Stupid burning stupid hand
April 18, 2011 4:47 PM   Subscribe

Can you help me stop stupid burning my stupid hand?

I have an All Clad frying pan which I love for its ability to go from the stovetop to the oven. However, because I'm a lot dumber than I want to think, I keep burning my hand on the handle when I take it out of the oven and put it back on top of the range to make a pan sauce.

Every. single. time.

So for example, I brown some chicken pieces on top of the stove, pop them in the oven to braise for thirty minutes (remind myself not to burn my hand), pull it out of the oven (remind myself not to burn my hand), set the chicken aside on a plate(remind myself not to burn my hand), proceed to make a pan sauce (remind myself not to burn my hand), add a few tablespoons of butter to the pan to finish the sauce, then grasp the 425 degree handle as tightly as possible. Then I wrench my hand away in horror and stick it under the tap to let the cold water flow over it for a good five minutes.

My first instinct was a potholder or tea towel around the handle but that's a fire hazard. The ergonomics of the set up are based on me being right handed and needing poor old lefty to do the work of holding the pan steady while I pour in wine or whatever. What can I do to that handle or to my environment so that when the pan comes out of the oven it will still allow me to grasp it tightly but will visually or otherwise remind me not to be so stupid?

It's the pits. Help me.
posted by A Terrible Llama to Food & Drink (41 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Paint the handle with red paint?
posted by Jubey at 4:52 PM on April 18, 2011

Best answer: A silicone handle sleeve?
posted by theBigRedKittyPurrs at 4:53 PM on April 18, 2011 [12 favorites]

google skillet handle covers.
posted by patricking at 4:53 PM on April 18, 2011

I meant to add, obviously it won't stop it from burning you but it may be a visual reminder to not grab it.
posted by Jubey at 4:53 PM on April 18, 2011

I use a version of these things; there are a bunch of different styles and color from different manufacturers.
posted by TedW at 4:54 PM on April 18, 2011

Best answer: Are handle-specific pot holders okay? Like these? You really have to work at it to set them on fire (we have a gas range, and my husband is careless with the potholders and open flames), and even when my husband did set one on fire, it wasn't that big a deal. Slide it on right after you take the pan out of the oven. They also have silicon handle sleeves though I don't have experience with those.

Also, if you're using recipes, every recipe where I've managed to do something similarly stupid, I have written in all caps and highlighted "DO NOT BURN HAND ON HOT PAN" or something. It's saved me a couple of times.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:54 PM on April 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

I wonder if you could slip one of these on the handle when you start to make the pan sauce? I know you couldn't keep it there forever (fire!) but as long as you're working with the pan the entire time it seems like it might work?
posted by hapax_legomenon at 4:54 PM on April 18, 2011

I'm confused. Can't you put oven mitts on your hands before you take the pan out of the oven and leave them on until you are done with the pan?
posted by pink candy floss at 4:54 PM on April 18, 2011

Seconding silicone handle sleeve. They are great, stay safe in up to and over 500ยบ ovens, and can be found cheaply at restaurant supply stores or cash'n'carry type places.
posted by Aquaman at 4:54 PM on April 18, 2011

I've seen those rubber/silicone handle covers in many varieties at a restaurant supply store (very cheap, like $2). There are long tubes (for longish handles) and also ear-like "muffs" for shorter handles.
posted by The Toad at 4:55 PM on April 18, 2011

Keep oven mitts around, preferably bright ones. Several of them. Within reach and within your line of sight. Hang one from the oven door handle, one from the fridge door handle, one from the silverware drawer handle, keep one on the counter next to the oven, etc., etc.

On preview, the silicone handle sleeves are a good idea too. Keep them in obvious places (maybe store them on the pan handles themselves) until you've established the habit.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:57 PM on April 18, 2011

I use the Ove Glove -- one or two, depending on the situation. It allows me to keep working while I have it one, and it insulates the hand even when the glove is wet. Washable, too.
posted by wryly at 4:58 PM on April 18, 2011 [3 favorites]

In professional kitchens you sometimes drape a hand towel over something to signify that it's too hot to touch.

If I'm reading correctly, in this case you would drape the towel over the handle after the pot comes out of the oven. You can than use the hand towel to touch the handle. And voila! No burn.
posted by jbenben at 4:58 PM on April 18, 2011

p.s The silicone handle sleeves will burn you if they're hot from the oven.
posted by wryly at 4:59 PM on April 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

BTW, in the scenario outlined in my answer... folded up kitchen towels are your defacto "oven mitts," there is always one or two within reach, and using them as mitts becomes second nature.

