Dangerous Things You Do in the Kitchen — Without Realizing It!
Unless you're a professional chef, you probably don't know all there is about cooking and kitchen safety. As a result, there's a lot you're doing in the kitchen that isn't too good for you — or the people around you. The good news? You don't have to enroll in a cooking class to get on the right track. Just read our list of the most common cooking mistakes people don't realize they make, and you'll be back in the kitchen with confidence.
Not Thawing Your Food Properly
It's tempting to leave a frozen chicken on the countertop to thaw — or, if you're running low on time, to throw it in hot water. Sorry to tell you, but these methods are not safe for your food. Instead, they're a good way to invite bacteria growth; letting raw meat sit at room temperature creates prime conditions in which germs can thrive.
Slow-cooking Frozen Foods
Similar to incorrectly thawing ingredients, putting frozen foods in a slow cooker increases the risk for bacteria growth. This is because a slow cooker, as the name implies, cooks meat too slowly to bring it to a safe temperature fast enough. Instead, your meat hangs out in the 40- to 140-degrees-Fahrenheit range — what some call the "danger zone."
Not Wearing Correct Clothing
You probably don't have a chef's hat and uniform lying around, but that's not what we mean by "correct clothing" — it's a lot simpler than that. You just need to cover the areas that need some extra protection. For example, it's common for oil to splatter during cooking, so it's a good idea to wear long sleeves over your arms.
Not Preparing Your Kitchen for Cooking
A huge part of cooking is the kitchen itself — you need the correct dishes and the correct appliances. Something that people often overlook, however, is what they put on the floor. Let's face it. Spills happen, and a lot of people put rugs down so that those spills don't stain their floors.
Assuming You Know How to Cut Your Vegetables
We hate to tell you you're doing it wrong, but you just might be. There’s a specific method for using a knife that’s the safest for your fingers. Unless you've been lucky enough to have someone teach you, it's not necessarily instinctual.
Not Washing Your Hands
Okay, maybe this one seems like a no-brainer, but you'd be surprised how many people don't wash their hands before cooking. Especially if you're simply whipping together dinner for yourself, you may think, "They're my hands and it's food for me, so it's not that important, right?"
Improperly Using the Microwave
It seems pretty straightforward. You type the length of time you want to heat something, and then press the start button. This is true to a certain extent, but you have to be sure you're cooking things well, especially with a microwave.
Causing Cross-contamination Galore
One of the most important precautions in the kitchen is guarding against cross-contamination. This happens when, for example, you cut raw chicken on a cutting board and then slice veggies in the same spot without cleaning it. This allows bacteria from raw meat to transfer to other foods and can lead to illness.
Putting Water on a Grease Fire
This crucial bit of knowledge is becoming more and more well-known, but it's not the easiest to remember. After all, the first thing most people think when they see a fire is "water!" If your cooking oil catches fire, absolutely do not head for the sink sprayer. Instead, cover the fire with something (like the pan’s lid) or pour salt or baking soda on top.
Not Caring for Your Shopping Bags
If you've started using canvas bags instead of plastic bags, that’s great! This is a fast-growing trend that helps make everyone’s efforts more sustainable. Just be sure, however, that you're regularly washing those bags, because this is a place where cross-contamination can occur.
Obsessing Over Olive Oil
This cooking mistake isn't as critical as some others on our list, but it's still a common one. Lots of people use olive oil instead of canola or vegetable oil because they think it's healthier for them, but it doesn't always work as well as it should.
Not Cooling Leftovers ASAP
If you're accustomed to cooking up a batch of food and leaving it on the stovetop for later, consider changing this pattern. Food — especially meat — is safest when very hot or considerably cool. If you leave things out until they reach room temperature, then bacteria can very easily begin to grow.
Not Eating Those Leftovers ASAP
Once you get those leftovers in the fridge, it's also best not to leave them there for very long. Generally, cooked meat is only good for a couple of days, and non-meats are fine for only a week. You can check out a full chart of items and their lifespans here.
Not Taking Care of Your Glassware
It may seem like the thick casserole dish your mom gave you for your birthday can withstand anything. After all, it's made to be durable. Just like everything, however, glass cookware has a weakness: rapidly changing temperatures.
