With Masterchef Junior titles being dished out to chefs as young as eleven, like Beni Cwiakala from Chicago, Illinois, it’s evident that having little ones around while preparing dishes can be a treat. From preparing school lunches to helping with dinner prep, having kids in the kitchen can be a lot of fun. Here’s how to do that safely.
Safe knife skills for different ages
Knife skills are an integral part of involving children in the kitchen, but let’s face it, the prospect of combining a sharp blade with a busy toddler is terrifying. Cool Kids cook Jenny Chandler advises that a wooden lolly stick is a good place to start. From bananas to soft mozzarella cheese and strawberries, chopping these up is a good place to start. Once they start understanding the dangers of sharp blades, taking them through the various levels becomes a little easier. Tutorials aplenty are available on YouTube and can teach parents a thing or two about safe cutting skills as well.
Safety comes first
It’s normal to teach about the obvious things first, such as hot water, stovetops, and ovens. But there are other items in the kitchen that deserve a special mention too. Power pressure cookers have scared even adults for a number of years and are not a safe option for children to use. Slow cookers are a bit safer, but an adult should be on hand to lend support, especially when opening the lid as steam needs to escape. Deep fat fryers and electric frying pans also require young chefs to be extra cautious, with constant adult supervision a must.
Food prep is important too
Although chicken and sausages are mean ingredients for pasta sauces, handling the raw and cooked meats on the same surfaces can spell disaster with a capital “S” for Salmonella. It’s important to start with basic food safety such as washing ingredients and prepping food on clean surfaces with clean utensils. Keeping the equipment clean is also important and young aspiring chefs should know how to clean up as much as cook the food. This is also a good time to discuss food allergies and how they should be wary to share their food with other children for this reason.
There is much to think about when introducing your little ones to your domain: the kitchen. However, many parents are pleasantly surprised by how well their children adapt when they are given small amounts of responsibility. Teaching children to enjoy the cooking process will allow them to have a healthy view of ingredients and food as a whole.