Safety Rules for the Kitchen

Dear Tyler,

Before you get cooking, there are some extremely important safety rules you MUST follow.

If you don’t, the chance for injury to yourself or property could result.

As you start cooking, make these rules part of what you do automatically.

1) Never leave the kitchen when there is a pot or pan on the stove with a burner on.

If you have to leave the kitchen, turn off the burner.

Leaving things on the stove unattended is one of the leading causes of house/apartment fires.

Find something to do in the kitchen, wash some dishes, wipe down counters or refrigerator shelves, sweep the floor etc. just stay in the kitchen while pots and pans are on the stove.

If you are heating oil, you have to stay right there with it to avoid over heating and catching fire.

To extinguish a grease fire:

Keep a box of kosher salt or a large box of baking soda handy to throw on to a grease fire. Try to cover the pan with the lid to smother the flames.

Throw the baking soda or salt onto the flames to put out the fire if you cannot cover the pan.

NEVER! Never, ever try to put out a grease fire with water! The water will spread the fire and it will ‘explode’ all over you resulting in some pretty nasty burns.

You might want to get a small fire extinguisher to keep in the kitchen, under the sink.

2) Always leave a sign on hot pots or pans to indicate it is hot.

Nothing hurts like grabbing onto a hot handle and burning the palm of your hand! Youch! (An immediate treatment for burns is ice. It cool down the burned tissues.)

A clever way of putting ice on burned finger tips

Signal the pan is hot by placing a towel on the handle or on the edge of a pan.

Leaving a clean kitchen towel on the handle or along the side of a sheet pan signals the item it hot.

You can forget when a handle or pan is hot while cooking.

Protect yourself and others from burns by using the towel signal.

3) Probably the most important of all: NEVER, ever catch a falling knife.

Jump back out-of-the-way and let it fall.

So what if it nicks the blade. You will still have your fingers.

Knives are replaceable, your fingers are not.

There will be a post on knife safety soon.

4) Keep all handles and pans so they do not hang over any edges of ranges, counters etc.

Nothing hangs over the edge, the sheet pan and the pot handle should be moved so they don’t hang over the edge.

Turn them so they cannot be accidentally tipped over.

Nothing should be hanging over an edge, turn things so they do not.

Turn items so they aren’t hanging over the edge

Use towels to grab hot handles and hot lids.
Things have been on the stove so they will probably be hot

Always assume handles will be hot and use a folded towel to grab them.

5) Do not allow electrical cords to drape across the counter or any other place.

Put electric units close to the plug.

Unplug when not in use.

This practice prevents tripping over cords and pulling hot pots over onto yourself  or others, resulting in horrible burns.

These are best practices for learning your way around the kitchen.

Kitchens can be dangerous places so please use these safety tips.

Save yourself and others the agony of burns and cuts.

I know you are First Aid trained. Make sure you keep it up.

Have a kit handy to treat simple cuts and minor burns.

Your training will be called upon eventually either for yourself or someone else.

Most important, be able to recognize when you need to seek medical attention and do not hesitate; act quickly.

Natural-path Treatment for Burns:

Whipped egg whites, applied to cover the burn, once the whites dry, apply another layer. Leave on as long as possible.

Seek medical attention if the burn is severe.

Protect the burn from exposure to air.

Never ‘pop’ a blister.

In my work teaching culinary school, I see and tend to many kitchen injuries that can easily be prevented.

Food Safety is something you need to know about too. Read this post and organize your fridge.

I will write more about food safety in another post. For now, be sure to keep all meats cold and on the bottom shelves so they don’t drip on other foods. Keep all left overs cold unless you are eating them.

Get some cellophane wrap (Saran Wrap like) and use it to cover your food in the refrigerator.

If you need to make a sign with the safety rules to post in the kitchen, print them from your computer. Safety reminders are always a good idea.

Reminders help roommates and friends remember too.

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What is a Colander? How do you choose one?

Colanders are those strainers you use to drain larger amounts of liquid from things.

Colanders stand alone, you do not need to hold them like you do a strainer.

