Kitchen Safety For Kids
Kitchen Safety and Cooking Tools
Kitchen safety includes having the right tools to make cooking easier and safer. At the top of your list should be a few good knives that you've learned how to use correctly.
By Julie Davis
Medically Reviewed by Niya Jones, MD, MPH
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A well-equipped kitchen makes cooking easier, and knowing the best way to use and care for your cooking tools and other supplies makes cooking safer.
You can go as simple or as elaborate as you want when outfitting your kitchen, but you really need only a few key pieces for basic food preparation.
Choosing Good Knives and Using Them Safely
A good set of kitchen knives may seem like a costly investment, but well-made knives can last for decades with the proper care — and they're easier and safer to use. Here are some tips that will help you choose the right knives and care for them properly:
- A huge array of knives isn’t necessary. Start with an 8-inch, straight-edged chef’s knife for cutting most foods and a 10-inch serrated knife that will work well on thick breads and roasts.
- While many knives are dishwasher-safe, they will last longer if you wash them by hand in hot water and detergent and then immediately towel dry. When washing any sharps in the sink, however, be sure to place them tip down into the dishwater so you can avoid handling the blade when taking them out.
- Try not to use kitchen knives for odd jobs around the house — it’s not good for the knife and not safe for you. Protect knives and keep them out of the reach of children by storing them in a knife block or on a magnet bar.
- With repeated use, knives become dull, and a dull knife is more likely to cause an accident. Keep your knives sharp by using a tool called a sharpening steel. Electric or manual knife sharpeners are also options for non-serrated blades.
- Professional chefs train for hours to learn safe, effective cutting techniques, but here are the basics:
- Hold the knife firmly and close to the blade for better control. The fingers of your opposite hand, which you'll use to hold the food in place, should be curled under (with your thumb tucked underneath) and held parallel to the blade to act as a guide. Inch your hand back as you make each slice to avoid cutting yourself.
- To keep a fruit or vegetable like a cucumber or a bell pepper steady while cutting it, start by slicing it in half lengthwise, then position it cut side down and continue.
Cutting Boards and Pots and Pans
Choose a cutting board that can be easily cleaned, and one made of either a dishwasher-safe material or a hard maple. If possible, buy two cutting boards and designate one just for raw meats, poultry, and fish. Always clean the cutting board after use to prevent food poisoning. To create a secure, safe surface for cutting, place a damp dishcloth under the board to keep it from sliding around on the table or counter.
Pots and pans made of heavier metal distribute heat better, but are harder to lift when full, especially larger stockpots. Deborah Quilter, a New York-based ergonomics expert and author of two books on repetitive strain injury, notes that lifting heavy pots can lead to back and upper arm strain. "Lots of professional chefs discover this when they become injured from repeatedly lifting heavy cookware," Quilter says. She offers the following tips:
- Choose lightweight cookware to avoid strain.
- A pot with two generous handles on either side will be easier to handle than one with a single or short handle.
- “Keep heavy pots on the front burners, and slide — rather than lift — them whenever possible, of course using kitchen mitts so you don't burn your hands,” says Quilter.
Introducing Kids to Cooking Tools and Kitchen Safety
Kitchen safety for kids starts with preventing accidental poisonings. Move detergents, pesticides, and other harmful household chemicals that are typically kept under the kitchen sink to a high cabinet, or use safety locks to protect toddlers and crawling babies from ingesting these poisons, warns Adriana Matiz, MD, a pediatrician at New York-Presbyterian's Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital and an assistant professor of clinical pediatrics at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.
Next is preventing burns. “The kitchen is an area for a significant number of injuries from boiling water and hot pots,” adds Dr. Matiz. Reinforce rules about what is okay and what isn’t okay to touch. “Keep pot handles turned in so they’re not accessible to a child, and don’t hold a hot pot while you’re holding a child,” Matiz further cautions.
When it comes to helping out in the kitchen, every child is different. It’s difficult to put an age on kitchen readiness — a 6-year-old may or may not be ready, depending on her stage of development, says Matiz, adding, “If you’re unsure about your child’s motor skills, ask your pediatrician.”
No matter what your child’s age, be sure to demonstrate the correct behavior. “The right modeling is critical, and explain while you’re modeling — say why you’re doing that and why it’s important,” Matiz advises. That adds up to kitchen safety for the whole family.
Video: What not to do in the kitchen/health and safety - Jamie Oliver's Home Cooking Skills
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