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Battle Wounds

I just had this crazy story to tell and I'm sure other people have similar stories to share about crazy/silly/scary things that happened to them while cooking.

So today I was cooking lentils in a flat rectangular metal pan over the stove. When I go to bring them to the table I pick up by the handles (which are the metal loop kind that hang down by hinges). I'm using thick oven mitts, but as I'm carrying the pan to the table (15 feet away or so) the handle feels hot. REALLY HOT. By the time I'm halfway to the table I'm worried that I'm burning myself, but my only other option was to drop the lentils, so I keep going.

As I turn my hand over and look at the palm of the mitt, a few wisps of smoke rise up. The pan had burnt almost all of the way through the oven mitt. I have no idea how hot it must have been to do that, or if something on the oven mitt might have started it (oil?), but it was a super strange experience. Nothing like this has ever happened to me before.

As a side note, my hand is mostly fine. It hurt a lot, and it's kind f red and sore, but it hasn't blistered.

Attached is a photo of the oven mitt. You can see right where the handle was.

Anyway, there's my story. Anything like this ever happen to you in the kitchen?

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  1. we've all got battle scars. my most common kitchen war wounds occur when i drop & shatter glass and get hit with the errant flying shard, or absentmindedly grab [what i KNOW is] a hot pan and burn the crap out of my hand. and i tend to drop extremely sharp knives (or knock them off the counter) on a regular basis, and they always come awfully close to embedding themselves in the flesh somewhere on my body...i've managed to escape unscathed thus far, but i fear it's only a matter of time before one of them hits its mark - just last night my santoku slipped off the counter (okay, okay, i *may* have bumped it) and landed about a millimeter from my bare foot.

    an injury thread here:

    and lots of war stories sprinkled in here:

    1. I've had my share of cut fingers (one of which once landed me in the emergency room), but the worst I suffered was somewhat related to your experience. I had made a veal in cream sauce dish in my largest Le Creuset skillet. I held the pan with one hand to pour it into the serving dish while scraping it with the other. The arm holding the pan was feeling strained, but I wanted to get it all arranged nicely on the dish so I made myself keep holding the pan up until it was empty.

      Nothing happened right away, but the next morning I woke up unable to move that arm at all without excruciating pain - turns out I'd seriously pulled the tendon in my shoulder. Took months of physical therapy before I was fully back to normal. That was about 20 years ago, and I still have that pan, but I treat it (and my shoulder) with more respect now.

      1. I have a few burns and knife injuries. Instead of mentioning all of them. Here are one of each (in very condensed version):

        I have chopped through my fingernail. Went to the hospital and the doctor removed my fingernail in order to examine the depth of the cut. The result from removing the fingernail caused much more pain than the cut. Well, the cut was painful too.

        I have turned on the wrong stove and heated up the metal handle of a pot. I realized it, and turned off the heat. Although I realize the handle was hot, I didn't realize how hot it actually was. I grabbed the handle in trying to move the pan, and it gave me a solid burn. It took about a week to recover... probably a tad longer.

        9 Replies
        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

          oh man I chopped through my fingernail once- I learned the hard way that there's a reason they say to tuck your fingertips in while chopping! That basil scarred me for life, literally! Cut clear through the nail and almost completely lost the end of my finger. It was holding on by a "thread" and I ran to the closest hospital which was 7 (short) NYC blocks away where I sat in the ER for 5 hours awaiting treatment. About three rolls of paper towels later, I was xrayed and proven to have not chipped the bone. A nice tight bandage, a tetanus shot and a round of antibiotics later I was back home and being far more careful about my knife skills.
          As an aside, I kept a gross photoblog of the status of my nub, which took about 5 weeks to fully shrivel up and fall off. I now have a new finger-end and nail, although it looks more square and has different nerve feeling than my other hand. Live and learn (and make the boyfriend do the chopping, when in doubt!)

          1. re: CarmenR

            "Cut clear through the nail and almost completely lost the end of my finger"

            I cut through the nail, but I didn't cut to the bone. That was one of the reasons why the doctor wanted to remove my fingernail to see if I cut to the bone.