After you establish the habit of using kitchen towels for a variety of jobs daily, there is nothing to "remember" - reaching for them is automatic.
posted by jbenben at 5:07 PM on April 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

My high school chemistry teacher had a little sign at each lab station that read "Hot glass looks the same as cold glass." Maybe a little version of that above the stove? Just being reminded every day, even when you're not performing that specific action, might eventually drive it home.
posted by jocelmeow at 5:11 PM on April 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Put a sign on the oven door or oven handle. If your problem is remembering to use some sort of oven mitts, it's pretty much your only option (the silicone stuff gets hot in the oven, too).
posted by elpea at 5:17 PM on April 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Never heard of the silicone handle covers, but that sounds like the solution tailor-made for your situation. I bought my wife some silicone baking liners to use instead of greasing her baking sheets and they handle the heat just fine.
posted by Rafaelloello at 5:28 PM on April 18, 2011

The kind of thing I need to do is make a change in my environment that makes me go "Whuh? Why is that . . . oh." For example, when pulling the hot pan out of the oven and reminding yourself not to burn your hand, set it on the stovetop with the handle pointing towards the back of the stove where it's less convenient to grab. Hopefully when you go to make the pan sauce you'll think, "That's awkward, why did I . . . oh." Or after pulling the hot pan out of the oven, keep an oven mitt on your left hand at all times until you're done cooking, even if it makes other tasks awkward. If it's too difficult to get out the butter with your hand in an oven mitt, take the mitt off but wedge it under your elbow where you have to consciously hold it or else it will drop (don't set it down on the counter!). Put it back on as soon as you're done getting out the butter.

The other thing that I do sometimes in situations like this is talk out loud. When I'm measuring 8 cups of sugar to make jam and it would be really inconvenient to lose count, I count out loud, sometimes repeating each number in as many languages as I know, which requires more concentration and makes me less likely to zone out. In your situation I might walk around the kitchen saying something like "Hot pan, hot pan, the pan is hot, don't touch the handle, it's hot like the surface of the sun, it's hot like Colin Firth in a wet shirt, hot pan, hot pan" etc. out loud.
posted by Orinda at 5:43 PM on April 18, 2011 [12 favorites]

I should change my name to Burney McBurnsalot. Things I do to try and avoid burning.

1) point the handle away from me, it's a good visually reminder that SOMETHING IS NOT RIGHT HERE

2) tea-towels. Any kitchen will tell you that after a knife, tea-towels are the most important thing in a kitchen. But I won't use them if they're tucked away. I keep them right besides the stove and on the handles of the oven, and maybe a couple of others near different benches.

It's interesting, you would think the pain etc would make a great negative reinforcement, but I don't know about you; I keep burning myself. Handle incidents have gone down though.
posted by smoke at 5:55 PM on April 18, 2011 [3 favorites]

Point the handle towards the back of the stove.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:00 PM on April 18, 2011

What about a simple ergonomic fix: turn a hot handle towards the back of the stove. The inconvenient positioning would be the ENGAGE!!! signal for your brain your brain and maybe provide *just* enough of a delay that the alert would reach your hands before they close. At least, that's the theory.
And yeah, all-clad is awesome cookware. I got it because it doen't rust, leach or peel no matter what you do with it.
posted by Ys at 6:02 PM on April 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

stove oven
posted by Sys Rq at 6:10 PM on April 18, 2011

Wear an apron and keep a dishtowel tucked into the apron strings. That way you always have it at hand. And wearing an apron helps remind you that cooking is serious business and there is DANGER! afoot.
posted by gnutron at 6:37 PM on April 18, 2011

Whatever you use, be it a wet towel to a heat dissipating chain mail.

Gotta weigh back in here: do not for the love of god use a wet tea towel. Water is an awesome thermal conductor compared to dry cotton and the air helplessly trapped in its towelly clutches.

If you use a wet tea-towel, prepare to be incomparably disappointed. And burnt.

Also, before when I said, "Any kitchen can tell you..." I meant, "Any kitchenhand can tell you. Kitchens can't talk. But if they could, oh what stories we would share. It would probably still recommend tea-towels, I suppose, especially after I dropped the heavy cast iron pan right onto the parquetry...
posted by smoke at 6:38 PM on April 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I am/was a professional cook. I have tried and or used many of the things listed here. This is my review.

Ok, so I have to say - it is almost impossible to catch a towel on fire. Even if you soak a towel in oil and stick it on a grill (generally how I get my charcoal grill ready) it is *tough* to actually catch the towel on fire. Hold it directly into flames for extended periods of time soaked in oil? meh... now you are just trying to catch it on fire...

