I Got Burnt: Lessons for Everyone in the Kitchen

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Have you ever seen a TV cooking show or a cookbook explain to you about safety in the kitchen and how to avoid betting burnt? 
I’ve been racking my brains and I just can’t remember an episode of ‘Masterchef’, Jamie Oliver’s shows, ‘Good Chef Bad Chef’, ‘Ready Steady Cook’, ‘Better Homes and Gardens’ or ‘My Kitchen Rules’, Luke Nguyen, Curtis Stone, ‘Surfing the Menu’ or Nigella Lawson where they actually explain what you should and shouldn’t do in a kitchen.
I mean, the obvious ones are don’t put your hands on the hot stove, in the hot oven or touch pots/dishes/plates that are straight from either of these or the microwave. But what about the simple small details that make a huge difference to your safety and welfare? I have been burnt enough times to have picked up on a few situations that they just don’t tell you about. Please read them and take heed because I don’t want you making the same mistakes I did cause no one told me!

Tip #1 – Handle direction
Do you know that you should always turn the handles of the pots so they are away from you when cooking? Why is this? So you won’t bump the pan as you cook, which could cause a fire if its oil or alcohol or burn and cause bad smoke inhalation. But did you know that when turning the handle away from you, it’s wise not to turn the handle so it’s close to or over another element? I mean, that sounds really simple, but really, do you know how many times I’ve done this? The handle heats up too (especially if made from metal!) and when I go to grab it I can burn my hand. And so can you.
This is the kind of common sense stuff that you just don’t think of when you’re stressing out about following Jamie or Nigella and trying to help the kids with their homework and stop world war three from happening. So here are a few other tips in the same vein.

Tip #2 – Steam
Steam is hot. We all know that. But when you’re working over a cramped stove or you’ve got a few pots and pans doing their thing, it’s very easy to get your arm over a spout of steam. And it hurts just as bad as a burn from touching the pot but it’s not an injury and a situation many think about. If you have pot lids with holes to vent the steam, that’s great, but make sure you angle them away from you. It doesn’t matter if the splash back gets steamy or dirty (that’s what it’s for!) but it does matter if you get burnt. Recently I’ve also started using the stirring spoon on these pots to take the lids off a venting pot as the handle gets hot from the steam too. And watch out if you’re steaming something in the microwave with cling wrap over the top. Always leave a small section of the cling wrap open when steaming this way, and then at the end of cooking, take the cling wrap off with the open section facing away from you (so stand at the other side of the bowl and peel the wrap towards yourself).

Tip #3 – Gas and other types of stoves
I grew up using a gas stove but it was a large one with plenty of space. I’m back using gas this year again and I love it, but it’s a lot smaller. I’d forgotten how careful you need to be around an open flame. I always take the items away from the side of the stove when I’m using the biggest element (I don’t use it often and it’s usually where the paper towel is kept so this gets moved pronto when I use the element). I also made the mistake a few months back of moving the pan off the stove and keeping the flame lit. All of a sudden I smelt burning and then realised that I’d singed the hairs off my forearm as I was leaning over the flame to stir the meal! DO NOT do that!

When you take the pan off the element, either turn it off, or move it to an element that you don’t have to lean over. If I’d gone any lower while stirring I could have burnt my head hair as well from leaning forward. BE CAREFUL! And electric and ceramic stoves have similar dangers so just because they’re not an open flame; don’t let that give you a false sense of security. They generate a lot of heat too so you can still end up with a burn without actually touching the element.

Tip #4 – Fish flipping
Now, this seems like a weird topic when discussing kitchen safety, but this one caught me out last year. I was cooking a long fillet of fish in a shallow dish. The fish fillet just fit the pan and I was cooking it with a bit of butter and some water had leaked out from it (it had been frozen you see). I’d created a little sauce around the fillets so when I went to flip the fish over, the hot sauce flipped into the air with the fish. As I wasn’t aware that the fish tail would do such a great job of flipping the hot water and hot butter everywhere I ended up getting burnt from my neck, down my chest and to my waist. As I was wearing thin pyjamas and a low neckline I got burnt on the neck and chest and I had a spot on the waist that hurt for a few days. It really took me by surprise and I had to wear burn pads for a couple of days afterwards (see the photos below). There are other foods like this out there, so watch out when you’re flipping foods at dinner time!

Tip #5 – Condensation spills and exploding glass
Condensation is when the heat builds up on the top of whatever you’re using. It’s usually on the inside of the lids you use to cover your foods. It is harmless when the lid is on the pot or pan as the water just drips back into the food, as it supposed to do. But when you take the lid off to check the meal, what do you do with your lid? Most people I’ve seen hold the lid at an angle with the handle at the top. And where does the condensation drip off to? That’s right, the floor! If you don’t realise you’re dripping water and liquids onto the floor you can easily end up in an accident when you’re rushing around to get everything together at the last minute. Most kitchens have slippery floors too so it’s easy to slide across the floor and break an ankle or arm. I’ve come close to doing this and I’ve learnt from it.
When you take the lid off, hold it upside down and keep it horizontal. If it’s too hot to hold, put it upside down onto a mat or tea towel, or place it right way around into the sink. If it’s a glass lid, don’t put it down flat on the bench the correct way as suction and pressure can build from the heat and cause the glass to break or explode because the temperature between the glass and the bench are too different. It happens with glass dishes taken from the oven too (and yes, I have done this twice before so I’m talking from experience). That’s why I put it into the sink because the drain is essentially an air vent in this case.
I hope I have been able to make you aware of a few of the lesser known safety issues that can happen during cooking. I don’t want this to scare you away from cooking as I want you to be aware of these things and set about doing things differently so you and your family can stay safe. Please share with me in the comments if you have any other ways to stay safe in the home.

Please stay safe!

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