Here are some different types: There are some funky ones, like cow and chicken colanders;

Colander

Colander (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Colorful ones

Stylish ones

They can be made from heavy-duty plastic, ceramic, stainless steel, aluminum, copper etc.

I bought one from an artist friend once. This colander was ceramic, hand painted and unique. It had three chicken legs styled out of clay; the bottom half of the bird was all there was, it was white and the handles were the birds wings. Chickens don’t have very big wings. I couldn’t resist the cow colander either.

I like funky kitchen stuff sometimes. If it makes me smile, it gets a place in common use. This colander made me laugh so I bought it. It earned an esteemed spot on the kitchen counter for a while.

Chicken and cow colanders

Finally time to use it. I place it carefully in the bottom of the sink and drained the pasta in the colander.

I was totally beside myself and wondered why it didn’t dawn on me before that exact moment how I expected it to look.

Well, what happened was not what I thought it would be.

The chicken looked as if it were peeing all over itself; peeing like a racehorse.

That’s just not right. That imagery was all wrong.

My fun time with the chicken colander was over.

I drained the pasta, washed and dried the colander.

It holds a place in the background of my TV show set.

Now, they hold butchers twine

It is no longer used actively. Last I checked, it held several balls of butchers twine. The holes in the body (the perforations for the colander) are perfect twine guides. Thread it through a hole, pull as you need. Only on the TV show though.

I can’t have peeing animals in my kitchen.

When it comes to kitchen tools, you get what you pay for.

If you buy artisan, you can also get a show.

Stainless Steel Colanders

Over the sink colander; the handles extend to fit your sink

Here are a few pointers for evaluating a colander for purchase:

  • English: A plastic colander in a stainless kit...

    English: A plastic colander in a stainless kitchen sink. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    Take a look at all the different materials. Which do you prefer? Is the chosen material durable for my lifestyle? (Enamel chips)

  • Make sure there are lots of small holes. Small enough to retain peas. Any larger and you limit the colanders use.
  • Colander

    Colander (Photo credit: paukrus)

    Make sure the sides and bottom have holes, not just the bottom.

  • Make sure it has enough holes, a few will not strain your stuff fast or well enough
  • Will it fit in your sink? If not, where are you doing to use it?
  • Will it fit into the dishwasher?

You can store the colander with the nested stainless mixing bowls.

If you tire of your colander, you can always line it with sheet moss, fill it with dirt and plant herbs or flowers in it. Of course you will need a tray under it to catch any drips from watering.

No matter what, do not allow your friends to convince you a colander makes a good party hat. It does not and you will regret any resulting photos.

Colander

Colander (Photo credit: StefZ)

  • English: A colander, photographed by DO'Neil.

    English: A colander, photographed by DO’Neil. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How to cook – Outfitting Your Kitchen

Dear Tyler,

SO! You are moving into your first apartment. What an exciting time of your life.

Let’s talk about how to outfit your kitchen so you don’t have to eat out all the time or depend on the university’s dining plan any more.

First you will need some decent pots and pans. There is no need to go buy a full set unless you are planning on doing a lot of cooking. It is best to buy pots and pans as your cooking skills grow.

Always buy the best you can afford. Fortunately for you, I have so many pots and pans to give you but only once. The quality of these should last you a lifetime.

All-Clad and Calphalon are great brands with quality products

A basic set of good quality pots and pans.
These are made by All-Clad – The best in my opinion.

There are a lot of cheap knock offs out there.

As a general rule, NEVER buy a pot or pan with a celebrity name on it like Emeril or Rachael Ray or Paula Dean. The stuff is cheap and not the best quality. It is all about looks not performance.

If you can’t afford All Clad or Calphalon, take a good hard look at them in the store. Pick them up and feel the quality, the balance, notice the construction: how is the handle attached to the body of the pot?

Then, when you shop for other lower priced pots, you will know what top quality feels like and therefore can choose quality when you find it in other pots and pans.

SHOPPING HINT:

You can find All Clad and Calphalon sometimes at Marshall’s, TJ Max, Homegoods, Tuesday Morning all at lower than normal retail prices. They don’t always have them but when they do, they are great values.

