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AFBAmerican Foundation®
for the Blind

Expanding possibilities for people with vision loss

Safe Cooking Techniques for Cooks Who Are Blind or Have Low Vision

Safe Cooking Tips
Cutting and Chopping
Measuring
Pouring
Peeling
Placing Pans on a Burner
Baking
Turning Foods
Testing Food for Doneness
Spreading
Adapting Cookbooks and Recipes
Useful Tools and Small Appliances

Safe Cooking Tips

  • Wear short sleeves or roll your sleeves above the elbow when working at the stove.
  • Wear oven mitts to handle pots and pans.
  • Set a timer to remind you when to turn off the stove and electrical appliances.

    To make chopping easier, use an adjustable gooseneck lamp for extra light, a board with an attached knife for safety, and white cutting board that contrasts with the red apple.

    gooseneck lamp shining light on an apple on white cutting board with attached knife
  • Make sure all your appliances are in good working order and avoid overloading circuits.
  • Use a vegetable peeler instead of a knife for peeling fruits and vegetables.
  • Consider using a pizza cutter rather than a knife for cutting, or try out a pivot knife that is connected to a cutting board.
  • Don't store spices on a shelf above the stove.
  • Don't remove a pan from the stove before you turn off the flame.
  • Don't wear anything with long, loose sleeves when cooking.

Cutting and Chopping

  • Remember to use plastic trays or cutting boards in colors that contrast with your food. For example, keep a white cutting board for slicing red apples or carrots, a dark colored board for onions, etc.

    reversible cutting 

board, dark on one side, white on the other

    Use the white side of the cutting board for dark foods, and the black side for light foods.

  • Try a pizza cutter instead of a knife for slicing sandwiches, or try an adjustable knife attached to a cutting board.

Measuring

  • Hold a light-colored measuring cup against a dark background when pouring water, flour, sugar, and other light-colored ingredients.

    You can find various measuring spoons and cups with large print, tactile, and contrasting labels to help you cook.

    white measuring spoons with black label indicating measurement size
  • Use a measuring cup with raised numbers on the side or mark the cup tactilely with a 3-D pen.

  • Use individually sized or stacking measuring cups to scoop desired amounts.

  • Measure spices into your hand first to avoid pouring into a spoon (some spice containers have a wide opening to insert a spoon), or use measuring spoons with large numbers.

Pouring

Cold Liquids

Again, use color contrasts: Dark pitchers and servers for milk and other light-colored liquids, a white pitcher for dark liquids such as iced tea.

When pouring into a glass:

  • Locate the pitcher by trailing your hand along the table.
  • Locate the spout by moving your hand up the pitcher, and then turn the pitcher until the spout faces the glass.

    a 

woman pouring a drink and placing her finger on the inner lip of a glass to know when it is full

    When pouring liquid into a glass, your finger placed over the edge of the glass can serve as a guide to help you know when the glass is almost full.

  • With your other hand, move the glass toward the pitcher, keeping your index finger on the spout of the pitcher.
  • Lift the pitcher slightly and touch the spout to the rim of the glass.
  • Now hook your index finger partway over the rim of the glass so that just your fingertip is inside the glass.
  • Pour until you can feel the water or other liquid reach your index finger. Also, listen for sound changes as liquid reaches the top of the glass.

Try practicing with empty containers first, and pour over a tray to catch any spills.

Or …

You may prefer to use an electronic liquid level indicator, also known as a "Say When." This battery-operated device is placed at the top of a cup or glass and beeps when the liquid reaches the top.

The Say When device can also be used when filling a cup from a water dispenser.

say when device being used in a cup while getting water from a refrigerator water dispenser

Hot Liquids

Pouring hot liquids can be dangerous, especially for someone with neuropathy (loss of sensitivity in the fingertips). It is safer to use an electronic liquid-level indicator for pouring hot liquids.

video Safely Pouring Liquids Video


Peeling

  • Use a vegetable peeler rather than a knife. Hold the fruit or vegetable in one hand; the peeler in the other.
  • Grasp the handle with your thumb on one side and your fingers on the other. Don't touch the moving rod inside the peeler.
  • Hold the item at a 45-degree angle and, working on one half of the fruit or vegetable, start to peel on the surface, away from your body. Once the peelings have been removed, check the section with your index finger to feel if it is smooth.
  • Peel until the half you're working on is finished. Then turn the item upside down and continue.
  • To determine whether you have any peel left, run cold water over the fruit or vegetable.

