Kitchen Burns Are a Rite of Passage in the Culinary World—but You Don’t Have To Suffer. Here’s How to Treat and Soothe The Pain
When you work in the BOH, the number of scars you acquire will only compete with the number of tattoos you likely have.
They’re just par for the course, and kitchen burns are the most common culprit. The possibilities are endless— from oven burns to oil burns to accidentally grabbing the handle of a skillet with a semi-wet towel.
Since you’ll likely experience a range of burns throughout your career, knowing how to properly treat minor burns and when to say fuck it and go to an actual doctor is a crucial part of the job.
Recognize the Three Levels of Burns
The first step to handling a burn is to recognize its severity. There are three levels of burns:
• First-degree burns: Also known as minor burns, first-degree burns affect only the outer layer of skin, but don’t let that fool you. They’re still annoying—causing pain, swelling, and redness.
• Second-degree burns: A little deeper than a first-degree burn, second-degree burns also affect the underlying layers of skin. In addition to causing pain, redness, and swelling—they also cause blisters. A second-degree burn is considered minor if it’s less than 2-3 inches wide.
• Third-degree burns: Deep and severe, third-degree bad boys will cause whitened or blackened burned skin and might cause numbness.
Tips for Treating Minor Kitchen Burns
So, let’s say you’re having a nice chat with the server giving them shit about refiring T5’s burger since it was too “pink” for medium rare. In the process, you mistakingly grab hold of a very hot cast-iron saute handle.
Your senses are in shock, your skin is crawling in pain, you scream “SHIITT”—you look down, and yes, you now have a minor kitchen burn.
Here’s what you’re going to do to decrease the pain and chances of infection:
- Go to the sink and run cold water on the burn until the pain subsides.
- Get your safety kit (because you’re a responsibly ran kitchen and have a fully stocked first-aid kit on hand). Hopefully, there is some kind of ointment like vaseline you can put on the burn. If not, you’ll survive with step three until you go to the store or home where you can apply some.
- Bandage up with a non-stick sterile bandage.
To help ease the pain and hopefully help with the healing process, you can consider applying things like Aloe Vera, Honey, or Calendula. These treatments are said to help with irritation and inflammation.
Of course, if you notice anything weird, stop immediately and seek medical attention.
When to Seek Medical Attention
If you are experiencing a genuinely gnarly burn, do not take it lightly and seek medical attention ASAP.
According to the Mayo Clinic, you should call 911 or immediately seek medical care if your burn:
- Is deep and involves multiple layers of skin
- Has caused your skin to look dry and leathery
- Appears charred or has patches of white, brown or black
- Is larger than 3 inches in diameter
- Covers your hands, feet, face, groin, buttocks, or a major joint
- Encircles an arm or leg
- Is accompanied by smoke inhalation
- Begins to swell rapidly
If you have signs of a severe burn, don’t mess around and get it looked at immediately. Medical professionals can tell you how best to treat your burn based on your circumstances.
Burns are some serious business. Even the most careful chefs get them while working in the kitchen. Make sure your first-aid kit is stocked, and if someone is experiencing a severe burn, have a plan to get them the proper help—whether that’s a call to 911 or a ride to the ER.