Top 10 Kitchen Safety Do’s and Don’ts

Here's how to stay safe in the kitchen.

Practice these kitchen safety rules to help you and your family avoid cuts, burns and a bout of food poisoning.

1. Do learn how to use knives.

A dull knife is more likely to slip and cut you than a sharp one. Keeping your knives sharpened is one of the easiest ways to keep them safe. A simple fix is to use a knife sharpener to maintain a keen-edged blade. Also choose the best knife for the task at hand. In other words, using a meat cleaver to slice strawberries isn’t the best idea.

2. Don’t use the same cutting board for raw meat, fruits and vegetables.

We all want to avoid washing extra dishes, but this is one area in which you shouldn’t take shortcuts. Using the same cutting board for meats, fruits and vegetables is a surefire way to risk getting salmonella. To avoid cross-contamination, the USDA advises you use two cutting boards: one for raw meat, poultry and seafood, and another for fresh fruits and vegetables and bread. If you must use the same board, it’s safest to chop fruits and vegetables first, wash your cutting board thoroughly with soap and hot water, and then prep your meats. Here’s everything you need to know about cutting board care.

3. Do wash your hands.

You would think this is a given, but people forget. Don’t forget. It’s important to wash your hands in hot, soapy water before and after cooking. And to further avoid spreading food-borne illnesses, be sure to clean all your surfaces (including the sink!) where any raw meats or eggs may have touched.

4. Don’t go barefoot.

Always wear closed-toe footwear while you cook. Not only will shoes protect you from a fallen sharp object, they’ll also keep your feet safe from other kitchen mishaps such as broken glass and hot water or oil spills.

5. Do know how to put out a fire.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, there are roughly 172,000 residential cooking fires in the United States each year. In fact, cooking is the leading cause of fires and injuries that occur in our homes. Be sure to always have a fire extinguisher in your kitchen and know how to use it so you can act fast.

Learn how to deal with different types of fires such as grease and electric fires. Never put them out with water. Instead, extinguish them using baking soda or a pan cover. A fire inside your oven is best put out with an extinguisher, and a microwave fire can be extinguished just by turning off the appliance and keeping the door closed.

6. Don’t wear floppy sleeves.

Long, baggy sleeves can get in the way—not a good thing when you’re dealing with an open flame or hot liquid. In general, tops with fitted sleeves or no sleeves work best.

7. Do mind your pans.

When cooking, make sure that pot and pan handles are turned toward the center of the stovetop. That way, it’s hard to bump them and send hot liquid flying. Always have dry potholders or oven mitts close by when handling anything from the stovetop or oven. Wet or damp ones transmit heat more easily.

8. Don’t set a hot glass dish on a wet or cold surface.

There’s actually a lot of science behind this tip. Glass expands when it gets warm and shrinks when it cools down, which causes stress, resulting in a combustion of glass. That’s why you need to be careful when putting Pyrex in the oven.

Be careful with glass pot lids, too. The best place to set a glass lid is on a trivet, cutting board or potholder. Avoid setting it on a stovetop, especially a glass one.

9. Do lift and stir away from you.

When your covered pot has been simmering away, hot condensation will form on the lid. To avoid getting dripped on, angle the lid away from you when you lift it. The same goes for stirring. Make sure you always stir away from your body so you don’t get splashed by bubbling sauces.

10. Don’t use metal utensils on nonstick pans.

When you use the right utensils, nonstick pans are safe to cook with. However, metal utensils can flake or chip the nonstick coating. This can, in turn, mix toxic compounds called PFAs into your food. A better solution: use wooden or plastic spoons.

This type of pan isn’t designed to last forever. Know when to replace a nonstick pan.

Now that you know the basics, it's time to cook!
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Jennifer Shaffer
Jennifer has always had a passion for home design, the arts and travel. She is a graduate from Eastern Florida State College. Her motto: "If you never step forward, you'll always be in the same place."