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Absentminded in the Kitchen

I go on autopilot pretty often while cooking at home, especially during the week. Yesterday I grabbed the stainless steel handle of a skillet to toss around some shallots for a pan sauce. Sounds reasonable, except I forgot that I had just pulled that skillet out of a 400 degree oven. Oops! Funny how I expect handles to magically cool down as soon as I take the pot out of the oven (clearly, because it can't be hot and be on the range at the same time).

Do you ever do stupid, absentminded things like that while cooking? I can't be the only one!

(If you're wondering, I managed to let go before I burned my hand too terribly; it just stung for a few hours).

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  1. I've done that--heard the sizzle of my hand and thought, "Ow, that's going to hurt later." It did. I tell my husband to put an oven mitt on any handle that's hot but forgot to do it myself.

    1. I've done the "grab the handle" thing a couple times. You'd think I'd learn after the first time... Nope.
      Using a wet or damp towel to grab the handle does work either, hot handle and moisture = hot steam.

      1 Reply
      1. re: dave_c

        "Using a wet or damp towel to grab the handle does work either, hot handle and moisture = hot steam."

        yep, that's a classic one.

      2. Every time we take a skillet from stovetop to oven and back again, we are at risk of burning ourselves. We have finally agreed to ALWAYS slip an oven mitt over the handle to protect us against ourselves. So far, in six months, it has worked like a charm. But then last week I was cooking something in the oven and decided to add a cookie sheet full of walnuts for a quick toasting. Pulled the backed item out---of course can't remember what that was--turned off the oven and walked away. Found the walnuts 2 hours later, not burned but very toasted--oddly wonderful flavor and texture. Just lucky that time.

        1. Grabbing a hot handle is something I do at least once a week, it seems. I keep thinking I will learn.

          I also frequently less than vigilant about stirring things properly so they don't stick to the bottom of the pot and burn.

          Another favorite is putting something in the oven on broil, stepping away to start a load of laundry or something like that and coming back when I smell the burnt aroma.

          1. Oh I am useless, I do stupid things all the time. I have left the oven for 3 days, set fire to my kitchen a number of times, incinerated more tea towels than I care to recount, exploded bottles of wine in the freezer and the list goes on and on. You are certainly not alone.

            1. On Thanksgiving, I grabbed the glass lid of the dish covering the dressing without a pot holder....while it was still in the oven. Duh. (let go of it quick enough I didn't get burned or drop the lid on the floor, but what was I thinking?!)

              1. A few years back, I lived in an apartment that had *terrible* water pressure in the kitchen, barely a trickle came out of that faucet. Filling the sink with enough water to do dishes took a frustrating amount of time. It was bound to happen. One day, I turned the water on, wandered away, and then remembered something I needed from the corner market. And I left. I will never forget coming home, glancing through the window in the backdoor, pausing as I fitted my key into the lock as I wondered, "Why is my counter . . . shimmering?" It slowly dawned on me that it was water.

                I was making brownies the other day, and subbing cocoa for chocolate. Which is quite a lot of cocoa to measure out by the tablespoon, if one has been too lazy to figure out what the cup measurement would. I'm not certain how many tablespoons went into the melted butter before I realized that my attention had drifted, and that I had stopped counting as I added the cocoa. I just stared at it for a minute, biting my lip, before I decided to continue adding cocoa until it 'looked' done. The brownies were fantastic, but it really could have swung the other way.

                2 Replies
                1. re: onceadaylily

                  For awhile, our sink went through a phase of just shutting off when the water had run for awhile and the handle was at a certain angle. I managed to catch it each time when the boyfriend was running water to do dishes, and if we were out and came home to it, the stopper wasn't in the sink. We were lucky!

                  1. re: tracylee

                    Haha. We now have a bucket under our sink that fills fairly quickly, and needs to be dumped at least twice a day. I have to monitor the bucket with great care, since the boyfriend never remembers to check it before he turns the water on.

                2. i do the "grab the hot handle" move pretty regularly.

                  about 30 minutes ago i pulled another standard one [for me] - wrapped a kitchen towel around the handles of the pot, being sure to drape it partly over the edge of the lid so i could hold it in place while i drained the water off the hard-cooked eggs. then set the pot in the sink, dropped the towel on the counter...and removed the *hot metal lid* with my bare hand.

                  every. freaking. time.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                    what kills me is that , as you're doing the dumb move in question, your brain is processing that "you're gonna be sorry, 'cause that's gonna hurt"...but the "hey, stoopid, don't do that!" thought never gets through.

                    1. re: sunshine842

                      but the "hey, stoopid, don't do that!" thought never gets through.
                      however, "way to go, dumbass!" - or a string of R-rated expletives and self-directed insults - always flies as soon as the pain registers :)

                  2. I'm absentminded when it comes to attending pots. I can do all of the prep, but then once it goes on the stove or in the oven, I tend to forget about it, unless it's some sort of special dish or meal. I burn a lot. (in fact, right now, there's a chance the rice that I left on the stove is beginning to stick....)

