Cooking a big meal for the holidays is a joyous event, as you can pour your love and expertise into every bite. But to keep loved ones safe, make sure you are careful in the kitchen. Our first tip? Slow down. Despite the frenetic pace modeled on cooking competition shows, it’s always best to pace yourself while cooking. I like to pace myself during the holiday season. I go from kibble, to nap, to crumb searching, back to nap. Professional chefs work quickly, but they also watch out for one another and take steps to follow basic safety protocols.
Avoid Foodborne Illnesses
As disheartening as it is, in terms of bacteria, home kitchens are typically more bacteria-ridden than public restrooms. And some people call dogs filthy? The good news is that if steps are taken to follow sanitary practices, you can guard against hosting a houseful of sick holiday guests.
- Wash utensils thoroughly. The dishwasher is the best method for washing, as it utilizes too-hot-to-handle water and vigorous rinsing. I recommend leaving the dishwasher open for a bit so I can do an “inspection.” I just want a quick lick! If you must hand wash items that have come into contact with raw meat or eggs, use gloves, so you can handle hot water without burning yourself, apply lots of soap, and thoroughly everything, to dispense with soap residue.
- Prevent cross contamination by using separate cutting boards for meat and veggies and fruit. Several manufacturers offer color-coded cutting boards for just this reason.
- User paper towels to remove juice from meat and raw eggs. Avoid using cloth towels, which can harbor bacteria. I won’t even eat uncooked meat for safety reasons. But “medium rare?” I’m all over it!
- Marinate and defrost foods in the refrigerator instead of on top of the kitchen counter or in the sink.
Prevent Kitchen Fires
- Much of the risk of kitchen fires can be avoided if cooks focus on the task at hand. Do not leave items on the stove and then leave to fold laundry or watch TV (or zone out on your phone – silly humans.) Instead, remain in the kitchen so you can quickly control flare-ups. Remove clutter. If you are cooking an elaborate meal, you want to clean up as you go to keep your work space clutter free. Towels or wooden utensils frequently meet burners, so keep a “clear zone” around the range top and oven.
- Thoroughly lean cooking surfaces to prevent high-fat food residue buildup, which can be flammable.
- Be careful if you are frying foods. Remember that water and hot oil are incompatible. So don’t put frozen foods into hot oil. You CAN, however, put frozen corn dogs directly into the dog’s bowl. (Just a suggestion.)
- Keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen to put out fires before they get out of control. Make sure you are using the right type of extinguisher for the fire you are battling.
Additional tips for holidays kitchen safety:
- Watch the kids. Keep children out of the kitchen during meal preparation (and out of the doghouse!) While you might be able to supervise kids in less hectic times, crowded kitchens and lots of activity can lead to accident. So save culinary lessons for after the holidays. Also, keeping children away from meal preparation will prevent curious little hands from pulling on pot handles.
- Clean up spills. A slippery floor is a major hazard in the kitchen, since people often carry sharp knives and boiling water. So immediately wipe spills until surfaces are completely dry. I know Fido and Rufus want to lick up the spills, but this is one instance where I say you should not let every dog have his day.
- Use knives properly. There is a proper way to chop different types of foods, which can prevent the loss of a fingertip and a trip to the ER on Christmas Day. In addition, remember that, as counter intuitive as it sounds, it is safer to use a razor sharp knife than a dull blade.
- Steam burns. Some foods, such as instant rice and veggies, now come in convenient plastic microwaveable packets. If you decide to use these, make sure to open away from your face.
The holidays are a busy time. Adding several relatives and planning big elaborate meals challenge even the most organized host. So follow these kitchen safety practices to ensure everyone has a happy and safe holiday season. Go into the kitchen now and give your dog gravy. (Did my “Jedi mind trick” work?)
Remember that safety is a daily priority, so be sure to think safety all of the time. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.