Kitchen Safety – Learn from My Mistake

Last week I was using my mandoline to evenly slice potatoes for a potato au gratin recipe when I sliced my thumb because I was careless. I was not using the guard and, trust me when I say I will NEVER do that again. It wasn't that I was lazy; I just thought that I've used this so many times before and nothing has happened. I had just started slicing the potato when it happened and the guard would not have even fit securely at that point, but I should have cut the potato in half and used the guard. My thumb would be thanking me right now!

So, this incident has inspired my kitchen safety article. Besides the now obvious, use the guard whenever slicing vegetables with a mandoline, here are a few other tips.

If your recipe calls for adding any sort of alcohol to your pan on a stove and by alcohol I mean wine, cognac, rum, vodka, etc. REMOVE the pan from the flame. You are less likely to have a fire with an electric stove but don't take any chances. The short amount of time it takes to move the pan is worth it. This leads into the next safety tip.

Keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen. A small, under the sink type is perfect. It's best to get an ABC extinguisher. An ABC extinguisher will put out all types of house fires including combustibles such as paper, cardboard, wood and most plastics, flammable liquids like gasoline, kerosene, grease and oil plus electrical equipment such as fires appliances and wiring. They will have a dry chemical agent to extinguish the fire. I will leave a sticky residue but a much better option than letting a fire spread. Learn more about the different types of fire extinguishers at Fire Extinguisher: 101.

Keep your knives sharp. You may think, well, a sharp knife is just going to hurt more if I cut myself. Not true. A sharp knife actually hurts less and I can speak from experience. What a sharp knife does is make you work less hard to cut things. If you have a dull knife you may need to use more pressure to cut that onion and lose your grip, letting your hand slip and next thing you know you're on your way to the emergency room.

Don't leave the kitchen while you have things cooking on the stove especially if you are deep frying something. Things can turn bad quickly. Cooking is the number one cause of home fires, according to the Home Safety Council website. If you must leave the kitchen, turn off whatever you are making and try not to get distracted. If I have a pot boiling on the stove and need to answer the door, I turn it down and then resume the boil when I return.

Turn pot handles to the inside and don't let them hang over the edge of the stove. With the pot handles turned inward, they are less likely to be knocked off.

Learn from someone else's mistakes. Don't let an injury such as mine happen to you. Be smart in the kitchen and be safe. For more information about kitchen and home safety, visit the Home Safety Council website.