Monday, June 12th, 2017
Last modified on September 13th, 2022
After a stroke, many survivors find themselves either weakened or paralyzed on one side of their bodies. They may also experience spasticity in their limbs, which makes muscles tight and stiff, restricting movement. Having stiff muscles and limited or no movement on one side of the body makes everyday life a lot more challenging. Imagine going about your morning routine with one hand tied behind your back. You would have to find new ways to do the things that you used to do every day without thinking about them.
While many stroke survivors are able to overcome weakness on one side of the body through task-oriented practice and hard work with a therapist, it is important for them to learn new ways of doing things while they work on rebuilding their strength. One thing that can make a stroke survivor’s life a lot easier is learning how to cook with one hand.
Cooking can be difficult even when you have two hands. It involves a lot of prep, working with a variety of tools, and handling sharp or hot objects that can be dangerous. However, being able to cook for themselves allows stroke survivors to become more self reliant and save money buying expensive pre-made food or take out. While it will involve some practice and a few adaptive tools, cooking one-handed after stroke is possible.
Ready to get back in the kitchen? The following are a few tips to help you get started.
When you’re first learning how to cook with one hand, take time to master a few basic skills before you jump into trying a more complicated recipe. Learning how to crack an egg one-handed is both practical and impressive. You should also practice skills like peeling vegetables (with the help of some adaptive equipment) and spreading butter on toast.
Are you at risk for poor hand recovery? Take our Hand Recovery Quiz to find out now!
When you’re ready to take on your first recipe, do all of your prep work before you start cooking. This includes gathering all the utensils and ingredients you’ll need, as well as chopping any produce you might need. This way you won’t be running around stressing about looking for a tool halfway through cooking.
It is not safe to attempt to move a big pot with one hand. Imagine trying to drain a giant pot of boiling potatoes one-handed. It’s likely you would end up with boiling water all over your kitchen and yourself. It is easy, however, to operate an oven or broiler with one hand. As long as you don’t make the pan too heavy, you should be able to use your unaffected hand to safely transport food in and out of the oven.
If you are struggling to complete a task in the kitchen, never be afraid to ask for help. Don’t hurt yourself by trying to do something in the kitchen you’re not comfortable with. Ask a loved one to help you chop or peel difficult produce and keep it in your fridge for later. When you buy meat, ask your butcher if they can pre-slice the meat for you. Most people are happy to help—you just need to ask!
Of course, you shouldn’t be expected to cook using equipment that’s designed for two hands. Luckily, there is plenty of adaptive equipment designed specifically for one-handed use in the kitchen. Here are a few essentials:
Canned soups, vegetables, and other foods are the perfect convenient cooking supply, but not when you can’t operate a traditional can opener. But there are one-handed options that make opening cans a breeze. The EZ Squeeze can opener is an affordable option that only requires one hand. Simply squeeze, and the device takes care of the rest.
Opening a tough jar can be tricky even when you have two hands. With one hand, it is basically impossible without assistance. The Solo Grip Non-Slip Jar Opener holds the jar firmly in place for you so you can just focus on opening it. If the jar is still too tough to open, the PandaGrip Jar Opener can help. This powerful jar opener requires no grip strength, making it easy to open even the toughest jars.
Using a traditional vegetable peeler with a single hand is impossible. Normally, you stabilize the vegetables in one hand and move the peeler with your other hand. With the Homecraft Clamp-On Vegetable Peeler, the peeler is held steady so you can use one hand to move the vegetable up against the blade.
Chopping vegetables one handed is not only difficult, but it is potentially dangerous. A Swedish Cutting Board can help. This cutting board has a built-in vice grip that holds vegetables in place, making it easy for you to cut or slice them. You can also use it to hold small mixing bowls.
It can be hard to keep bowls, plates, and cutting boards in place when cooking with one hand. A non-slip mat grips items and keeps them from moving when stirring, chopping, or peeling. You can also use it as a placemat to make cutting and eating your food safer.
Don’t let your stroke keep you out of the kitchen. Cooking is possible even with a weak or paralyzed arm or hand, and you might just need a little bit of help. You can start slowly by spreading butter on bread, but after a little bit of practice you can cook everything you were able to before your stroke.
All content provided on this blog is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately. Reliance on any information provided by the Saebo website is solely at your own risk.