Avoiding kitchen cuts and burns

January 7, 2013

Some ways to avoid cutting and burning yourself in the kitchen, and how to treat the injury if you do:

●Take a knife skills class,
offered by some cooking stores and schools, to get personalized training in the best way to hold a knife and to use it properly.

●Cut on a cutting board, not in your hand or on your lap or anywhere else. If the cutting board slides, put a wet dish towel under it to stabilize it.

●Cut away from, not toward, your body.

●When cutting food, first create a flat surface. That means carefully cutting an orange or an onion in half, then placing the flat side down on the cutting board before proceeding.

●Learn “the claw,” a way of curling back the fingers of the hand that is holding the food as you cut it with the other.

●If a knife falls, do not try to catch it, and step away as quickly as you can.

●Don’t use your knife to open a package; use scissors instead.

●Let frozen food thaw before trying to separate it with a knife. Freeze items individually so they’re easier to separate in the future.

●Keep your knives sharp. Dull knives not only require more work, leading to more
accidents, but wounds made with sharp knives heal better.

●If you cut yourself, use
water, not alcohol or peroxide, to thoroughly clean the wound and prevent infection. Apply
direct pressure to the cut, raise your hand above your heart to help stop the bleeding, and apply a sterile bandage. (Antibiotic ointments may help prevent infection but may also cause an allergic reaction.)

●Seek medical attention if the wound is gaping, won’t stop bleeding or is particularly deep. If you think you need stitches, get to the hospital quickly, because time is of the essence to close the wound before it gets infected.

●To prevent burns, always use oven mitts, not makeshift items such as folded napkins, to handle hot pans.

●Use mitts when opening pots of boiling or steaming water, and open the lid away from you to let steam escape safely.

●Turn the handles of pots and pans toward the center of the stove — but not over a burner — so you can’t accidentally touch them.

●If you burn yourself, cool the wound under cold water, but don’t use ice, which can cause skin damage.

●Seek medical attention for any burns to the face and for other burns if they blister or if the pain cannot be controlled with over-the-counter medication.

Joe Yonan

Sources: Susan Holt, CulinAerie;
Sanjay Shewakramani, Georgetown University Hospital; Consumer
Product Safety Commission; National Fire Protection Association.

Joe Yonan is the Food and Travel editor of The Washington Post and the author of "Eat Your Vegetables: Bold Recipes for the Single Cook." He writes the Food section's Weeknight Vegetarian column.
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