Ah, December … time to break eggs, whip cream, roast turkey, mash potatoes, and unleash your inner chef.

But, as every cook knows, the kitchen can be downright treacherous, especially if you don’t know where the hazards hide. Ferret out these dangers so you can prevent them.

4 hidden kitchen hazards (and how to avoid them)

1. Your dull knives

Believe it or not, dull knives are more dangerous than sharp ones — at least when it comes to kitchen accidents.

Why? Because worn blades can’t cut through an object cleanly, they’re more likely to slip off the cutting surface and into your hand. Plus, cutting with a dull edge requires more force and pressure, which makes it easier for you to lose control.

Safety measure: keep your blades, like your wits, well honed

How honed is well honed? If your blade slices nice and clean through a tomato, then your knife’s in good shape. If it doesn’t, it’s time to get out the whetstone.

Or, you could follow Le Cordon Bleu’s recommendation and sharpen frequently used knives every 60 days.

2. Your unattended pot 

There are some things you shouldn’t turn your back on. And the pot cooking on your stove is one of them.

The U.S. Fire Administration reports that cooking is responsible for 45.7 percent of residential fires. Most of those fires are caused by pots left to their own devices.

Safety measure: turn off the burner if you have to leave

It’s easy to be distracted with so much holiday madness. So do yourself a favor and turn off the burner if you have to attend to things in another room.

And if a small grease fire does happen to flare, smother it with a tight-fitting lid or douse it with baking soda. (Whatever you do, don’t pour water on it.)

3. Your sponge

Your kitchen’s a hotbed of germs. In fact, it’s probably germier than your bathroom floor. And where do these culprits (E. coli, salmonella, listeria) hide? Well, on items you use daily, like your sponge.

According to Dr. Charles Gerba, a microbiologist at the University of Arizona, the sponge harbors the most bacteria in your home. Yes — even more than the toilet. Its moist environment’s a ripe breeding ground for E. coli and other nastiness.

Safety measure: microwave your sponge for one minute each night

A nightly nuke should zap those microscopic buggers away. Throw it in a bowl with a bit of water and splash of lemon juice or vinegar and microwave it for one minute. The lemon or vinegar helps to deodorize as well as sanitize.

4. Your turkey thawing on the counter

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), leaving that big, beautiful bird to defrost on the counter can actually make you sick. Since bacteria can multiply like mad when food’s between 40°F and 140°F, leaving your turkey at room temperature for more than 2 hours is a no-no.

Safety measure: thaw frozen turkey in the fridge or in cold water

Plan ahead and give your turkey plenty of time to safely defrost. As a general rule of thumb, 4 pounds will take one full day to thaw in the fridge. In a cold water bath, one pound will thaw in about 30 minutes.

If you want to know more, you can get detailed instructions on how to safely thaw from the USDA.

Safe and smart | Home safety


about Anne

If variety is the spice of a copywriter’s life, then Anne’s career at Esurance was akin to sassafras. From 2010 to 2014, she added a touch of zest to topics ranging from cleaning with baking soda to becoming a first-time homeowner.