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I'm temporarily without the use of my left, non-dominant, hand (broken shoulder after a bike crash). Obviously my cooking will be rather limited but I still want to make some home made food. What should I be careful of?

I'm mainly thinking of main meals - baking is right out. For example a veggie chilli. Safety is my main concern, but I wouldn't want to be stuck with something I couldn't move half cooked.

Some things I've thought of:

  • plan how to avoid moving heavy dishes
  • don't reckon on chopping hard veg, or veg that rolls (buy frozen ready-chopped etc. when possible)
  • everything will take longer

But I'm sure I've missed a lot, the question is what.

  • This should be tagged [techniques] but if I try to do so I get a bizarre error message ([technique] - yes, singular - is a duplicate of itself) . I'd be grateful if someone could fix it. The tag I gave it in the end may or may not be appropriate – Chris H Jun 27 at 14:10
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    Awww, sorry to hear that, hope you feel better soon! I tried to write an answer and then thought “this is rather broad”... I won’t mod-close the post now (let’s see what the community thinks), but maybe you can reduce the scope a bit? – Stephie Jun 27 at 15:05
  • @Stephie thanks. I tried but I can see where you're coming from. A quick edit for now because I've got to go soon, but I'll have a think. (new paragraph added for now) – Chris H Jun 27 at 15:15
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    @Sobachatina I type one handed on my phone anyway so it wasn't too bad. And doing things a little more slowly occupies more of the boring time in a hospital bed (I'm out now, on the way home). – Chris H Jun 28 at 7:48
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    @Joe my forearm is horizontal across my body at the moment and my fingers are free for light steadying (at most) near my right hip. I tried this last night and did manage some rough slicing. I'm expecting to go back in for surgery and may be more immobilised after that – Chris H Jun 28 at 7:51
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I can give some general recommendations, but if I had some specific recipes that you were considering, I might be able to give more specific recommendations.

First, I'd avoid using any tool that I can't clean one-handed. If you have a dish-washer, this might not be a problem, but even things like a blender you might have difficulty disassembling and re-assembling one handed, as you can't screw on/off the bottom. Likewise, most jars and screw-top bottles will be a problem.

There are items that can be mounted under a cabinet to help with opening screw-tops, but most of them are only intended for opening ... they wouldn't work for closing the jar after you've used it. (and they'd be almost impossible to install one-handed. VHB or other mounting tape might work, but they tend to fail in torsion, so you'd need to stick the perimeter down well, and maybe add a nail or screw to prevent rotation))

Canned items are likewise out, unless you have an electric can-opener. (that being said -- check thrift stores. They often show up there). It might be possible to use an old school claw-style can opener opener on larger cans, but smaller cans are just going to move around on you too much. The ones built into pocket knives might work better, as they have a little bit that catches underneath can lip, but getting the tool opened one-handed is going to be a problem.

I would invest in some 'non-slip' shelf liner. (I like the stuff that seems to be a grid of drops of rubber. (This stuff might be it, but I couldn't be absolutely sure from the picture.) It could be placed under bowls that you can't stabilize with your off hand while you mix things, and it might work to place in the sink so that you can scrub a pot one-handed.

This is going to be counter-intuitive, but I'd actually use heavier pans. You want something that's not going to move around on the stove as you're trying to stir things or scrape up fond when deglasing. This might also be a good time to learn how to flip your food one-handed.

You can avoid some heavy lifting by only moving empty pots & pans:

  • Put the empty vessel on the stove
  • Fill the vessel
  • Ladle cooked food out of the vessel
  • Move the empty vessel to the sink (or dishwasher) to clean it

If you have tongs, you can also do this with strand-type pasta, and if you have a good spider you can make shaped pasta. (I prefer a basket-style spider, as I don't take so long to get it all out that half of it is overcooked). You can use a pitcher to get the water into the pot, and a large pyrex measuring cup to get most of it out. (or wait for it to cool, and use whatever you have that you can dip in).

