Cooking from home: Kitchen Safety

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) Alaska is slowly starting to reopen, but many Alaskans are still cooking from home.

Chef Sean Walklin demonstrates the claw technique to safely cut with a knife. (John Dougherty/KTVF)

We continued to speak with Chef Sean Walklin, an assistant professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Culinary Arts and Hospitality program. This week he talked about kitchen safety.

Chef Sean said that the more people cook, the more opportunity there is for things to go wrong.

Two of the most important things to pay attention to are time and temperature. “Time is in the sense that you leave something out for too long, mixed with temperature,” Chef Sean said. “Bacteria will have the right temperatures where it can grow rapidly, exponential growth, and get to a point where it can make people sick.”

He said that leaving out chicken or other raw foods to defrost could cause sickness, or even occasionally death. If you don’t have time to defrost something in the refrigerator, he says you can put the frozen food under cold running water, which can help the food safely defrost much faster.

Chef Sean also talked about mise en place -- a French cooking term meaning, “everything in place.”

“You want to have everything out in front of you, measured out, set up, [and] ready go -- that way you are just pulling [things] one by one and going right through whatever you are cooking,” Chef Sean said.

The chef said doing this will allow you to cook efficiently and not rush things. It will help you to not make mistakes or get hurt, and also allow you to make sure things aren’t sitting out to long.

Chef Sean also encourages people to use the time when things are in the oven or resting to clean up your workspace and wash dishes. Not only does this give you less work to do in the end, it also helps you keep organized and sanitary.

One of the most dangerous tools in any kitchen is knives. Chef Sean said that having your knives properly sharpened is essential. “A lot of times people are scared of sharp knives, and we try to teach people to think the opposite way,” Sean said.

A sharp knife, he said, allows you to cut things with less effort and force, meaning you are more precise and gentle with your cuts.

To sharpen knives Chef Sean said to get some sort of sharpening stone to build back up the edge, and a honing rod to keep the edge sharp every time you use the knife.

When you are actually cutting, Sean said to hold the item you are cutting with a claw grip. To do this, he said you curl your fingers up and then let the knife slide along your knuckles. This keeps you from accidently cutting a finger, and allows you to always know where the knife is. He did say to make sure you don’t pick the knife up to far, and cut the top of a knuckle.

If you follow these tips, Chef Sean says you will be well on your way to having a safe, clean and efficient kitchen.

Next week Sean will talk about spices and how to make any meal taste better.

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