Like a hot iron pressing into damp linen or the first pours of pancake batter onto a smoking griddle, a soft inner arm hisses when it brushes the lip of a 700-degree oven. A burn is audible first. You hear a tiny "tssssss" of quivering flesh, your own flesh, before your brain registers the coming pain. Instinctually you jump back, hoping to reverse the inevitable; but there is it—a raised mark, shades lighter than skin tone, a white light before an angry, consuming red.
Speak to any professional cook and he or she will tell you that kitchen burns are some of the most excruciating injuries that can occur in the workplace. There are obvious dangers in any kitchen, but in professional restaurant kitchens—where there is higher volume, hotter heat, and a more harried pace—the risks are amplified. The burns, cuts, and bruises are as quotidian as sore feet and stress. Like the post-service boozing and ugly footwear, kitchen wounds are just another occupational hazard.
Exploding interiors of frying soft-shell crabs are impossible to sidestep, as are splattering duck legs rendering in sauté pans. Burns tend to hurt more than other common scrapes because the pain is a lengthy, elongated trip. From the initial sear, the burn continues to ignite neurons, building into an almost unbearable rattling, where the body can only focus on the alarm of pain. Oil and boiling sugar burns are some of the worst because they attach to the skin, coating and sticking the burn deeper and deeper. But the pain slowly fades away, like the crosshatched burn scars on every line cook's forearms, melting back into the body.