                    1. The wet towel maneuver had me suffering through school with a burnt left hand for the very longest time! What I finally learned to do was drape a dry towel over my left shoulder and grab for it instead of the one on the counter; end of burns for the most part, but when things start moving very fast there's always room for one more.
                      My worst absentiminded professor move is to put something into the freezer to quick chill, forgetting where I put it; looking everywhere but the freezer, and finding it the next day, fully frozen.

                      11 Replies
                      1. re: mamachef

                        I used to use a terry towel -- for YEARS...When I got my Kitchenaid mixer, as a promo, the box included two of the heavy-duty oven hot pads that you slip your whole hand into (not a mitt, just two thick squares sewn together on three sides, with the fourth side open for your hand).

                        Converted me forever, and has nearly eliminated burned fingers.

                        1. re: sunshine842

                          Are they available only from KitchenAid? Because I think I'd like to have a couple of those at work, for my "student cooks." While I personally have learned the burned fingers lesson, they are still in a learning curve, and those might seriously help out.
                          Next onto why we never EVER try to catch a falling knife. Reflexes; I know, but some things have GOT to be unlearned, and quickly. : )

                          1. re: mamachef

                            No, I've bought them at Walmart, but these were particularly heavy-- and I started using them because they were free and they were there.

                            (Falling knife? Busted the tip right off my favorite Wusthof when it slipped out of my hand -- it was either jump back and let it hit the ceramic tile, or end up with an 8" chefs' knife embedded in my foot. I opted to sacrifice my knife. Took it to the knife shop in town, who was able to reconstruct the tip and put a bitchin' sharp edge back on it -- for cheap, so I'm a happy girl.)

                            1. re: sunshine842

                              Falling knife - I always jump back. And like you, the tip came off my Henkel paring knife. Henkel replaced it for free, no questions asked.

                              1. re: Sooeygun

                                My husband caught it mid-air before it hit our new dishwasher. I told him I would have let it go but at least he heals and the DW doesn't.

                          2. re: sunshine842

                            I'm going to have to check this out. I have a potholder that has a pocket, but you can only use one side to take out hot cookware (the other side is not protective). Of course, I've definitely used the wrong side before.

                          3. re: mamachef

                            My story was that I was making Ice Wine!

                            1. re: mamachef

                              My worst absentiminded professor move is to put something into the freezer to quick chill, forgetting where I put it; looking everywhere but the freezer, and finding it the next day, fully frozen.
                              i blew up many a can of beer that way in college...though there's a good chance my "forgetfulness" was the result of indulging in a bit of herbal refreshment while waiting for the beer to chill ;)

                              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                Had you only just got there in time, you could've had a beer float to treat them there munchies, ghg. : ) I did much much worse with foodstuffs around that, back in the day. : )

                                1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                  my husband was trying to impress me with a chilled bottle of wine -- he put it into the freezer to speed the process a little.

                                  We forgot about it, and opened the freezer the next day to find a 6" tube of ice extending from the neck of the bottle to the cork. Very bizarre. (this was in pre-internet days, so no blog post to link)

                              2. Oh, I had just posted my 'senior blonde moment' story for the day on the Baking thread.


                                I am so happy to know it's not just me! And I ALWAYS leave a potholder on the handle or lid or whatever just came out of the oven. That's something I never forget - it's automatic. Fear of pain is a great incentive for me.

                                1. I have left the stove on a low light many a time...last week was one of them - I thought it still smelled food-y in thehouse...uh oh.
                                  I have grabbed hot handles many a time too, until I lashed out for the stripey hot handle holders shown here and learned always to put them by the stove when baking in a skillet...

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: buttertart

                                    my glass cooktop is smarter than I am...it will turn itself off after a predetermined amount of time at each heat level.

                                  2. If I have something in the microwave that takes more than 5 minutes, i have to turn off the refrigerator or i will trip the circuit breaker. So I am reheating the spaghetti sauce that I'm taking for dinner to the camp out. Leave Friday night, come home Sunday afternoon. How many times did i say to myself... be sure to turn the fridge back on, be sure to turn the fridge back on....

                                    Oh well, I needed to clean out the fridge anyhow, fortunately it was mostly leftovers in there anyhow.

                                    1. I'm pretty good at doing ones that injure myself (Why not stick my thumb into the strained fryer oil in moving the bowl? Oh, I move my hand out from under the pan BEFORE I put it on the trivet), but this weekend I did one that stung in a whole different way.

                                      I whipped up the most wonderful, delicious, perfectly flavored batch of meyer lemon gelato. While I cleaned (licked any utensil that had come in contact with this amazing creation), I congratulated myself on being such a genius in the kitchen.

                                      Fast forward to the next morning, when I open the FRIDGE to make breakfast. Huh, what is this thing in here? Oh, you know, the meyer lemon gelato, now separated with a large ice chunk floating in a pool of (most likely delicious) meyer lemon...something.

