How to Avoid Sending Yourself to the Hospital From Cutting Produce
With all the hype surrounding the "avocado hand," or what several doctors have reported as an increase in injuries related to slicing open an avocado, it's important to know how to keep yourself (particularly your hands) safe when you're in the kitchen. From melons to squashes to loaves of bread, there's plenty of tricky food items out there that can trip up even the most experienced home cooks. Here are a few general guidelines and best practices for knife/cutting safety to keep you out of (self) harm's way.
If you’ve perused the internet in the past couple of days, you may have happened upon some horrifying stories of a new alleged condition that goes by the name of “avocado hand.” According to The Times, multiple doctors have reported an uptick in injuries resulting from improper methods used to slice open an avocado. “Holy Guacamole” is right! We’re not talking about a bloody cuticle or a baby scratch—people have done enough nerve and tendon damage in the name of some avo toast to require surgery.
Because of it’s tough skin, soft flesh, and rock hard pit, it makes sense that an avocado can be tricky to cut through, and when done incorrectly, can result in injury. However, this is not the only produce item that you should be on *high alert* for when it comes to kitchen safety. So yes, technically “avocado hand” is real, but in reality, you could seriously injure yourself with just about any food you’d like. From melons to squashes to loaves of bread, there is a right and wrong way to slice through these foods... and it’s important to know both in order to avoid a surprise visit to ER. Here are a few easy tips for avoiding senseless injury while cutting up your food:
Use a Cutting Board
For whatever reason, this easy task often--which literally requires barely any energy or skill--remains one of the most skipped-over steps of cooking. Please repeat after me: “My hand is not a valid substitute for a cutting board.” Before you even *think* about cutting through anything, clear a work station and place your cutting board on a damp paper towel to secure it. Your hands (and your knives) will thank you.
Use Sharp Knives
Not only are dull knives the most annoying, expletive-inducing tool to have in your kitchen, they’re extremely dangerous. While it seems counterintuitive that a dull knife would pose a stronger threat than one that’s sharpened to a perfect tee, when you’re forced to make do with a dull blade, it requires more pressing and fussing and uncertainty than if the blade were actually doing its job. And trust me, losing control of a knife, even a dull one, is not fun in a Missy Elliott kind of way.
Slice Off an End Piece
For a lot of tricky items to cut, it’s the round, prone-to-roll shape of them that makes them so cumbersome. Rather than stabbing at a watermelon or a squash as it rolls away from you, simply slice off a long piece from the bottom to create a flat surface (which should be no problem with an adequately sharp knife). Stability is key, people!
Toss it in the Microwave First
For a lot of squashes and root vegetables, the most troublesome aspect of cutting through them is the sheer amount of strength that it requires to get a knife through the flesh. Skip the sore biceps (and don’t even think about doing a karate-style wind-up), and microwave the produce for a minute just to soften it up a bit. Don’t forget to first whip out a fork and prick small holes all over the surface before you nuke it (or don’t… I suppose that is another way to break open your squash).
Invest in a Cut-Resistant Glove
Sure, it’s not the most stylish kitchen accessory, but it’s still a good one to have on hand. (See what I did there?) Remember kiddos, always use protection!
Even though it’s mesmerizing and inspiring to watch chefs plow through an onion or a pile of herbs, annihilating every last bit of it until it’s finely chopped in a matter of seconds, it’s worth noting that they have done this countless times over years and years of cooking (and their fingers probably wear those years of mishaps, too). Leave the fast-as-lightning chopping to the professionals, and go at a pace where you feel comfortable and won’t lose track of where your fingers are versus where the knife is about to come down (YIKES!).
Always Cut Away From Yourself
If you have a piece of produce that lives for being sliced in half (like an avocado!), position it on your cutting board such that you can comfortably slice it moving the knife away from your body… not towards it. Just a little life tip: Do whatever you can to avoid ever having sharp blades moving forcefully towards your body.
Say F*** It, Buy It Pre-Chopped
Yes, this is the cop-out of all cop-outs, but don’t be ashamed of taking the easy route. If it’s going to save you some time and possibly a limb, I’d say it’s probably worth it.