With that said, lets go down the list of other things suggested so far and then we'll come back to towels:

Silicone handles - There are ones that are permanent and ones that go on and off. The permanent ones are hot to remove from the oven - so that defeats the purpose. The ones that aren't permanent have a tendency to slide - and silicone doesn't really *grip* in the same manner that towels do - meaning - I have less control than I like one handed. Slippage leads to burns, dropped pans, and a combination of messes and/or scars for somebody. The inside of the holders also seems to collect grease and or water - meaning more rome for slippage from unexpected sliding.

Silicone Pot Holders (flat) - maybe its just me, but somehow I get an amazing amount of heat transfer through these. This is actually surprising given that I have far fewer funtional nerves in my left hand thanks to a good burn. My wife, has burned herself numerous times with these. Plus, its vaguely like folding the Newyorker around a pan - its just slightly too thick and too stiff to really give you a solid feel.

Silicone finger mit with standoff silicone bumps - awkward to use with big hands, but solves the problems of the silicone pot holders. Actually my second choice since they will also handle water really well.

Cloth Pot Holders - generally too small, or too thick to be useful, these also have a tendency to become completely useless once they get wet.

Cloth oven mits - I can't swap between sauces and pan maneuvering with ease. They generally are ultra thick. As such, they stand up to a little water. This is option 3 - they'd be up much higher but they are a little restricive of motion.

And now my favorite: Cloth chef's towels and tongs. Use the tongs to bring a pan from the back of the oven forward. Use the towel to grab the handle. If the towel is at all wet - discard before picking up the pan. In a restaurant, I'd work 6 towels a night. At home I work two (one for cleaning, the other for pulling pans.) If I accidentally get my towel wet, I just grab another.

A wet towel means a burned hand if you pick up a hot pot with one, but a towel can be used for just about everything (see Adams, Douglas) in a kitchen. I can swap from picking up a pan, to setting up a stable bain (getting the towel wet and using it to hold a bowl for a double boiler, and then still use it to whipe up a mess and then just swap to a new towel as needed. With tongs, I can protect my arm on the far side of a grill for a few hours, and then use it with a bit of oil to season the grill mid way through.

Towels can be wrapped around, used to double up on the bottom, or single on the bottom and over the top to protect the knuckles. Any way you slice it, a towel can be adapted to your situation. The towel and tongs are the extension of the modern chef's arms (the old guys do it with a towel and a spoon).
posted by Nanukthedog at 6:53 PM on April 18, 2011 [8 favorites]

Best answer: I believe that in restaurants, when pulling a pan out of the oven, it's some people's custom to grab a pinch of flour and throw it on the handle of the pan before moving on.

Then if you turn back and go to pick up the pan, the flour reminds you, "Oh, hold on, that's going to be really hot!", and it reminds other staff, too.

At home, maybe you could just substitute a tea towel: every time you pull the pan out, if you immediately put the "this is hot" tea towel over the handle, you won't forget that it's still hot.
posted by surenoproblem at 6:57 PM on April 18, 2011

Nanukthedog, total respect for your professional experience, but using a towel as an oven mitt and then draping it over a chair is how I caught my chair on fire. Then I stamped it out on the floor, melting the linoleum. In a rental (bye bye deposit). Clearly I'm much more talented than you. Uh, at accidents, I mean, not at cooking.
posted by Knowyournuts at 8:46 PM on April 18, 2011

The silicone potholder/trivets are rubbish for gripping and handling stuff but they're great for putting on something hot when you need a reminder that it's hot...they definitely won't catch on fire. I've never had them get appreciably hot, but if they do then you can easily stash them in the sink since they are non-absorbent.
posted by anaelith at 8:54 PM on April 18, 2011

2nding placing the handle in such a way as to remind you. Other than that, go ahead and get burnt. You'll learn the lesson soon enough.
posted by Gilbert at 9:02 PM on April 18, 2011

Eyebrows McGee has it. Buy some of those handle pot sleeves. As soon as pot comes out of oven, on goes the sleeve.

This has saved my hands from touching 400+ degree cast iron directly.
posted by canine epigram at 9:25 PM on April 18, 2011

1. (2nd) using awkward handle direction as a mental indicator that the handle is hot.
2. Until you no longer have that problem, wear a left hand welding glove. You can touch anything and still be able to use the hand for relatively fine motor control purposes.