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: dagoose

                                        Oh nOOOOO!

                                        Did you/could you refreeze it?

                                        1. re: dagoose

                                          At that point, darling, you just throw it in the blender with a healthy slug of good vodka, pour it directly into a glass and drink. All better now. Pretend to yourself that you meant to do that. : )
                                          Seriously, though; what a true BUMMER. We need to invent a fridge magnet with interchangeable plaques. The magnet could say "Remember" and the plaques could say, "dinner", "dessert", "freezer", etc.

                                          1. re: mamachef

                                            I like the way you think. It's in the freezer now, at some point when I'm done wallowing in self pity, I think I'll thaw it and re churn it. It won't be as good, but it could be okay.

                                        2. I feel compelled to share my best "absentiminded in the kitchen" tip. One thing I was quite famous for was the art of burning nuts when I toasted them. Hey, I forgot!! But pounds of burned nuts is a Very Bad, Very Expensive Thing, and it was a great day when a friend on the line told me to just place a nut on the cutting board I'm working with, as a reminder.
                                          Works every single time. Haven't burned a single nut in years.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. I just remembered when I first started to work with a tart pan that had the removable bottom. I think it was about 4 times in a row I took one of those out of the over--that might have been in my quiche phase--so that my potholdered hand was under the pan and the removal ring that formed the sides would be sliding down my arm at about 400 degrees. I had horizontal burns down by arm that looked like I was a "cutter." They scars are gone now, but I always give tart pans respect.

                                            3 Replies
                                            1. re: escondido123

                                              you're obviously far more talented than I am at some part of the tart-baking process...mine tend to boil over, cementing the outer ring to the removable bottom.(which then oozes juice just approaching the temperature of molten lava down my arm.)

                                              I used to worry about the scars on my hands and forearms til I watched an episode of No Reservations. Bourdain was at a party with a bunch of young chefs, and in between the ink of whisks and chef's knives were a bunch of scars...apparently burn scars are a badge of honor in the world of chefs. I thought I looked clumsy and accident-prone -- turns out I have street cred!

                                                1. re: sunshine842

                                                  Yep, I got those too. Your basic lady-cook hands, and several stripes which, though faint, will be there forever on my forearms. More power to us all!
                                                  We do, however, have a large sign at work over the workspace in the kitchen, the international symbol for No, with "Blood" in the middle.

                                              1. When I'm prepping vegetables or fruits, I often have thrown away the good part and put the parings in the bowl. i.e. the strawberry hull has made it into the bowl, while the strawberry is in the compost. Fortunately, I usually realize something's not right before I've wasted too many strawberries/green beans/etc.

                                                I also peeled carrots, then promptly swept the peelings AND the peeler into the compost bin. Couldn't find the peeler for a week, and accused my husband of putting it away in the wrong place.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: AverageJo

                                                  Recently did the same thing with my peeler and apple peels. I loved that peeler; I'd had it for 15 years. Took a day or two to figure out what had happened and the garbage was gone by that time.

                                                  1. re: Sooeygun

                                                    lost my beloved tomato knife that way.

                                                2. I recently was using the immersion blender to puree pears for my son. Well, a a big chunk got stuck in the blades and I went to remove it without unplugging the blender first. Of course my finger hit the power button while I was doing this. Luckily, I only needed 4 stitches to close the wound, I'll never do that again.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: donovt

                                                    why do we ALL believe our fingers and utensils will be immune to the effects of the blender blade?? i've been fortunate so far that the worst damage has been incurred by spoons and spatulas, but it's just a matter of time before i lose part of a finger to that thing. on last night's episode of Chopped All Stars i was cringing as Nate Appleman used a utensil to manipulate his soup while the blender was running...

                                                  2. Timely. My friend just posted on FB how she opened the dishwasher when it had just ended and the steam fused her eyelashes together (mascara). She had to run blindly for her makeup remover.

                                                    Me, I went to add some cumin to a stew I had in the oven. Hot air? Oh yeah, it makes things rise. All this cumin powder rose up and out of the oven (not into the pot), right into my eyes. Youch.

                                                    5 Replies
                                                    1. re: pdxgastro

                                                      I have to confess a bit of schadenfreude on your friend...I thought *I* was the only one who did things like that, and it makes me feel so much better to know I'm not!

                                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                                        Happens to me with the oven too. Yuck.
                                                        Cumin? Try hanging your head over a pot with Indian pickling spices in oil with the emphasis on the cayenne in it...yowza.

                                                        1. re: buttertart

                                                          but man, your sinuses have never been that clear!

                                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                                            For true! Cats weren't thrilled either! koff koff...

                                                      2. re: pdxgastro

                                                        I had to learn that, while it is perfectly okay to smell the anchos you've just lovingly ground into powder, it really isn't smart to do it *just* after you've stopped the grinder and popped the lid off, without waiting for the dust to settle.