From hot ovens to sharp knives, we all know that the kitchen can be a dangerous place. But, even for the most prepared home cooks, some of the most dangerous things in the kitchen may surprise you. Here are ten unexpected hazards to look out for, so you can keep your family safe.
Your Sponge Is Harboring Bacteria 1 of 10According to WebMD, kitchen sponges are the number one source of germs in the whole house. Why? Kitchen sponges, which come into contact with all kinds of household bacteria and are filled with tiny, moist crevices, are an ideal breeding ground for bacteria. To kill germs place the moistened sponge in a microwave for a minute, or just replace the sponge every week.
Unexpectedly Hot Handles 2 of 10Hot handles, especially metal handles just out of the oven, can cause serious injuries and burns, and even the most mindful chef or cook can make this mistake. When pulling a dish or pan out of the hot oven be sure to signal that it is hot (to yourself and others) by placing a pot holder over the handle. This will serve as a visual cue and reminder of the potential danger.
Rinsing Raw Meats in the Sink 3 of 10Many people rinse chicken or other meats before cooking as a means of combatting food-borne bacteria. But as the British Food Standards agency points out, running chicken under water doesn't kill germs. It does spread germs into your sink and a three foot radius around it, though. So this safety step actually increases your risk of food-borne illness.
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Dull Knives Are Dangerous Too 4 of 10People are rightly mindful of the dangers presented by a knife's sharp edge, but as they get duller, knives become even more dangerous. While a sharp knife cuts easily into food, a dull knife requires more force and is more likely to slip rather than cut, and a knife that slips (especially one with a lot of force behind it) is a knife that's more likely to cut you. If you don't have a knife sharpener, check to see if your local kitchen store offers knife-sharpening or can recommend someone.
Image: T Houdijk
Alcohol Catching on Fire in Pan 5 of 10The addition of alcohol to a sizzling pan can quickly cause a large burst of flames. This can be dangerous even under controlled conditions, but it's especially so if it takes you, and your eyebrows, by surprise. When cooking with alcohol make sure the cooking area is free of grease, and stand well back from the pan while adding it.
More tips for cooking with alcohol
Image: Jenene from Chinatown, New York City, USA
Glass Bakeware Shattering 6 of 10Different manufacturers use different types of glass to make baking dishes and it's important to read the instructions carefully and not exceed recommended temperatures. But even if you use an oven-safe baking dish like Pyrex, temperature extremes can still cause it to shatter, as this video from Consumer Reports demonstrates. Vintage Pyrex fares better than the new stuff, but when possible use stainless steel, stoneware, or enamel-coated cast iron.
Related: 20 of the world's most expensive kitchen gadgets
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Overloaded Outlets 7 of 10In our grandparents' day, you might have a toaster, a blender, and a hand mixer. Now there are dozens of kitchen appliances you could potentially have. Add this to the fact that many of us have kitchens built without many outlets and it means that many of us are overloading our kitchen outlets. Overloaded outlets present a real risk of fire . Look at your appliances and see which really ones need to be plugged in all the time. The coffee maker is something you probably use every day, but the blender probably isn't.
Microwaving in Plastic 8 of 10Since so many microwavable dishes come in plastic containers, many people assume plastic in general is safe to microwave. But microwaving plastic causes chemicals to leach into your food. Microwavable containers have been evaluated based on what type of plastic they use, how long they will be microwaved, whether people are likely to eat out of them and how much surface area is contact with food. Other containers, though, haven't been evaluated like this, so there's no knowing how much plastic is leaching into your food. We personally prefer to avoid serving hot foods in plastic whenever possible, but at the least, you should only microwave plastic containers that have been deemed microwave safe by the FDA.
Expired or Old Fire Extinguisher 9 of 10Keeping a fire extinguisher handy is a way to keep a scary situation from becoming a catastrophic one. But once we've bought the extinguisher, it's easy to forget it until there's a fire. Fire extinguishers need to be inspected regularly because they can expire. Some kinds can be recharged and your fire department may provide that service or be able to direct you to someone who can. Others need to be disposed of. A good way to remember is to check your fire extinguishers and smoke alarm batteries at the start and end of daylight savings time. Make it part of your routine like setting your clocks forward or backward.
Hot Pepper Burns 10 of 10The risk of chemical burn posed by hot peppers is something most of us may be aware of, but then we go ahead and rub our eyes before washing our hands anyway. Using latex gloves when you cut hot peppers ensures you won't let your mind wander and forget what you were doing.
More on the safe handling of hot peppers here
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