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Don't Let Your Kitchen Be a Danger Zone

Apr 1, 2008
Kitchens may be affectionately billed as the social hub of the home, but they are also a potentially lethal mix of knives, fire, gas and bacteria. Follow a few basic rules however, and you'll have a safe environment in which to feed your family and entertain your friends.

Probably the most alarming hazard in a home is an out of control fire. Fires can spread rapidly and are very difficult to put out safely, so make sure you never start one. If you have a gas oven or hob always double check that the gas is turned off if you've finished cooking. Gas is transparent and silent, making it a sinister danger. Cooking can involve highly flammable substances such as oil and alcohol so use them with care. If you are deep fat frying then play safe and invest in a deep fat fryer. These are designed to only get to a certain temperature and are self contained, so the risk of a fire is minimal.

Fire causes smoke damage which can be a big job to put right too - and of course smoke can damage your health if it's inhaled. Don't have tea towels or anything flammable such as paper or cardboard anywhere near the hob and keep the hob and oven clean so that debris doesn't catch alight.

Even if you don't cause a fire and smoke damage, you could burn yourself. Always use oven gloves when handling pots and turn pot handles away from burners and away from the edge of the hob. This is particularly important to avoid burning children who may reach up and grab an enticing looking handle, only to be covered in boiling water or burning fat. Also be careful of steam - whether you are steaming vegetables or boiling a kettle, steam burns so watch out.

Knives aren't allowed on the street but people freely use them in their kitchens. Even top chefs cut themselves so don't kid yourself it couldn't happen to you. Always use a proper chopping board for cutting and cut away from yourself. Keep knife handles clean so they aren't slippery and never try and catch a falling knife - if it puts a gash in your floor or work surface that's better than an injury to you.

Another big risk in a kitchen is food poisoning. The most risky foods are arguably raw eggs and meat. Have special chopping boards for meat to avoid contamination and thoroughly clean any implements that have been in contact with raw meat and eggs before using them for anything else.

Never store raw and cooked meat together. Raw meat should always be placed in the bottom of the fridge or freezer so that if any blood escapes from the packaging it won't fall on other food. And all food should be covered when its in the fridge or freezer, or indeed if it's on the work surface. When thawing raw food make sure it thaws completely and then cook it properly.

If you're unlucky enough to have a power cut or a fridge-freezer break down don't panic. Freezers keep food frozen for at least 24 hours if they a fully packed and the doors aren't opened. But if food does appear to have defrosted then either defrost it thoroughly, cook it and eat it, or throw it away. Food should not be refrozen once partially or fully defrosted.

Use your common sense if you think food is no longer fresh. Don't just rely on sell-by dates. If dairy products or fresh food doesn't smell right, chances are it may make you ill so cut your losses and chuck it out.

It's really important to teach children the essentials of kitchen safety. From as early as possible teach them to be careful with "hot" things. Quickly letting a young child touch just a very warm cup will help them get the message without hurting them. And when older children start helping in the kitchen make sure they can use a knife sensibly - get them to cut soft things with a plastic knife to hone their technique. And of course make sure they wash their hands before, during and after helping in the kitchen. You can make this fun with bubbles so that it's not a chore.

Follow these few simple rules and your kitchen will be a welcoming, sociable place rather than a danger zone.
About the Author
Expert home improver India Cooper advises customers on how make the kitchen a safe environment. To find out more please visit http://www.ratedpeople.com/find/kitchen
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