Cooking and Baking Safety

Daniel Sherwin


Part of parenting involves teaching your children how to cook and bake. After all, you won’t always be there to prepare a meal for them. Sandwiches are a simple and relatively safe entry point for kids in the kitchen. They can be involved at every point, from choosing the components to assembling their masterpiece.

However, it’s equally important to include lessons on cooking and baking safety. Cooking is the leading cause of house fires and home fire injuries, and cooking-related fires often start from overheated grease and unattended cooking. Additionally, the most common cause of foodborne illness is improper handling of food, so you also want to ensure your children prepare, cook, and store foods safely.

In order to prevent germs and bacteria from spreading in the kitchen (whether it’s from food to food, food to person, or person to food), children should learn a few tips about handling and preparing food. Keep your hands clean by washing them in warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds. Wash your hands before beginning to cook and throughout the food preparation process, especially after handling raw meat, poultry, or seafood.

Also, don't lick your fingers or hands while preparing food, and wash utensils after each use. Keep raw and cooked foods separated, including utensils or surfaces that they’ve touched. Ensure foods are cooked to their proper temperatures. Because raw meat, eggs, and even flour can contain bacteria, never taste uncooked food, including the bowls or mixing spoons.

Anyone with long hair should have it tied back, and loose clothing or dangling jewelry shouldn’t be worn while cooking or baking. Use hot pads or oven mitts when removing items from an oven or microwave, and turn pot handles away from the front of the stovetop so that no one knocks into them. Children shouldn’t use a knife without asking an adult. Never place knives in a sink of soapy water because someone could reach in and get cut. When loading the dishwasher, place knives with the sharp side down.

Being prepared helps prevent injuries and fires, so read the recipe completely first and ensure you understand the instructions. Second, gather all ingredients, utensils, and pans required for cooking. Once you're done cooking, clean the kitchen by putting ingredients away, wiping up spills, loading the dishwasher, and cleaning pots and pans. Before leaving the kitchen, make sure all appliances are cleaned and turned off or unplugged.

Protect your home from a fire by teaching your children to never leave the kitchen while cooking and to always use a timer. Also, ensure they understand that putting water on a grease fire will only make it worse. Instead, turn the heat off, but don’t try to move the pot. Cover the pot with a metal lid, not a glass lid. Baking soda can extinguish small grease fires, but it takes a lot to be effective. Never use any other baking product, such as flour, to attempt to put out the flames. As a last resort, use a fire extinguisher. If the fire is still out of control, get out of the house immediately and dial 911 from a safe location.

Parents should test smoke detectors once a month and replace the batteries every six months. A fire extinguisher should be kept in the kitchen in a location that’s quickly and easily accessible. Be knowledgeable about when and how to use a fire extinguisher. Your family should have a plan in place in case of a home fire, and all members of your family should know how to escape a fire and how to dial 911.

Teaching children to cook and bake is one of the most valuable things you can do as a parent. Cooking is a necessary life skill that also builds self-confidence and gives parents and children a chance to bond. Children who are involved in the process of cooking (picking out a recipe, purchasing the ingredients, and cooking) are more likely to try the dish. Also, it gives parents an opportunity to talk about health and choosing healthy ingredients. Take the time to teach your children a valuable lesson, promote their health, bond with you, and create those sandwich memories. Just be sure to also cover the importance of being safe in the kitchen.

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