CREATE A SAFE AND FUN-FILLED COOKING EXPERIENCE FOR THE ENTIRE FAMILY
You love to cook. And you want your family to share your joy for everything culinary. Yet, you find yourself a little panicked when your children decide they want to express their passion for cooking and help in the kitchen. Relax; it is not as bad as you think. This is actually a good thing.
Chef Pamela Keith of Cuisine Style in San Francisco frequently cooks with her 6-year-old making everything from pancakes to fresh bread. She understands the apprehension parents may feel when considering letting children help in the kitchen because of the many dangers cooking present but believes it is important to get your kids into the kitchen early.
“This is wonderful opportunity for your children to develop better eating habits as well as an enthusiasm for different kinds of foods. So, the first thing you should do is forget about things spilling or dropping because it’s going to happen.”
There is no way to stop mistakes from occurring, but before you start letting the little ones whip, crack and beat until their hearts’ content, it’s important to explain how each of the tools you will be using work, as well as the harmful consequences if they are not used properly. And remember to be patient because you do not want to inadvertently discourage them from wanting to help in the kitchen ever again.
“Kids just need to understand that while cooking is fun, it is also serious business.”
Chef Keith offers a few simple suggestions on how to keep the fun in cooking but also make it safer for everyone involved.
“The first rule for the kitchen is to respect the heat.”
Everyone needs to roll up long sleeves, tie back long hair and anything else that may get into the way. The last thing you want to happen is for a wandering sleeve or loose hair to catch flame.
One of the most important things to remember is never leave cooking food unattended.
“I love the blue indicator lights on Dacor Ranges and Cooktops that remind you the simmer burner is on,” said Chef Keith.
However, while the blue Illumina™ Burner Controls will remind you when a burner is on, unwatched pots can easily spill over, causing fires.
“Another thing to remember is to watch your handles.”
If you turn the handles toward the counter instead of over the edge of the cooktop surface, small hands will not be tempted to reach up and grab or accidentally bump into a handle and overturn a pot or pan. This is actually something that adults need to remember for their own safety in the kitchen. It is very easy to brush the pan with your hip as you walk by and spill hot contents onto the floor or worse, onto you.
“In my professional kitchen, when removing things from a hot oven, my chefs will put an oven mitt on the pan that signals to everyone who comes by the pan is hot, so no one accidentally grabs the pan and burns their hand.”
Home chefs can create their own signals to identify a pan or plate is hot. If you are cooking with your children frequently, a great idea may be to mark hot items with a dishtowel or oven mitt of a certain color.
Additionally, when removing items from the oven, if you are using a dishtowel, be sure that is dry. Never use a wet towel because the moisture will actually conduct the heat more quickly to your hands and burn faster.
While dangers do exist for children and adults, with proper preparation and careful attention to details, cooking together will be an exciting and rewarding experience.
“Not only will it bring the family closer, it’s a way to promote healthy eating because children will take a lot more interest in the foods they eat if they have had a hand in making it themselves. It is also a natural part of our culture as a family. Cook together, then sit down and eat together. And of course, talk about your day.”
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