            "I ran to the closest hospital which was 7 (short) NYC blocks"

            "although it looks more square and has different nerve feeling than my other hand"

            In my case, it looks and feels exactly the same as before, so I guessed you had it tougher, huh? :)

            I drove very slow to the closest hospital.

          2. re: Chemicalkinetics

            I've had to figure out a little system after grabbing the handle of a skillet that had come put of the oven. Blisters will make you smarter the next time! When I start on the stovetop and finish in the oven in a long-handled skillet these days, I leave a folded towel over the handle.

            1. re: Terrie H.

              "When I start on the stovetop and finish in the oven in a long-handled skillet these days, I leave a folded towel over the handle."

              Nice. I assume you mean the papertowel go into the oven with the pan. Does it not fall off?

              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                Oh, no, sorry I wasn't clear. It is when I've taken the skillet out of the oven and set it on the stove, I grabbed the handle a few minutes later not thinking about the fact it had been in the oven - instinctually easy to just grab that handle to me (and worried that someone else in the kitchen might do the same). So I place a folded towel over the handle when is out of heat so no one is burned.

                1. re: Terrie H.

                  Ah, this makes very good sense. Thanks.

              2. re: Terrie H.

                +1 Putting a skillet in the oven to finish accounts for my worst kitchen injury ever, unless you count cutting vertically through the entire end of my finger and nail on a bread slicer at the bakery I worked at in high school.

                The entire palm of my hand and fingers were burned. It was so painful I thought I was going to have to go to the ER. I had to keep an ice pack on it for two days straight.
                NEver gonna make that mistake again. Now I put a mitten-type pot holder on that skillet handle the second it comes out of the oven.

                1. re: splatgirl

                  That's what happenned to me - a palm full of blisters that were painful for weeks. When I hear of people with real burns over their bodies I am so hurt for them just knowing how badly an insignificant one felt to me.

                  1. re: Terrie H.

                    Hey, but I had morphine! If it was significant to you, then it's significant.

            2. Yowza - weird that it got that hot!

              I have a hot pad with a large hole burned out of it...and absolutely no recollection or knowledge of how the burn got there. (I know, scary, right?) It's now my oyster mitt, as the remaining part is still thick enough to use for non-heat-related tasks. (it's one of the pocket-type hotpads that you slip your hand into.

              I have my "tiger stripes" -- a few scars from burns and cuts on my hands and forearms where I've had run-ins with one thing or another. I'm not disfigured, but they're noticeable in the summertime. I used to be self-conscious about them, until I saw Bourdain with a group of up-and-coming young chefs -- seems cuts and burns are worn with pride and are a sign of the dedication to one's craft. Now I figure I have street cred. (ha!)

              1. wow lucia never heard of the mitt burning but I have used a wet oven glove and learned a lesson.

                2 memorable burns for me - working in a bakery in my 20s and seeing that a tray of loaves was overcooking I pulled the tray from the commercial oven not realizing how heavy it was. This bread oven was around eye height and as I pulled out the tray the weight forced it onto the top of my inner arm - ouch.

                At home I once poured boiling water into the French Press and a minute later pushed the plunger. The coffee managed to do a volcano impression and whooshed out all over my hand. The impending blister a few hours later was about 4 inches in diameter and took days to heal.

                1. Washing a glass by hand (back in the good old pre-dishwasher days) and the glass broke. I could see right in to the bone and dad thoughtfully put towels down on the seat of the car for the trip to the ER because it was bleeding through the towel I had wrapped it in.

                  Chopping garlic and sliced through my right index finger, again exposing down to the bone. Another trip to the ER, another scar.

                  The best? Making toffee (which you cook to 300-310 degrees). As I'm pouring it onto the parchment I get distracted and pour it onto my hand. Kept pouring and spreading before I got the hand under cold water (my family and friends are seriously addicted to this candy and it was Christmas time).

                  This Christmas I got off easy--just one bruised forefinger and on (still) burnt thumb.

                  1. I gotten many of the usual cuts and burns from cooking but most recently I got a large battle wound...and I wasn't even cooking.

