A Survival Guide for the Hyper Focused
As a writer who has boiled pans and teakettles dry, and received both second-degree steam and contact burns, I feel I have become an expert in trying to stay alive while cooking. Since I now prepare most of my food from scratch, learning to do it safely was crucial.
I invested in stainless steel pans to have the best combination of easy, even cooking and safe heating surfaces, but there’s one drawback to them – metal handles. Do NOT use towels to lift off those lids, or pick up pots by the handles. I don’t care what those chefs on television are doing–trust me, for the hyper focused and easily distracted, towels as pot holders are anathema.
Why? Towels catch on fire from open jets, or from brushing hot elements. Towels might be wet, and will instantaneously transmit heat to your hands. As long as you are on top of the stove, even those Lodge pot handle covers are useful. But don’t leave them on a handle–I’ve set them on fire, too. Lodge is experimenting with silicon, but I find them too loose.
For the lids, get yourself a set of something like these – silicone pinch grips. Trudeau changes the shapes and colors on a regular basis, looking for the perfect form, but they all do the job. They not only work for pots, but in an emergency they also can pull out an oven rack, and they are great for carrying hot plates to the table. WARNING–these are not oven mitts! They don’t cover your hand, and you can get burned at an edge. They are designed for hot plates, and I use them for glass & steel lids, and for U-shaped pot handles. Remember–the right tool for the right job.
One caveat on the pinch grips – if you leave one on top of a steel and glass lid for several hours, it will get warm, and heat up fast if you move it to a hot handle. Using a warm pinch grip to help transport a stockpot full of hot water is a no-no. I leave one on the lid, to warn me it’s hot, and have another on the counter, to use to actually lift up the lid when I need to stir or add ingredients. I get two cool ones to actually move a stockpot.
When are you going to replace those old, dangerous oven mitts? Get yourself something that will actually protect your absentminded self. Oven mitts come in heavy duty, top flight silicone with washable liners, like the Mastrad A823305 silicone oven mitt with cotton lining. (I love that number–it’s like a turbocharged oven mitt.)
This flat potholder, the Mastrad silicone version, is multi-use — it will hold an older mixing bowl in place (SCORE!) keep a cutting board from slipping, work as a jar opener, or act as a trivet. Caveats for this style — watch where the hole is, as you could get burned. A second concern is if you have arthritis, and your thumb is pulling around. This style may be harder to hold with confidence. I use mine more for the secondary uses, plus occasionally pulling out a rack.
As far as safe rack pushing and pulling is concerned, get yourself something designed to do the job safely. I have an elegant one that is a cherry wood cat laying down, so you can even have a decorative push/pull. A useful tool to invest in is a set of stainless steel, silicone-tipped locking tongs. They come in multiple lengths, but I’ve found my 14” tip-to-lock pair (12″ tongs) to be the most useful. My hand is never too close to the element of the cook top, and I have distance from baking dishes and racks. I have a shorter pair, which would probably be great for fishing hot dogs out of boiling water, but I don’t make hot dogs anymore!
Do you have a favorite tool that keeps you safe at the cook top? Please share!
Next time – kitchen knives, your best friend and worst enemy in the kitchen.