(I hate silicon, burn towels and am horribly forgetful. I actually use those hot pads you wove out of cotton strips when you were ten. Still make them occasionally. They don't burn well.)
posted by Seamus at 10:14 PM on April 18, 2011

(note if you burn your hand please run it under lukewarm water, not cold. Running it under cold water shocks the skin further and you are more likely to end up blistering.)
posted by raccoon409 at 10:44 PM on April 18, 2011

racoon, Mayo clinic disagrees with you. Human skin, fortunately, is not like a wealthy dowager, and doesn't "shock" per se. Use cold water; you're trying to reduce the heat.
posted by smoke at 11:27 PM on April 18, 2011

from the mayo clinic site "Cool the burn. Hold the burned area under cool (not cold) running water for 10 or 15 minutes or until the pain subsides. If this is impractical, immerse the burn in cool water or cool it with cold compresses. Cooling the burn reduces swelling by conducting heat away from the skin. Don't put ice on the burn." (emphasis mine)

Sorry I was just trying to emphasize the fact that you should not use frigid water, rather that cool is better. But duly noted all the same.
posted by raccoon409 at 11:56 PM on April 18, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks all. I didn't know those handle specific things existed -- I bought the ones Eyebrows pointed to. I liked the flour on the handle thing too -- I could try that.

The problem with the handle to back of the stove thing, as well as the oven mitt on hand thing is that at pan sauce stage everything is happening very quickly, so there's a mixture of scraping things from the bottom of that pan and doing a lot of other stuff. There are various meal-based preferences in our house that make cooking complicated -- this isn't something I mind, and is usually a breeze, except for this particular detail.

Re. cold water versus cool water -- I can say with the voice of unlucky experience that really cold water (springtime well water from a tap--quite cold) works great. No blistering at all, though the next day you could see the flat red streaks across my hand and the wrinkled skin where the blistering thought about happening. I don't know if cool water is 'better' but I know icy cold water works great. It would have been a really bad burn if I hadn't, and it hurt like hell at the time, but just a little bit the following day.

I don't know if it would have been better to be more moderate about the temp but A++ would freezing cold tap water again.

Thanks all.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 5:47 AM on April 19, 2011

Response by poster: PS I typed this then reached over and burned my hand on a flat iron. I'm lucky I'm allowed to drive.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 5:48 AM on April 19, 2011 [3 favorites]

I have done this SO MANY TIMES. My current strategy is, as mentioned above, to drape a towel over the handle as soon as it comes out of the oven (sometimes, if I don't have a towel handy, I put my oven mitt on the handle). It's more as a reminder than as insulation.

Someone will probably correct me on this, but I would guess that, although you could burn yourself on a silicone sleeve, it won't happen as fast as if you touch the metal directly, so you won't burn yourself quite so badly.
posted by mskyle at 7:17 AM on April 19, 2011

If this happens again before the silicone sleeve arrives, aloe works better than anything else, in my experience, to help with a burnt hand.

First, obviously you must get the temperature in your hand down (because your flesh is literally cooking), so run it under the coldest water you can until it no longer feels warm (feel it with the side of your face). After that, however, your hand is still going to sting and hurt.

A lot of people have aloe vera gel lying around but I've never found that to work anywhere near as well as the actual plant. Just snap off a leaf with a pair of scissors, then cut along the side. Open it up and apply the inner gooey flesh directly to the burn. I always get instant relief.
posted by Deathalicious at 8:37 AM on April 19, 2011

I have no advice on the how-not-to-get-burned question but as far as what to do after getting burned, ever since my honey got certified as a First Responder we've kept Burn Jel and other products from Water-Jel on hand. When I get burned the first thing I do is stick it under cold water, then after long enough for it to have been cooled down thoroughly, I squirt a glob of Burn Jel on it and cover it with a bandage to keep the (lovely, cooling, soothing) goo in place. Change the bandage twice a day (more if it gets wet) and apply fresh Burn Jel if the burn still hurts. Usually I find that it's stopped hurting by the following morning, but I still keep it bandaged to protect it until it no longer seems necessary.

I actually have a burn on one forearm right now (damn toaster oven). This is why the bottle of Burn Jel lives in the kitchen, not the bathroom.
posted by Lexica at 6:44 PM on April 19, 2011

I've never used them in the kitchen, but suede welding/fireplace gloves work for me in the living room. I gave up those fireplace tongs and pokers 9 years ago when our first daughter was born (who wants those next to the fireplace when you're toddler is exploring?). I switched to a simple pair of heavy and long suede fire gloves. I can just reach into the fireplace and reposition/add a log with both hands in complete comfort with no further need for that medieval tree of iron. In the kitchen maybe you could use a similar but shorter glove on your left hand, leaving your presumably more dextrous right for food and utensil contact? Alternatively you could hire a consultant to come over and tazer or cattle-prod your ass just before each poor hot handle choice is made. It may be out of fashion, but I think the benefits of classical conditioning are still tried and true and result in rapid relearning.
posted by Rafaelloello at 8:25 PM on April 19, 2011

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