                    Shortly after Thanksgiving, I used my food processor to puree some vegetables and I put all of the pieces of the food processor in the dishwasher that evening. My dishwasher never seems to dry the pieces all the way, so I had the blade plus other pieces sitting on the counter overnight to air dry as I have done a million times before. In the morning, when I was emptying the dishwasher, I knocked the food processor blade off the counter and instinctively I grabbed it to catch it. I caught it by the sharp side of the blade. Oh. My. God. It sliced my hand and I saw stars. It's the meaty part of my hand in between my thumb and wrist.

                    I grabbed paper towels and I walked around for about 30 minutes with my hand above my head (isn't that what you're supposed to do to stop bleeding??). It was like 7:30 in the morning and my kids were eating breakfast wondering why I was pacing around with my hand in the air. I'm sure I could have used a few stitches...

                    1. Not my injury, but memorable nonetheless. I was assisting an intensive intro cooking course at one of the NY cooking schools. On the first day the instructor gave a basic safety lecture including what I thought was a superfluous warning about the food processor. The blades are SHARP. They are made of SURGICAL STEEL. Be careful when handling them, etc. I couldn't imagine why the warning was necessary but the instructor said that someone hurt themselves with the blade every single class. Less than 15 minutes later, sure enough, a student sliced open his hand on the food processor blade, necessitating a trip to the ER. The victim? A doctor.

                      1. A nickle-sized burn on the top of my hand from a blob of polenta that bubbled up while stirring a huge rondeau of it. The Mederma didn't work on this injury but works great for most other burns. There's always a tube of toothpaste in the kitchen for quick relief.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: letsindulge

                          I got one of these myself yesterday morning stirring a pot of cornmeal mush! I heard a *bloop* and saw a big blob of mush on my hand. Like a dummy, I didn't realize how hot it was and looked at it for a second or two before brushing it off. A huge (as in tall) blister appeared not too long after... Not looking forward to the scar afterwards... Not that I don't have my share of "tiger stripes" as sunshine said, and random little scars, but I figure this one should be extra pretty :-/

                          1. re: kubasd23

                            can't take credit for that one -- someone on here, but I can't remember who -- buttertart or mamachef, maybe?

                            1. re: sunshine842

                              Whoever came up with it, it is quite the fitting (and amusing) term!!

                              1. re: kubasd23

                                Tiger stripes, love it! Exactly what my wrists are starting to look like from the dangerous partnership of heavy cast iron pots and floor-level oven :(

                        2. I have a bad steam burn on my arm, above the wrist. I was moving a pan to the sink to drain when the lid came ajar on the side closest to my arm, and my choice was to drop the pan in my new ceramic sink, or set it down, so I set it down. I ran cold water over my arm right away, but boy did I have a BAD burn. It amazed me how progressively worse that burn got over the next 12 hours. Took about 8 weeks to heal. My nurse friend who saw it a couple of weeks later said I should have gone to the ER. It's healed to a 3 by 4 noticeable scar, but was probably 5 X 6 at it's worst.

                          1. Two weeks ago, my French press pulled the same bs as Smartie's. Startled the heck out of me, but the pinkness on my left hand was gone in a day or two. The worst injury is a story I've told here before, and is probably in one of the threads GHG linked. I was at work, and grew distracted during prep, and when I finally remembered that the soup I had been bringing to a boil had been on the burner for a good long while, I rushed over. I was surprised that it wasn't really boiling, and hurriedly stuck my spoon in to that very, very hot soup. Apparently there is some kind of weird surface tension thing where a liquid can look very calm, but is merely waiting for that surface tension to be broken so that the liquid can finally become the raging fountain of fury it was meant to be. When I stuck the spoon in, leaning over the pot to scrutinize the contents, I was in an instant covered in (yes, boiling) soup. My chest, neck, and left shoulder got the worst of it. My chest and shoulder still have small pink scars. I am scarred from kale miso soup.

                            My newest wounds are both on the inside of my right forearm: one smallish tiger stripe from laying my arm on the edge of a wok, and a small burn from some pretty vigorous pasta water. Now that I don't work in a restaurant anymore, the injuries that happen in my own kitchen kind of make me a little nostalgic. I know that sounds weird, but there it is. In my job now, the only injuries I am likely to get are paper-cuts and bruised feelings.

