The University Observer Survival Guide: Surviving the Kitchen

You've been in college a month now, Mammy's cut the umbilical cord and your last attempt at cooking resulted in a smoldering bowl of primordial soup. Luckily Conor O'Nolan and Alison Lee are here to help.Cooking Food Properly It really cannot be over emphasised how important it is to cook food, especially meat, properly, unless of course you enjoy inflicting the unpleasant effects of food poisoning on yourself or anyone you make the mistake of cooking for. All sorts of nasty pathogens can live in meat. Campylobacter jejuni and E. Coli are members of a nearly endless list of bacteria that can be found in food; both of them are capable of making you rather ill.The only real way of ensuring meat is safely cooked is to raise the core temperature to seventy-five degrees (or seventy degrees for at least two minutes). That way you know that all the nasties have been burned away. Washing vegetables might seem like a no-brainer but it cuts the risks of getting sick; even most pre-packed salads need a rinse before they can be eaten safely.Chopping OnionsDespite your clear lack of experience in the kitchen, you've chosen to cook a romantic meal for your date. Trouble is, they want to see you cook. Nothing will put more of a dampener (literally and figuratively) on the situation than them seeing you cry while chopping an onion. Onions make you cry because when you chop through the hairy part at the top an enzyme is released from the damaged cells, this enzyme reacts with acids to form a volatile gas called “Onion lachrymatory factor”.The simple solution would be to wear goggles, but that might not add to your Naked Chef attire. A smarter solution would be to use a very sharp knife so that the onion is sliced, rather than crushed – that way fewer enzymes will be released. It also helps to cut the onion vertically, from the hairy bit to the pointy bit, rather than through the middle.Chopping Chillies If you thought chopping onions was too much of a hazard to deal with on your kitchen adventures, you were wrong. While onions might make you look like a bit of a sap if you don't exercise some caution, chillies can cause you some genuine pain. Capsaicin is the chemical in chillies that causes spiciness; it's an irritant in mammals (presumably to try and discourage anything eating them, but humans are silly like that). If you handle a chilli, wash your hands immediately afterwards, as if you get the juice in your eye it will hurt a lot. If this does happen, rinse out your eye using cold water for fifteen minutes or so. And whatever you do, don’t touch any sensitive body parts.