Swifty’s Eats: Staying safe in the kitchen  

If you’ve been looking for a Swifty’s Eats article, you should know that Swifty has been on a little hiatus, which may or may not be because I forgot I do these articles every other week. Anyway, Swifty is back with some troubling news.  

Safety in the kitchen is fading and fading fast. I have come across a multitude of videos across a variety of social media platforms (mostly TikTok) where people are choosing to err on the side of salmonella rather than safety.  

As a seasoned home kitchen veteran, who has learned a few tips and tricks from professional chefs over the years, keeping safety in mind while cooking/baking is the most important part of preparing food.  

Step 1: Knife skills  

Cutting yourself while prepping vegetables, slicing meats or breads and post prep washing is no joke. I personally have cut myself with a kitchen knife or vegetable peeler over a dozen times, the latter being the most common. It is incredibly dangerous to practice unsafe knife and peeler habits, but you can harness skills to help you largely avoid that seething “oh —-, I’ve just cut myself” situation.  

For knives, keep them sharp. While this may sound counterintuitive, the best way to avoid knife related accidents is to sharpen them regularly. If youre knife is dull, you’ll find yourself pushing down on whatever you’re cutting and when you start the pushing and pulling motion, a sharper end of the blade can catch and slice through the food into your fingers. The best tip I’ve ever gotten for food prep is “let the knife do the work” instead of forcing the knife to cut. Sharp knives allow for more control.  

If you have knives that err on the cheaper side, it’s best to sharpen them every time you use them, because they can dull fast. If you invest in more quality knives, which even I have yet to do, their sharpness lasts longer.  

How to hold the knife and position your fingers: if your knife happens to be dull, the best way to avoid getting cut, besides sharpening the blade, is to position your fingers and hands correctly.  

When slicing, dicing, chopping or julienne-ing, curl your fingers on top of the food with your thumb holding it in place, then place the blade as close to your fingers as possible so the sides of the blade rub against your curled fingers.  

When holding a knife, you may not have noticed, but the handle is engineered to fit safely in your hand. The professional way to wield your kitchen knife is to have your pinky, ring and middle finger wrapped around the grip, with your index finger curled on the right side of the blade and your thumb pressing firmly on the left side of the blade. This method will iensure there is no slipping of the knife, and it offers more control. I don’t want to see any “five- point palm exploding heart techniques” when holding your knife. You’re not Michael Meyers, you’re just cutting an onion.  

For peelers, the same technique applies for holding it, but you can wrap your hand around the grip. The tricky bit is managing to peel the potato instead of your flesh. To ensure you don’t wind up peeled, keep all your fingers at the bottom of the vegetable using slow peeling motions from the bottom to the top. Going fast is what gets you. Remember, slow and steady wins the peeling race.  

Step 2: Good God, wipe down your countertop  

Colette of “Ratatouille” had it right when she said, “Keep your station clear, or I will kill you!” There are videos out there of people preparing raw chicken on their bare countertop or cutting board and then continuing to use the same surface without wiping it down. You may even have seen my personal favorite: eating pasta straight off your countertop. If I see this in real life, I will not only give up cooking, but I will also take a page straight out of Colette’s book. 

When preparing any food, especially raw meat, wipe down your countertop and wash your cutting board throughout your prep if you’re going to use it more than once. If you’re handling chicken, I swear, you better wash that cutting board and wipe down the counter with Clorox wipes.  

Step 3: Invest in a good set of oven mitts 

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve burned myself by simply being careless or lacking confidence when cooking. Come by the Scribe office sometime and I’ll show you the many scars I have on my hands and arms purely from burning myself.  

Although it might be hot in the kitchen, wearing sleeves and using oven mitts regularly prevent you from burning yourself. Take it from me: asbestos fingers are not genetic, they’re earned.  

Hopefully you take more than a grain of salt from these tips because they can keep every amateur or professional chef safe. Being in the kitchen is a lot more fun and rewarding if you’re careful.