One of the required merit badges for Eagles is the Cooking merit badge. It helps to teach young people how to safely prepare a nutritious meal anywhere, even out in the wilderness. Gone will be the days of eating instant Ramen out in the woods. It helps you learn how to prepare food much tastier, and much healthier.
Because this badge requires so much practical knowledge, it will likely take a few weeks at least to complete. Health and safety is a paramount component to earning the badge. You must be knowledgeable about many aspects of cooking and the hazards that can come with it.
Health and safety are a big part of earning your cooking merit badge. You’ll be expected to know different hazards you could run into when you’re cooking. One such hazard is food poisoning. It’s hard to tell just by looking if a food has gone bad, but there are several guidelines to follow when you’re cooking:
1Always be sure to wash your hands and cookware before cooking.
2Never consume anything after it has expired.
3Check for a smell, and if it smells off, don’t eat it.
4If you suspect it may be bad, throw it out.
5Use separate cutting boards for vegetables and meats.
6Don’t consume animal products if they’re not fully cooked.
7Clean stoves and countertops after using them.
8Keep food residue off your cooking utensils and surfaces.
Following these rules will help reduce or eliminate the risk of food poisoning. If you do get sick after eating something bad, drink plenty of water. If you don’t feel better within a couple days, see a doctor.
It is important when cooking to be sure you do not cause cross contamination. This is when one food is mixed with another. One example is cutting meat and vegetables on the same cutting board. The veggies can become contaminated with juices from the meat, which can make you sick.
Always use separate knives and cutting boards. Store foods separately, and clean any spills right away.
Another risk is chemical poisoning. Be careful what you add to food. Make sure to keep cleaning supplies in a room separate from cooking supplies. Poisons and other chemical supplies should be nowhere near the cooking area.
If you suspect or someone else has been accidentally poisoned, call 911. If it is a case with no symptoms, call the poison control number: 1-800-222-1222. Symptoms of chemical poisoning can be nausea, vomiting, trouble breathing, odd skin color, or difficulty breathing.
Slips and Falls
Slips or falls are another common risk in the kitchen. Keep the kitchen floor clean, and wipe up any spills immediately. Being surrounded by sharp instruments and hot cookware can cause major injury in the case of a fall. Wear footwear with a grippy sole, and move carefully. If a fall occurs, check for concussion and broken bones. Make sure any flames that have started are put out.
You’ll need to show you can render first aid in the event of an injury or illness, as well as explaining these hazards to your counselor.
Burns and Scalds
If you are burned or scalded, rinse it under lukewarm water for 15-20 minutes. Don’t use ice or cold water, because this could do more damage. Let the burn dry thoroughly, then cover it with a layer of clean plastic wrap to protect the skin. The burn victim should be kept warm using a blanket, but don’t touch the area that has been burned. A painkiller like ibuprofen can be used for pain.
If the burn is blistered, around the size of the victim’s hand, white, charred, caused by chemicals or electricity, or is causing excruciating pain, call 911. To avoid burns, keep stoves off when you’re not using them, turn pan handles away so they don’t snag on clothes, keep the stove and oven clean of grease, and don’t wear loose clothing when you cook.
Cuts and Lacerations
For cuts, call 911, clean the wound, and apply pressure. Stop the bleeding with a cloth and elevate the wound above the heart. Help the victim until medical personnel arrive. To lower risk of cuts, always use a sharp knife so you can apply less pressure. Always use a cutting board, keep your fingers curled, don’t put hot glass into water, and be careful opening metal cans.
Choking can also occur when cooking. This is when an object is blocking airflow in the person’s throat. If they can still slightly breathe, encourage them to cough up the object. Try hitting their back in time with their coughs. If they can’t breathe at all, you need to perform the Heimlich maneuver. To prevent choking, eat slowly and chew all your food thoroughly.
Many people are allergic to some types of food and some may not even know it. Allergic reactions can cause swelling in the face and neck, leading to trouble breathing. If someone has a reaction, call 911 and use an EpiPen if there is one available.
Even before the actual cooking starts, there’s a lot you must know about food safety. You will be required to know these things to earn your cooking merit badge, and it’s just as important as knowing how to make something yummy.