You can avoid some knife work by using ground meats. (if you're a meat-eater. If not, well, avoid large blocks of firm tofu) This will both avoid cutting while cooking, but also while eating. If you do need to cut things up, I'd recommend kitchen scissors. You can use them to cut up cooked meats, but they fail at things like cutting up peppers and onions. (although they might be okay for green onions / scallions)

I would actually avoid anything large that you'd have to move while hot. This would include casseroles. If you really want to make something like that, I'd invest in some serving-sized ramekins and make individual portions. (and possibly put a silicone pot-holder under the ramekin when eating)

You also have to consider eating -- you might be able to cook a steak one-handed, but you're not going to be able to eat it easily. If you're a meat eater, I'd probably work with boneless, skinless chicken thighs. They're relatively easy to cook one-handed with tongs, and you can easily cut them up with scissors or turn them into shredded chicken with a potato masher. (and they're way more difficult to overcook than breasts)


This could also be a good time to call on your friends, and or make some new friends. (This might work as a pick-up line ... approach someone you're interested in, and ask them if they'd help you cook in exchange for cooking lessons and/or a meal. If you do this, I'd suggest asking them what foods they like).

You could use your friends for some partial meal prep ... things like dicing or slicing up peppers, onions, or other ingredients so you'll have them for later meals. Or you could look into making a few single-serve casseroles (large casseroles are going to be impossible to move one-handed) or other dishes that just need to be re-heated so you have meals for a few days. If you go the second route, you can also send the friend home with a few meals in exchange.

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    Thank you. That's a lot of useful stuff. Your bulletted process is very compatible with how I'd make something like lentil bolognese anyway, I'd just have to take a bit more care in the prep and choose a pan wisely. Very good point on the can opener. I had an electric one for years and never used it so got rid of it. – Chris H Jun 28 at 7:47
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    I've managed a few rigid screw tops so far by sitting down and holding the bottle between my legs. The gripper sheet might come in handy here. It's less successful for soft plastic bottles – Chris H Jun 28 at 7:56
  • @ChrisH : if you have anything silicone (potholders, silpat sheets, etc.) that might give some grip, although it won't be as much as something really designed for it. Suede can also give some grip (although not as much). I also like slip-joint (brand name 'Channel Lock') pliers for opening stuck twist cap bottles ... you might be able to hold the pliers in your bad hand, and twist the base with your good hand. – Joe Jun 28 at 12:30
  • I've got silicone pot holders and some grippy shelf liner. My bad hand has more strength than I should use, as the damage is to my shoulder - I've fen told to be very careful, something I'm not very good at – Chris H Jun 28 at 16:42
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    Yes, beware Chris, gripping is an activity that involves everything up to your neck.. – George M Jun 28 at 17:43
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From personal experience, when I had surgery and was without my right (dominant) hand for 6 weeks. I invested in a couple of new tools for the kitchen which helped me with prepping veggies and smaller food stuffs.

  • A slap chopper --- which dices as you press down the lever. Some even have different blades for different sizes of dicing (I can cook but I don't know jargon, sorry).
  • A cheap wooden spoon that I used as a spacer if I wanted to score things almost all the way through but didn't trust my non-dominant hand.
  • A veggie cleaner that spun lettuce and what not around as I had a cast and couldn't wash by hand efficiently (which is my preference).

More to the point of safety, I would be concerned about lifting things out of the oven (which could be countered by making a smaller sized dish). I also learned how to better cook out of a wok which is easier for "tossing" to stir. Funny enough, it was this need for creativity that got me really into cooking, and I know enjoy it.

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    When it comes to the oven, I think my rule will be to only lift things I'd lift one handed anyway, like lightly loaded baking sheets (which are easier to grip) – Chris H Jun 28 at 7:54
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    I dishes in 9x9 pans too, that wasn't too heavy. Good luck! – J Crosby Jun 28 at 14:01
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Sorry about the accident :-(.. If it's your non-dominant hand that's useless, you shouldn't be quite so limited. You might still be able to do some amount of light chopping by using your left hand more as a prop than an active participant. You can still stir quite well, and saute and so on.

What you won't be able to do is to lift anything 2-handed, so you maybe should consider primarily keeping pots small and quantities limited? Something routine and easy like pasta might not work if you think of lifting a heavy pot of boiling water across the kitchen to drain.. No need to add to your injuries. On the other hand a pot of rice should be easier to handle if you only fill it a cup at a time and serve it in installments. And baking small quantities should still work, single potatoes rather than big lasagna pans, individual quiches?

You can also forget any can opening.. So it's frozen for you if you want to have more variety than you can cook.

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