Placing Pans on a Burner

  • Always position the pan correctly on the burner before turning the stove on.
  • Always turn off the burner before removing the pan.
  • Flat surface stoves can be a problem, but some have tactile contrast to indicate the burner (again, never turn on a burner until your pan is in position).
  • Check the evenness of heat around the pan by holding your palm at chest level and circling your hand to determine the location of the heat source.
  • You can check and adjust the position of the pan on the burner using a wooden spoon.
  • Make sure the handles on the pots and pans and knobs on the lids are heat resistant.
  • Make sure the handles are turned in when cooking so you will not accidentally bump or knock your pots and pans to the floor.

Baking

  • Make sure the oven racks are positioned correctly before turning on the oven.
  • Always turn off the heat before removing items from the oven.
  • When removing items, pull the oven rack partially out rather than reaching into the oven. Remember to push the rack back in and close the oven door as soon as possible after placing the item on a counter or other surface.
  • Use long oven mitts to remove items from the oven.
    Man wearing 

oven mitts placing baking dish in oven

    Long oven mitts protect hands and arms.

  • Know where you are going to place the hot item before removing it from the oven.
  • Oven doors that open down are safer than ones that open to the side.
  • Always use an audible timer when baking.

Turning Foods

It is generally easier to use a double spatula as a turning device. Slide the item to the side of the pan, then slide the spatula underneath it. With the spatula, move the item to the center of the pan before flipping it over. Make sure you have one hand on the handle of the pan to prevent tipping.

Testing Food for Doneness

If you were a seasoned cook before experiencing vision loss, you most likely relied on many techniques to determine when something was "done"—certainly not sight alone. So while food timers and talking thermometers and other devices will help you compensate for vision loss in the kitchen, you can also learn to lean more heavily on skills and senses you've probably been using for years. For example, use touch (carefully) to determine when a cake has finished baking, or use the toothpick test—insert a toothpick in the cake, and if you feel batter sticking to the toothpick, the cake is not yet done. Or you can listen for french fries to stop sputtering in their oil to know when they're done. Many foods smell a certain way when cooked. Learn to recognize the signals your other senses are sending you.

Spreading

  • Practice with toast—it won't tear as easily as regular bread.
  • With thick spreads like peanut butter or margarine, use an organized pattern to spread outward from a certain point—left to right, top to bottom, or center to outside.
  • You can touch the food to make sure that spreading is complete.
  • Some people find it easier to spread with the back of a spoon instead of a knife.

Adapting Cookbooks and Recipes

  • Cookbooks are available in braille, large print, and recorded versions.
  • If you have a computer and a printer, your own recipes can be typed and printed in as large a font as you need. Or they can be handwritten in large print with a bold line marker.
  • Magnifying devices of all types can help.
  • Sometimes a transparent yellow acetate overlay can make print easier to read.
  • Recipes can also be recorded on a cassette tape or CD.

Useful Tools and Small Appliances

There are many simple, inexpensive tools you may find helpful in the kitchen. Several are listed here—you can find information on all of these, and more, in the AFB Product Search. For additional information on where to purchase products mentioned in this article, view a list of specialty product sources.

  • long oven mitts
  • kitchen timer with raised markings or large print
  • liquid-level indicator
  • safety food turner (double spatula)
  • splatter shield
  • cutting board with food chute for pouring
  • cutting boards in light and dark colors to contrast with food
  • color-coded or high-contrast measuring cups and spoons
  • individual measuring cups and spoons (a must)
  • large-print and broad handle measuring cup
  • adjustable knife with a slice guide for adjusting slices
  • A 3-D pen (or Hi Marks) for marking appliances
  • card and bar code reader for creating labels that can be read back
  • boil control disc to keep foods from boiling over
  • tomato and vegetable slicer

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