                            1. Oh I have a good one. I dropped a big pot of boiling ravioli on the way from the stove to the sink. Third degree burns on both legs, 6 weeks in the hospital, 4 skin grafts and a morphine drip. Now I know why people love drugs! It was 11 years ago and I'm fine. But whoa, did I learn how to enjoy my life!

                              7 Replies
                              1. re: Sue in Mt P

                                Dimg! Ding! Ding! We have a winner for worst non-fatal wound!

                                1. re: Sue in Mt P

                                  Damn, Sue - so sorry you went through such a horrible time.

                                  1. re: Sue in Mt P

                                    Sue FTW!!! holy crap dear, that sounds horrible!!!

                                    1. re: kubasd23

                                      Yeah it was pretty durn awful. Thanks, y'all. An interesting thing happened in the ambulance. I said to myself "I've never been to Italy! I can't die!" So, I didn't. And sure enough, when I could walk again, I went. That little Eat Pray Love girl has nothing on me :)

                                      1. re: Sue in Mt P

                                        Congratulations on spinning this horrific event to the positive.

                                        But seriously, I would never make pasta again. I might not even enter a kitchen again.

                                        1. re: gaffk

                                          Thanks. I'm a therapist so I talked to myself a lot. And I know about trauma, PTSD treatment, etc. I was worried that I'd be all weird in my sweet little house but it didn't happen, lucky for me.

                                          I'm just glad to be sitting here. Thanks for the good words.

                                    2. re: Sue in Mt P

                                      Glad you came out OK. My now ex-wife did something similar but got off easier. Same drop of pot of pasta - macaroni as I remember. I was in the livingroom heard a crash and a blood curdling scream. I ran into the kitchen to help. Was barefoot and went sliding on the hot slippery pasta water and slammed into the cabinet under the sink. I recovered and drove her to the ER. She had bad burns but was able to come home. Lots of bed rest. No clothes for days. Bad burns on upper legs and stomach. She recovered well and still eats pasta. I think she dropped it because of a thin or wet pot holder but 30 years later I really don't remember.

                                    3. Burns galore, most recently while taking Christmas cookies out of the oven to the stove top and while using one arm to remove the cookies hit my forearm on the hot metal tray-2nd degree burn-shea butter to the rescue (the scar is already pretty faded). So keep shea butter in the kitchen !!

                                      Years of making appetizers with those cute little wooden picks....several times in my eye...flying picks...lordy!

                                      I seem to have more haphazard pierces with forks than knife (weight diff) and have taken flesh out of my fingers countless times using forks.

                                      Slipping on wet floors...bum

                                      Balancing one too many dishes at a time...glass

                                      oh yes, battle wounds galore. Welcome to the club!

                                      1. It sounds like the affected handle from your pan was being heated like a branding iron. If I follow the description of the pan you were using, the handles hang down bringing them closer to the flame than if they had been fixed in place. If the pot was not centered over the flame, I'm guessing that the heat source was quite close to one handle (since it seeems that only one handle was that hot and I assume only 1 or 2 inches away from the bottom of the pan when down) and it heated to a temperature of several hundred degrees which will be enough to start fabric smouldering. As a square shaped pan, I would also surmise that this is a roasting pan rather than a stove top pan. My suggestion would be to avoid using this pan to make lentils unless you bake them in the oven.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Bkeats

                                          Yeah, I'm pretty sure that's how it happened. It just seems odd because I've used it similarly before and it's never gotten close to that hot.

                                        2. I used to put on a lot of cooking demo's for a natural foods store. Usually I ran my dishes through the kitchens dishwasher. One day the chef was in a foul mood and my dishes needed to be washed during the cafes lunch rush. To preserve harmony I had the bright idea to do my washing in the meeting room.

                                          The only problem was the meeting room had no hot water, but there was a stove. I boiled water, poured it into the sink, added dish soap and let it soak. Once the water cooled enough for my hands I started washing. Most the the items used that day were small clear glass bowls which held the prepped ingredients so the audience could see them easier.