If you can’t find them at those stores, larger kitchen stores that carry these brands often have semi-annual sales with free gifts with purchase that are really worth while. No need to ever pay full retail price for them. Take your time and look around.

Yes, this means you need to pack them and move them as you relocate. Now you are accumulating the “stuff” you need to outfit your living space.

More than likely, you will always have a kitchen to cook in from now on.

This is what I recommend you start with:

  • 1- 7 or 8″ non-stick saute pan (frying pan for eggs)
  • 1- 10″ saute pan with lid
  • 1- 2 quart pot with lid
  • 1-5 quart pot to boil water for pasta, making soup etc.
  • A series of graduated stainless bowls – at least 5 in the set
  • A colander or strainer of some kind for straining pasta, vegetables etc.
    • You can have fun with these styles, there are some funky colanders in great colors.
  • A cutting board, get one you like; acrylic or wood, your choice
  • 2 heavy-duty sheet pans – commercial 1/2  and 1/4 sheet pans are best; they last and don’t warp.

Small wares: those things you use and keep in the drawer

  • Microplane–  a hand grater in various shredding sizes.

    Various Microplane shredders

  • Peeler
  • Manual can opener – be sure to wash it when you use it
  • Bowl scrapers are handy for scooping things out of bowls or off your cutting board
  • Large metal kitchen spoons: one slotted(rectangular openings), one perforated (round openings) and one solid – these really come in handy
  • Heat resistant spatulas and bowl scrapers

    Heat resistant spatulas – lots of uses – only buy heat-resistant ones. It says so on the label. Why? Because they melt if you use them on the stove and they are not heat-resistant. Who wants plastic in their food?

  • Various wooden spoons – use on non stick pans – they are usually inexpensive and quite handy. Just don’t catch them on fire
  • Professional grade stainless steel tongs – they become like your other hands. Great for moving things in the pan without piercing ( meat). Buy sturdy ones.
  • Wire whisk – the thinner the wires, and the more of them, the more whisking/whipping action you get. Thicker/fewer wires are for dense food items, thinner ones for whipping cream, egg whites or making hollandaise
  • A decent corkscrew – you never know when you will need one
  • Set of measuring cups – look for ones that have both standard and Imperial measures so you only need one set
  • Measuring spoons – You will need them
  • Off-set metal spatula – for taking cookies off the baking sheet and flipping food in the pan
  • Several kitchen towels, sponges and washing-up cloths. You will use these for removing hot things from the oven and for wiping up messes and drying your hands.
  • Three knives:
    • 1 8-10 inch Chef knife or santoku (Which ever you prefer)
    • 1 paring knife
    • 1 boning knife
    • Made from High Carbon Stainless Steel- all about knives may come later.
      • Safety Tip!
        When removing things from the oven, make sure your towel is completely dry or else you will end up with a nasty steam burn.

With all of this, you should be ready to start cooking.

When you get these things, wash them and give them a home somewhere in your kitchen.

These are not the typical cheap things you find in most college apartments.

Take good care of your equipment and it will last you a lifetime. I have sent you top-quality pots and pans.  Wash them up after each use. Don’t let your roommate burn them up! 😉

Good pots and pans wash up neat. Use Brillo or SOS pads to remove any baked on grease or stains as they happen. Bar Keepers Friend or Bon Ami are both scrubbing powders that so not scratch so get some to help keep your pans looking brand new. DO NOT use Comet or Ajax, it will scratch too much.

As a general rule, do not put the pots and pans in the dishwasher. Hand wash. Get used to it.

NEVER put your knives in the dishwasher. The heat can make them brittle and break easier.

As I said earlier, I am giving you a great set of pots and pans, just once! You should be able to give your set to your child when they get their first apartment.

Yes, they will last that long and still be like new if you care for them.

They will cost you a small fortune to replace so make sure you take care of them and take them with you when you move.

Next we will start talking about some basic cooking skills you can easily master that will take you a long way.

Let me know what you want to learn to cook. Tonkatsu?

You already know our family favorite: Sardine and Anchovy Pasta.

You are on your own for dishes. Get something you like and fits your budget.

Love always,

Mom