Food-workers, do you get hardened to burns?

Viewers of FoodTV often see video chefs handling food that has just come out of boiling water or a frypan. I cringe when I see that, but I’m an amatuer. Do your fingers become hardened to the inevitable burns in the kitchen?

Or is it like that Lawrence of Arabia line about not caring that it hurts?

And what about your mouths? I cringe too, and when the chef puts food straight in his mouth.

I can never start eating a hot meal right after it’s cooked.

I wouldn’t say hardened, but unless you’re the unfortunate victim of a 2nd or 3rd degree burn, you tend to shrug it off and just continue with what you’re doing.

I’ve been a baker for almost 20 years. Burn scars? Hell yeah – I’ve got them on both sides of both arms, as well as on my hands, and even on one leg (that one in particular came from a falling tray).

Nowadays I might give a momentary yelp if I singe a finger, but that’s it. Doesn’t happen very often. It’s just part of the job shrug

I’m not a professional, but I’ve noticed that I’m much more tolerant of handling hot food than I was when I started cooking. And, yes, it is mainly just being too busy to care about a couple of seconds of pain. My fingertips are noticeably tougher than they used to be, too.

One thing I’ve noticed in some long time chefs and kitchen workers is the way they pass joints. Normally, if you don’t have a roach clip handy, passing a joint that has burned down past a couple of centimeters is a complex dance involving two stoned people trying to grip a tiny sliver of reisen-covered paper. Long-time kitchen people with a healthy layer of scar tissue will just hold out their hands and let you drop the burning joint directly into their palm.

IANAC but I can tell you that working on cars for a living makes you less sensitive to pain / heat.
One favorite trick is when the waitstaff brings out the food and warns about a hot plate, I often reach over and pick the plate up, and say some smart ass remark about no it isn’t that hot.
Of course there was the one time, where I got the plate about 4" in the air and then realized that that sucker must have been 400F. :eek: My fingers tingled for an hour or so afterward.

In answer to the thread title, yes. I love to cook, bake, work around food in general; and you do build up, basically, calluses, or thick skin. A close friend, who worked all his life in food service, could crush a cigarette out on his palm, and unquestionably felt no pain. It was something of a parlor trick for him. His arms were also criss-crossed with brands from various burns from throughout his career, but he shrugged them off as a badge of honor/service of some sort. I suspect even the television elite chefs have their share of “brands”; I would suppose it to be an (acceptable) occupational hazard. Damn, it’s gotta hurt though… :wink:

According to whashisfaces’ Kitchen Confidential, most cooks develop a pretty heavy layer of callus, scar tissue, etc., that makes them largely immune to minor burns, etc.

Anthony Bourdain wrote about it in Kitchen Confidential – it IS very much an acceptable occupational hazard. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve compared my scars :eek:

I worked in a restaurant for a couple years over a dozen years ago, and I can still point out the burn scars. I still cook a lot, and have stunned some people when I pick up something off a grill with my bare fingers, or adjust its position on the grill. My hands feel pretty soft, though, and I’m definitely not as resistant as some people.

I think it helps if you learn a new way of gripping things.

For example, it seems like the area of your fingers just proximal to your fingertips have fewer nerves than your fingertips themselves. I learned to start grabbing hot things there instead of with the pads of my fingers.

Hope that makes sense.

I worked in kitchens for years and I became pretty much oblivious to minor cuts and burns. Like others have said, you just don’t have time to tend to them and you forget about them quickly. It’s amazing how quickly the pain goes away when you simply don’t give it any attention. You also develop a rather keen sense of what is merely uncomfortably hot as opposed to what will actually burn your skin.

Also, ditto what vibrotronica said about the roach passing. It’s not only joints but cigarettes. At one restauraunt I worked at, cooks would slip ot the door for a few quick hits on a cigarette now and then. They literally only had a few seconds at a time to hotbox a cancer stick before snuffing it and leaving on a ledge outside the door until the next 30 second smoke break. They would often snuff the cherries out with their fingers without a second thought. You do get callouses. I used to be able to actually touch my fingertips to the flat grill for a second or two without really noticing it much.

You don’t even have to be a professional to get relatively “fire-proof” hands. I just cook for my family and I barely notice monor burns and cuts.

A story: this afternoon, CubHubby put on a pot of water to boil and left the kitchen. Unfortunately, he absentmindedly turned on the wrong eye of the stove. The eye he turned on was covered with a large pan lid. Something just sounded wrong in the kitchen so I went in there. I quickly assessed the situation, turned the eye off, grabbed the lid with a pot holder and headed for the back door (15 feet or so.) Before I got to the door the pot holder caught on fire. I’m proud to say I didn’t even squeal and just kept going until I could toss the whole mess onto the lawn. There is now a charred circle of grass where the lid landed and the pot holder is toast, but all’s well that ends well. :slight_smile:

Just chiming in to mention that this is an excellent point. There is some amount of callusing and the like that make my hands more heat resistant, but just as key is the knowledge that out friend points out. It enables professional cooks to do things that look impressive to mere mortals.

Another fine point is the “I don’t have time to worry about this right now” factor.

I work in a foundry, and “play” with molten metals at temps around 3000F. I can stand there, in temps of around 500 or 600F, and while I’ll be hot, my hands will hurt, but because my life literally depends upon me maintaining my grip, I don’t dare let go or let the heat get to me. Ironically, when I’m cooking, I can’t grab a piece of meat that’s at 300F and hold it for more than a second or two.

Kinda unrelated, but I’ll post anyway. I worked in a kitchen for about 3 months in high school during the summer. Made all the “buffet-type” foods- potato salad, maccaroni salad, etc etc. Lots of peeling, slicing, cutting and general knife-weilding.

Never once cut myself.

Dumped that job for a head-waiter position that was much less work and got huge tips! Hey, I’m not dumb! :wink:

Having been working on cars for years (alway change the oil while the engine is hot, it drains better!), I would say that repeated exposure to hot metal bits does seem to build up callouses and some resistance to pain.