                                          At one point as I was rinsing, I noticed a big soap bubble stuck to a finger. It didn't wash away. When I moved my hand closer to look at the bubble I realized I had a perfect 4" crescent of glass pierced through my finger. I grabbed a clean bar towel and gripped the finger, held my hand over my head, and asked a co-worker to get me some help as I slid to the floor.

                                          The store assistant manager wanted to pull it out with tweezers, I declined. I was worried about potential nerve damaged and wanted a doctor to look at it.

                                          At the ER there was a parade of staff coming through to look at my hand - it looked like some sci-fi mutant claw. After much discussion about which direction the crescent had entered my finger the doctor started to remove it from my numbed finger. Came out perfectly and the cut was so clean that they just taped it up. He said if it had entered/exited at any other point I would have had permanent damage to the finger.

                                          Amazingly I never felt it enter the finger and it barely bled. Still have the crescent as my souvenir though! Have two 1/2" scars on the finger, but they healed so clean that you can barely see them.

                                          2 Replies
                                            1. re: sunshine842

                                              It was totally surreal. There were several moments where my head just could not register what my eyes were seeing. I'm so thankful that I didn't loose the use of that finger!

                                              I guess the boiling water combined with a stress fracture along the rim of a bowl ...

                                          1. There is NOT enough room for a human hand to fit between the (moving) dough hook and the 20 quart mixer bowl, no matter how impatient you are with the intern for screwing up the bread. Thinking you can quickly scrape the bowl down without stopping the mixer is a not thinking very well. There are some lessons I have to learn over and over, but I learned that one just fine the first time. My hand finally stopped hurting after about 6 years.

                                            1. Last week I was stirring a pan with one hand and reaching into the cupboard with the other. I completely misjudged the distance and scraped my hand along the shelf. As wounds go it wasn't that bad but I didn't feel much like eating after I'd retrieved the ribbon of my skin that was stuck to the shelf!

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. First day on new job as baker/soup cook. Hand chopping mounds of leeks. Neglected to curl fingers and was going fast and drove knife through top half of middle finger. Glad the nail was there. I think that helped from it being severed. I was embarrassed and didn't want to be fired on first day so I just wrapped it real tight and kept working. Had to keep changing the paper towels and bandaids but it eventually stopped bleeding.

                                                Another time (still a teenager) I couldn't find the can opener. Picked up my 14" chef knife and used the tang to open can. I missed and sunk the knife into my left hand just to right of my index knuckle. Still have a 1.25 inch scar there. Didn't go to the doctor just bandaged and rebandaged. Very glad I still have all my fingers.

                                                And yes, I did learn knife skills. Perhaps the hard way.

                                                1. The ones that come to mind:

                                                  I've chopped off the tip of my right thumb 3 different times that I can remember. Never bothered to stitch it back on. I have a bad habit of rotating my 'claw' hand outward when I'm either cutting fast or cutting a lot of food at once. I've also sliced little flaps of skin off the knuckles on my right hand, but those weren't particularly bad cuts.

                                                  Don't know if this counts, but walking through the kitchen as a teenager, I stepped on the lid of a cat food can - cut right to the tendons, just shy of the ball of my foot. I don't remember it hurting really until after the ED and stitching. I just remember a sickening 'crunch' when I stepped on it - I knew immediately that sucker was deep.

                                                  Of course I've had many minor burns, but none worth telling a story about. However, when I was a boy, my brother and I walked into each other while I was carrying a bowl of boiling water. It was on Easter day. I was maybe 11 which would have made him 5. 2nd degree burns all over his chest, shoulders and back. He's all grown up now and still has a few scars, but they don't look bad anymore. He lorded it over me for years. From my perspective it was a really awful experience, though I wasn't burned.

                                                  Finally, no major wounds, but I have one particular knife that has cut literally every single person who has used it. There's nothing wrong with the knife - it's a great blade and I keep it super sharp - but it may be cursed. It was responsible for one of those amputations of the last 1/8 inch of my thumb I mentioned above, the worst of the three actually. One friend used it for just a minute and was bleeding. Another cut herself while rinsing it off. My mother-in-law... well, that wasn't much of a surprise. Most recently, I lent it out to another friend - a line cook - and it bit him too. Twice in one motion of his arm while the knife was sitting idle next to his cutting board. My wife won't touch it.