Mixing Hot and Cold
Any instance in which something extremely hot comes in contact with something extremely cold can lead to dangerous consequences. In fact, a common cause of burns is when people try to put frozen foods into hot or boiling water (or oil). This is because the food expands so quickly in the heat that it causes the liquid to splatter.
Forgetting to Replace Your Sponge
It's one of those things that you think about when you're doing the dishes, and then promptly forget once you leave the kitchen, but buying new sponges is necessary when it comes to kitchen safety. Just think about all the different ways you use your sponge every day.
Failing to Keep an Extinguisher on Hand
Everyone should have a fire extinguisher in or near their kitchen. In a pinch, it can mean the difference between a house fire and a stovetop fire. One of those is a lot less dangerous (and a lot less expensive to repair).
Thinking You Need to Wash Your Meat
It's a common misconception that you need to wash raw meat before cooking it. Sure, it's good to wash fruits and vegetables, but when it comes to meat it's sadly a lost cause. Running a chicken breast or other raw meat under the faucet will actually just spread bacteria around, getting it on your hands and potentially on your sink as well.
Letting Meat Marinate on the Counter
If your recipe requires that you marinate the meat, whatever you do, don't leave it out on the counter. It may seem easier to set it aside while you start on other dishes or while you clean the kitchen, but it's a mistake that can prove dangerous.
Running to the Mailbox (or Anywhere Away From the Kitchen)
Have you ever been in the middle of cooking when the doorbell rings? Or you remember you forgot your phone in the car? Often, people leave their pots and pans unattended on the stove, and it has led to disaster on more than one occasion.
Eating Raw Mixes
This is more of a baking mistake than a cooking one, but it applies all the same. Perhaps you've just mixed up the batter for the Thanksgiving brownies or are rolling dough into cookies with your nephew, and you can't resist sticking a finger in for a taste.
Grabbing a Wet Oven Mitt
It's important to be vigilant when handling hot objects. You must be wary not to slip or fumble, and you have to steer clear of anyone else who’s around. There’s another danger, however, that lurks in the kitchen. It's your oven mitt.
Not Using a Meat Thermometer
You're probably aware by now that the safety of your meat depends largely upon its temperature. When you cook meat, it must reach a specific internal temperature to be safe to consume. The only way you can truly monitor this is by using a meat thermometer, so it's time to get one if you don’t already have one.
Using Unsharpened Knives
This one is easy to forget about. A brand-new knife might be perfectly sharp, but over time it’ll grow dull on you and stop slicing foods as well. When this happens, you need to have a knife sharpener on hand to keep it chopping through onions like butter.
Letting Your Pot Handles Stick Out
If you're used to having kids around, you know how much they like to grab things. Imagine a child seeing a mysterious handle sticking out above them — how can they not give in to temptation by reaching out and grabbing it? Because of this, always keep handles turned inwards when you have pots on the stove.
Letting the Kids Make Messes
Teaching your kids how to cook is a wonderful thing — just make sure you take the necessary precautions. Not only are kids wizards at making messes, but they can also easily hurt themselves. With all of the heat and sharp objects in a kitchen, kids must be supervised whenever they're in this space.
Leaving the Oven Door Open
On a chilly winter evening, it might seem like a good idea to crack the oven open and let it heat up the house. This is especially appealing if you're struggling with sky-high heating bills, but don't be fooled. It's not very safe to leave the oven on with the door open, and it’ll still cost you money.
Using Super-old Kitchen Appliances
It's easy to keep an old appliance around even when you know it's falling apart. Who wants to spend money on a new toaster when you could spend it on a night out? The truth is, though, that the older the appliance is, the more likely it’ll be to malfunction — and some malfunctions could prove dangerous.
Talking on the Phone While Cooking
Everyone likes to chat with friends. It can be dangerous, however, when you combine chatting with friends and handling hot or sharp objects in the kitchen. Just like when you’re driving a car, talking on the phone distracts you from focusing on what you're doing. Even worse, it limits you to just one hand.
Cleaning Your Kitchen With Too Much Bleach
When all of the cooking fun ends and the time comes to wipe down the kitchen, many people turn to a bleach solution for cleaning. This is generally a good idea — bleach will effectively kill the majority of bacteria. The danger comes when people don't adequately dilute the bleach.