Kitchen Skills – Hot things

July 9, 2009 § 1 Comment

Cooking and baking require heat.  Anything hot enough to cook your dinner is hot enough to burn you.  So a bit of safety knowledge about hot items and fire is important.

Toasters, stove tops, ovens they all get hot.    Exercise common sense while working in the kitchen and use the proper safety equipment.

Equipment for Handling hot things:

Pot holders and oven mitts: Pot holders and oven mitts are absolute necessities in the kitchen.  They serve basically the same purpose:  to protect your hands from heat.   I like having at least two pot holders and one oven mitt available in the kitchen, handy at all times.  Pot holders are usually square and most have a decorative side and a Teflon or silicon heat resistant side.   Oven mitts are shaped like a mitten and commonly have a heat resistant layer covered with decorative cloth.    Most commercial mitts and holders are rated to the temperature to which they protect, but the type you find at your local department store probably won’t be.  If you get a padded mitt or holder with at least one side or layer of  neoprene (usually rated to 400degrees), silicon(can be  rated as high as 500degrees), or Teflon or silicon sprayed cloth (this will only be rated up to about 250) you can pretty much hand any common kitchen duty.   I have no idea what the plan, padded cloth would be rated to but my guess is around 200.  If you are just pulling a cookie sheet out of the oven that is probably good enough, but if you are doing much more than that spring for the  better mitts and pot holder.

A couple notes about using pot-holders and mitts.  If they are frayed, burnt, or otherwise damaged they will have the tendency to not protect very well at the damaged spot.  Save yourself the pain and replace them.    Also be careful to keep your mitts and holders dry.  A moist or wet pot holder will not protect your hand, the water in the fibers can turn to steam and really burn you.  Keep them dry.

Pot handle covers: If you like to cook in cast-iron you might want to invest in a handle cover for your pots or skillets.  These can be very nice especially if you are serving in your caste iron.

Trivets: Protect your surfaces (counters and tables) from being scorched.  It is nice to have a couple of them placed in convenient locations in the kitchen.

Splatter screens: Splatter screens are lovely when you are using hot oil, frying chicken,  making spaghetti sauce.  They can be very useful in keeping your stove top clean and to keep oil from splattering you.

Fire:

For most fires in the kitchen all you need to do is kill the heat and suffocate the fire.   If something is on fire in the oven, turn off the oven and then leave it shut until the fire stops.   If there is something in the toaster on fire unplug it and then cover with a wet kitchen towel. For stove top fires turn off the heat and cover the pot or burner.  (if your controls are located so that you can’t turn off the heat without burning yourself cover than, kill the heat.  Whatever you do NEVER throw water on a kitchen fire, especially an oil fire.

Here is why:

It is also very good to have a fire extinguisher located in the kitchen in an accessible place.  If you have a fire that is getting a little out of control then it can save your home.  Small fire extinguishers are in theory good for a long time; I have read as long as 15 years.  Check the gauge on your extinguisher when you check your fire alarms (most fire departments recommend you do this on the daylight savings switch days).  If the gauge is in the “green” zone it should be good to go.  You will also want to inspect the rubber hoses and nozzles for wear and deterioration and the handle and top lever for rust or wear.  If you see these things replace the extinguisher.   If you extinguisher is older than seven years, has no posted expiration date and no gauge you should probably replace it.  Once you use the extinguisher you will need to replaced or recharged it.   Be sure you know how to use the fire extinguisher, including how to open the clamp if it is wall mounted.  You really don’t want to be teaching yourself how to use a fire extinguisher while your kitchen is smoldering.  Also, don’t be shy about using it.  If you have a fire that is out of control, plastic burning, a big oil fire that is spreading — just use it.  They sooner you take action to put the fire out the more likely you are to actually get the fire out and while the dry-chem from a fire extinguisher is a pain to clean up it is better than having a full blown house fire.

If you catch on fire, your hair or clothing, don’t panic.   Remember the stop, drop and  roll thing.  The absolute worst thing you can do is run through the house.  If your hair is on fire smoother it with a thick towel or a wet kitchen towel or stop drop and roll if it is getting too exciting.  I caught the end of my braid on fire once when I was young and I was able to dunk it in water.   Hopefully you won’t have to ever deal with these things, but it is helpful to think about what you should do before you actually need to do something.

Kitchen Skills is a serries I am working on for my children.

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