                                                  5 Replies
                                                  1. re: cowboyardee

                                                    I think I'd be getting rid of that sucker...or burying it deep in the woods somewhere....

                                                    1. re: cowboyardee

                                                      "I have a bad habit of rotating my 'claw' hand outward when I'm either cutting fast or cutting a lot of food at once."

                                                      Most people do.

                                                      "but I have one particular knife that has cut literally every single person who has used it"

                                                      A cursed knife? Who was the the previous owner? He must have resentfully died in a battlefield.

                                                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                        Hey Chem -

                                                        The 'cursed knife' is actually my hiromoto. I guess I couldn't say for sure what it had been through before it was shipped to me. You know the dark patina at the edge as the cladding fades away - I refer to that as 'the blood of its enemies.'

                                                        Here's a pic for people who don't know what a hiromoto looks like:

                                                        1. re: cowboyardee

                                                          Scary. I think it was cursed the moment it was made. Cursed....


                                                    2. One of the worst ones I can remember...

                                                      I was using a pairing knife to cut small holes into a standing rib roast, so I could insert some garlic cloves. Finished using the knife, layed it down, finished prepping the roast and started to clean up.
                                                      I grabbed the big wrinkled sheet of butcher paper off the counter, and crumpled it tightly into a ball. It was at that point I felt a sharp pain between my knuckles. I looked at the back of my left hand (still gripping the wadded up ball of butcher paper) and noticed a shiney silver triangle sticking out.
                                                      It was the tip of the pairing knife.

                                                      I guess I layed the pairing knife onto the butcher paper without realizing it, and while balling it up to throw away, I stuck the knife through the palm of my left hand and out the back LOL.

                                                      Slowly releasing my grip on the ball of paper, I had to slide the knife out of my hand ever so carefully. Almost passed out when very dark blood started running out.

                                                      But...I just blew $70 on a prime rib roast with all the fixin's...I'll be damned if I'm going to miss out on this meal! So, I cut the sleave off of a long shirt, wrapped up my hand, and took it to the ER the next morning LOL.

                                                      Damn good roast, though!

                                                      1. OK, some of these incidents are so horrific I am no longer checking this thread. If I don't stop I'll never return to the kitchen.

                                                        1. There is no way I can top any of these horror stories, but I did once cut through to the bone below my thumb with a serrated knife. Looking at the wound made me feel quite ill. I ended up at the doctor's office, where he taped it. I had numbness in that part of my hand for years, but I have no scar and no odd feeling there now.

                                                          I've burned myself any number of times, and cut myself too. I get mad at myself when I cut myself. Such a bother to bleed when you are cooking.

                                                          I can't remember having a potholder burn as I was using it, but I have burned potholders before. And I've had things fall out of the cabinets and hit me in the head, but fortunately, no serious injuries.

                                                          1. After reading this thread, I am grateful to have cut my left hand as a seven-year-old child while peeling and paring apples to make applesauce. Since then I've had not a significant kitchen mishap causing bodily injury.

                                                            The small scar between my thumb and forefinger is a wonderful reminder to be careful in the kitchen.

                                                            1. I have a two-inch scar on my left hand about an inch above the thumb joint. I received this many moons ago when when I got my first "good" knife set, and was trying to steel my chef's knife like I'd seen the "pros" do it, edge toward me, steeling on the upstroke. Needless to say, the last upstroke was a bit too long and I darned near sliced off my thumb.

                                                              1. A few months ago, I was pureeing cashews for a curry chicken and cashew dish. The cashews gummed up my immersion blender, so I picked it up and started scraping out the nuts with my finger. I forgot to unplug the blender and my palm hit the switch blending my finger. My husband rushed me to urgent care and they glued it back together. I didn't even lose the nail! Interestingly enough, I was that office's second immersion blender accident of the week and I fared much better than the other cook.

                                                                1. Still have two band-aids on my left hand from chopping. No, really, I have sharp knives and great cutting boards but I'm inclined to move the first aid kit from the bathroom to the kitchen. God, love me! Stopping a stem of blood flow is getting to be a chore.