Tips to Get Kids Cooking Safely

Jenny Chandler

Food writer, cookery teacher and former UN FAO Special Ambassador for Pulses, Jenny (jennychandlerblog.com) hosts demonstrations and writes for Borough Market. Her latest book is Green Kids Cook.

SAFETY FIRST 

There seem to be lots of rules, but once you’ve got into the habit of working safely in the kitchen you won’t need to read them every time. 

Always let an adult know when you’re planning to cook. Cooking can be great fun but there are plenty of potential hazards. Have a good look at the recipe before you start. Together you can work out, depending on your age and experience, how much help or supervision you will need when using sharp, hot or electrical equipment. 

When you see this symbol in a recipe: !!!! it means beware – time to call an adult to help. 

KEEP CLEAN AND TIDY

Always wash your hands before you begin. Germs can contaminate your food and make people ill. 

Tie back long hair; it can get in the way or, worse still, end up in the food. 

Wear an apron when stirring and frying. It will keep your clothes clean, as well as protecting you from hot splashes. 

Clear the work surface so that you can be really focused. 

Get everything you need ready for the recipe: that’s all the equipment and every ingredient. There’s nothing worse than finding that you’re missing the vital piece of the puzzle once you are halfway through. 

Wash chopping boards, equipment and hands between jobs and especially well after preparing raw meat and fish. 

Keep a roasting tin next to you as you work for all your rubbish, separating compost from recycling as you go. You’ll feel organised and calm. Empty the tin into the relevant bins. 

When you’ve finished, wipe up any spills off the floor or your kitchen can become like an ice rink. 

Don’t forget to clear and clean up properly. 

Tips to Get Kids Cooking Safely | Veg Power

WATCH THE HEAT!!! 

Always use proper oven gloves; towels can get caught in doors or drag in the food. Use the gloves whenever you place something into or take something out of the oven. 

Steam can burn, so take great care when opening the oven door or taking the lid off a pan. Always use oven gloves. 

Hold onto a pan handle when stirring so that the pan is stable and doesn’t tip over. 

Metal spoons get very hot so always use a wooden spoon for stirring over the heat. 

Turn pan handles away from the edge of the cooker where you or anyone else might knock into them. 

Call for help when lifting heavy, hot pans and dishes. 

Have a space ready for hot dishes and cake tins when you bring them out of the oven. This needs to be heat resistant so you don’t scorch the work surface. 

BE SWITCHED ON!!! 

Ask an adult’s permission before using any electrical equipment; you may require some help. 

Always dry hands before plugging in or switching on – wet hands could lead to a bad electric shock. 

Never put your fingers anywhere near the blades or whisks of any electrical appliance. 

Switch off, and unplug any electrical equipment before taking it apart to wash. 

Tips to Get Kids Cooking Safely | Veg Power

USING KNIVES!!! 

Learn to use a sharp knife with some adult help. This is actually safer than using a blunt knife which can slip more easily. 

Use a knife that is not too large or heavy in your hand. A paring knife (the blade is about 10cm/4in long) is a good size to start with. You can use bigger knives as you become more confident. 

FOCUS – no music, no chat, no larking about, you really do need to concentrate: your fingers are not on the ingredient list. 

Peelers and graters are sharp too. Make sure that you have a flat, steady chopping board to work on and watch your fingers and knuckles. 

HANGING ON TO YOUR FINGERS BEFORE YOU GET STARTED 

Find a surface the right height – just below waist height is ideal. It might be the kitchen table rather than the work surface. 

Don’t stand on a rickety stool; you could fall with your knife. You will need a solid, wide step if your work surface is too high. 

Wear shoes (not sandals or flip-flops) when you are cooking. They will protect your feet if you drop a knife or any hot food. 

Always chop on a flat, steady chopping board. If your board moves about, then put a piece of damp kitchen paper underneath to hold it in place. 

Try not to carry knives around the kitchen; if you need to carry a knife, keep it at your side, pointing down to the floor. 

Never put a knife, blender or food processor blade into a sink of water; you might forget it and then cut yourself. Wash up and store safely straight away. 

Tips to Get Kids Cooking Safely | Veg Power

THE CLAW POSITION 

Use your gripping hand like a claw for slicing and chopping. Fingers and thumb are always curled under, never flat where they could be chopped accidentally. 

Try practising with a spring onion – chop off the root, remove the outer skin and then slice the spring onion. Slowly move your ‘claw’ back along the onion as you slice. Try keeping the tip of the knife on the board. 

Now try practising again with other larger vegetables, such as a cucumber. 

Tips to Get Kids Cooking Safely | Veg Power

THE BRIDGE POSITION 

The bridge position is used for cutting rounded foods.

It’s good to cut them in half, giving you a flat surface so that food doesn’t wobble around dangerously as you slice. 

Put a tomato upside down on its flattest side. Make a bridge with your hand by putting your thumb on one side of the tomato and your fingers on the other. With the blade facing downwards, chop through to the board. 

Tips to Get Kids Cooking Safely | Veg Power

CHOPPING AN ONION USES BOTH THE ‘BRIDGE’ AND THE ‘CLAW’ POSITIONS 

Half and then peel off the skin. Claw position. Now you can slice. 

To dice: make vertical cuts through your onion down to the board. Don’t cut through the root as it holds the onion together. 

Claw position. Then slice across the onion to make tiny dice. 

 

Green Kids CookThis is an extract from Green Kids Cook by Jenny Chandler.

About the author

Jenny Chandler

Food writer, cookery teacher and former UN FAO Special Ambassador for Pulses, Jenny (jennychandlerblog.com) hosts demonstrations and writes for Borough Market. Her latest book is Green Kids Cook.

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