10 Surprising Ways Kitchen Accidents Happen
Yes, a sharp knife can cut you and a hot lid will burn, but the causes of many kitchen injuries are much less obvious.
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Can You Spot All the Dangers in Your Kitchen?
There's nothing that spoils a weeknight family meal or special dinner party like a trip to the emergency room. And often the causes of kitchen spills, burns, falls and other disasters aren't what you'd expect. Here are 10 common culprits you might not notice until it's too late — and the best ways to circumvent them.
It sounds counter-intuitive, but a dull knife edge can be riskier than a sharp one. Why? A dull blade is more likely to bounce or slip off the food you're cutting and slice your hand instead. This is especially true when chopping fleshy, tough-skinned veggies like bell peppers and eggplant. The best defense is to keep kitchen knives sharp. Hone them regularly and keep them out of the dishwasher, where they can rattle around and lose their edge.
Slippery Cutting Boards and Unwieldy Food
If your cutting board slides away, there's a good chance you could lose control of your knife too. To hold the board in place, try this trick used by the chefs in Food Network Kitchen: Place a slightly damp paper towel or kitchen towel between the board and your counter to ensure the board stays put.
Similarly, before cutting large fruits and vegetables like melons and winter squash, trim off one rounded side to make a flat surface. This helps stabilize the food so it doesn't roll or slip on the board while you cut.
Wet Potholders and Dishtowels
Water transmits heat quickly. If you use a wet potholder to lift a bubbling pan from the oven, you'll be surprised with a whopper of a burn. Even worse, the pain could force you to let go and drop the pan, causing a bigger disaster.
Long Necklaces and Blousy Sleeves
There's a reason professional cooks wear chef jackets: Anything that's loose and hanging can get caught in kitchen machines with powerful engines (think mixers, blenders, meat grinders and pasta makers). The results aren't pretty. (Ditto for billowy sleeves absentmindedly dipped into a pot of sauce.) And the same goes for long hair in the kitchen; keep it tied back and out of the way.
A Sink Full of Sudsy Water
Toss a handful of steak knives in the sink and someone could reach into the cloudy, foamy water and get a surprising stab. Place sharp objects (like kitchen shears, chef's knives and metal skewers) on the countertop in plain sight until they're ready to be washed.
Even a little splash of grease from a roasting pan can make you slip on the kitchen floor. Getting banged up is bad enough, but you could also land on the stove and send pots and pans flying. If you can't wipe up oil or grease right away, sprinkle it generously with kosher salt to make a safer, gritty surface. Then when you have time, you can sweep up and wipe the spot clean.
Blending Hot Liquids
Flip the puree switch on a blender full of piping hot tomato soup and the whirring steam will pop the top and splatter every surface (including you!) with scalding liquid. To prevent this, puree in batches: Fill the carafe no more than halfway, remove the stopper in the center of the lid, drape the opening with a kitchen towel and hold on tight to keep the lid closed.
Bagel-related injuries (you know, BRIs) are a particularly common sight in emergency rooms. The safest way to slice this breakfast staple is to lay it flat on the counter and press down with one hand, keeping your fingertips up and out of the way. Hold a serrated knife in your other hand and slice the bagel horizontally, keeping the knife parallel to the counter. You can use a similar technique to halve an avocado, working the knife carefully around the pit. This will save your palm from a painful poke!
Pot Handles That Stick Out
Sometimes, cooking on the stove requires quick work. Reaching for a pepper mill or going in for a quick stir can be hazardous if pot handles are in the way. (Plus, they are bait to small children who may reach up to grab them.) To avoid accidentally knocking over that saucepan of simmering rice, make sure to turn the handle inward, so it won't accidently be knocked. And when removing lids from hot pots, remember to lift them away from you so any rising steam doesn't burn your face.
Throwing Water on a Grease Fire
Fight your instincts. Never pour water on a grease fire. The water will only repel and disperse the flaming oil, making an even bigger fire. Instead, pour on salt or baking soda (lots of it!) to extinguish the flames by cutting off the oxygen. Covering and suffocating the fire with a pot lid (or even a damp towel, if you can toss it on safely) should also do the trick.