Kitchen Basics: Part Two
The first part of this post listed three basic rules for beginning home cooks: keep a clean kitchen, store your food appropriately, and put away and use leftovers promptly. Here are a few more basics to help you work more easily and safely in your kitchen.
4. Know your kitchen utensils. A knife is for cutting, not stirring. A spatula is perfect for flipping that burger, but not for beating eggs. Using the right tool for the job at hand makes that job easier and safer.
Keep your utensils in good shape. Sharp knives are safer because it takes less force to cut and the blade is less likely to slip and go where it isn’t intended to go (for instance, into your finger!). Keep pots and pans clean, and if they have handles that attach with screws, make sure those are tight. You don’t want a handle to fall off as you’re carrying a pan of boiling pasta to the sink. If you use a blender or food processor, make sure blades are sharp and keep them clean (but be careful as you wash them). Make sure all the pieces fit together as they should before you use any equipment. If you’re not sure, ask someone who knows, or avoid using that tool until you’re sure it’s safe.
5. Read through your recipe before you begin. Unless it’s a recipe you’ve made so often that you know it by heart, always read through your recipe and make sure you have the ingredients, equipment, and time to finish it. If something needs to cook for 30 minutes and you need to be gone within 20, choose something else for that meal. Undercooked meats, especially, are a health hazard. Read through the recipe’s instructions to make sure you understand the process for putting the recipe together, because there are times when things need to be done in quick succession. Also remember to keep the recipe nearby as you cook so you can refer to it as needed.
6. Pay attention when you’re cooking. Don’t get involved in an online game or sucked in to a movie when you need to be watching something on the stove. If you have a tendency to be distracted, use a timer to remind you when something needs checking, and set it as often as necessary until your meal is finished. You don’t want the smoke alarm going off to tell you the meatloaf is done.
With these few common sense rules, you’ll be safer and more efficient as you begin learning your way around the kitchen. If you have small children in your home, you may also want to set some rules for them, for safety’s sake. For instance, when my daughters were young, whenever I needed to open the oven, I made them stand against the refrigerator so they were out of my path as I carried hot pans to the counter. They also knew never to turn on a burner if I wasn’t around to help. A few simple rules like this can help everyone feel more comfortable in the kitchen!