Stovetop and Oven Cooking Safety
Cooking on a stovetop
Cooks with impaired vision need to know how to detect and avoid heat sources. Always feel around the perimeter of the stovetop—never on top. This avoids leaning over a hot stove to check food or adjust burner controls.
Never wear loose-fitting sleeves when cooking on a stove.
If you have no experience using a stove or if you are a skilled cook and have recently had vision loss, ask for assistance from a Daily Living Skills instructor who is trained in teaching and safety techniques.
Checking for live heat sources
- Start with a cold stove, but approach it as if it were hot. This will prepare you for when you are actually cooking. Remember to avoid wearing loose-fitting long sleeves.
- Be sure you are centered in front of the stove.
- Keep your hands close to your body. Then raise them up to shoulder level and move them straight out above the stove.
- Starting at shoulder level, move your arms in a circle or grid pattern in the air space above the stove. Very gradually lower your hands toward the burners. This technique is especially helpful if you need to build confidence or have difficulties with spatial perception. Also, it’s possible that a burner could have been left on by accident, especially in a shared kitchen. Learning to use this technique right from the start is important.
Start with a cold stove. Learn to access it as if it were hot. For beginners, it’s best to center a pan on a cold burner.
- Make sure the burner matches the pan size as closely as possible. A pan that is too large might not balance securely on the burner. A pan that is too small leaves a dangerous heat circle around the outside.
- Form a C-grip with each hand, one on either side of the pan. Feel to make sure the pan is centered.
- When you’re ready to work on a hot stove, use a long-handled wooden spoon to check the position of a pot or find the handle of a pan. Hold the bowl end of the spoon in your hand. Your instructor will teach you to trail around the circumference of the pot and check for centering. Remember—at this point, you’re practicing with a cold stove.
- Locate the handle of the pan with the spoon. Trail down the spoon to the handle of the pan and grasp it firmly, testing to see that the pan is balanced on the burner. Be careful not to let the spoon touch the burner for more than a few seconds.
Cooking with an oven
If you are inexperienced at using an oven or if you are a skilled cook and have recently had vision loss, ask for assistance from a Daily Living Skills instructor who is trained in teaching and safety techniques.
Practice on a cold oven, but approach it as if it were hot. This will prepare you for for when you are actually cooking. Remember not to wear loose-fitting long sleeves.
The following techniques assume that your oven is part of an electric rather than a gas stove.
- Use the longest possible oven mitts. These will prevent you from burning your forearms if you accidentally reach into the oven at the wrong angle. Use either 17" fire retardant mitts or silicon mitts. They are very durable and can be easily washed.
- Do not keep dishtowels on the oven door handle! They can fall into the oven and cause a fire.
- Always check the inside of the oven before turning it on. Putting something in a hot oven that already contains another pan is dangerous. Also check for spills and ensure the racks are in the right position.
- Pre-heating the oven is generally not necessary except when baking breads and pastries. It’s safer to place your dish or pan into a cold oven. Just increase the cooking time by 10 or 15 minutes to compensate for the cold start.
- Have a trivet or other heat-resistant surface on the counter beside the oven for hot pans.
- Pay close attention to your clothes and body position in relation to the oven door. Don’t wear loose-fitting long sleeves and be careful with pant legs, skirts, and long hair.
Placing food in the oven
- Stand to the side of the stove. Put your dominant hand on the oven door handle and put your non-dominant hand on the countertop beside the corner of the stove. This will give you the same starting point every time you place food in the oven.
- Open the door flat out. Practice positioning yourself so you can do this without moving either foot or your non-dominant hand.
- To locate the rack, slide your non-dominant hand all the way down the outer edge of the oven door frame to locate the screw or hinge where the door joins the oven. This teaches you from the outset to avoid reaching into the hot air space of the oven and accidentally touching hot racks or elements.
- Trail your hand up, just inside the door frame, until you locate the oven rack. Then move your hand to the centre of the rack and pull it out 4–5 inches.
- Take the pan in both hands. Use the back of your non-dominant hand to trail down the same door frame edge and place the pan on the rack. Centre the pan before letting go.
- Move your hands to the centre of the front edge of the rack and gently push the rack back in.
- Trail back to the door frame with both hands. Return your non-dominant hand to the counter at the corner of the stove to stabilize yourself. Then trail the dominant hand out along the door’s edge to locate the handle and close the door.
- Set your timer.
Removing food from the oven
- Ensure that you have good quality oven mitts. Although you’re practicing with a cold oven, it’s important to go through the steps as if the oven were hot.
- Turn the oven off when the timer rings and wait a few minutes.
- Place yourself in the starting position described above for putting food in the oven. Then open the oven door slightly and wait for a moment to let the heat escape.
- Open the door and trail to the rack.
- Pull the rack out about 6 inches and locate the pan.
- Transfer the pan to a trivet or heat-resistant surface on the counter beside the stove.
- Close the oven door safely as described above.