don’t forget about the utensils as well as any cutting boards that are used with raw foods. This also goes for cleaning up everything when you are done cooking. You don’t want to leave dirty dishes sitting for hours after you are done since they can start to build up bacteria.
Wear Safe Clothing
There are multiple opportunities for clothing to cause a problem when you are in the kitchen. Beware of loose clothing because it could become a fire hazard, especially if you are working with a gas stovetop. Roll up any long sleeves, and don’t forget to tie back long hair that could also get in the way. One of the best things to wear is a cooking apron because it helps hold the clothing back and protects your clothes from getting dirty while you are cooking.
Take Your Time
Make sure to read through the ingredients and instructions carefully so you don’t miss a step. And don’t try to rush around the kitchen. Unless something is on fire, you should not be running or rushing around. This can cause accidents which, in the kitchen, usually can cause some type of injury. Stirring something too fast can make it splatter. Trying to increase the heat to lower the cook time can result in burned food. When you are making a new recipe, give yourself extra time so you make sure to do it properly.
Clean Up Spills
If you spill something, anything, clean it up immediately. Don’t leave a bit of water on the ground that you or someone else can slip on, especially because that person may be carrying sharp or hot objects. If it’s only water, a regular dish towel will suffice. If you spill something sticky, make sure to use some soap. And if you spill something gross (like raw egg or drop a piece of meat) then you want to make sure to use something that will kill the germs. I like to keep a spray bottle with some OnGuard essential oils and water in the kitchen for the gross spills.
Basic First Aid
There are so many opportunities for accidents in the kitchen, but don’t let that deter you from cooking, or from letting your children learn to cook with you. Just make sure you have a well-stocked first aid kit in the house and know some basic first aid techniques.