The Safety Tip To Follow When Dipping Homemade Pretzels In Lye

Soft pretzels on a wooden board
Soft pretzels on a wooden board - Liudmyla Chuhunova/Shutterstock

The best soft baked pretzels are known for their signature golden brown crust, soft and chewy interior, and distinct aroma and flavor. To achieve this culinary feat, you'll need to bite the bullet and use a food-grade lye dip. Granted, most home cooks would rather take the easier route and employ the baking soda secret, but lye remains the answer to perfectly-made pretzels. This alkali, scientifically known as sodium hydroxide, quickens the Maillard reaction that occurs on the pretzel crust resulting in an enhanced golden hue, shiny finish, and tangy-like taste. However, because of its highly reactive nature, the lye dip must be handled with utmost caution.

Safety is your biggest concern when working with the sodium hydroxide solution with top priority going to wearing safety gloves and goggles. Upon contact with skin or eyes, the alkali can cause severe chemical burns and permanent eye damage, hence personal protective gear is your first line of defense against any accidental spills or splashes. Moreover, keep in mind that gloves and goggles should be worn throughout the entire process of handling lye, from measuring the lye crystals and mixing the solution to dipping the pretzels and clearing the workstation afterward. Once the operation is over, wash the gloves thoroughly under running water before taking them off, and after that you can remove the goggles.

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What To Do If You Come Into Direct Contact With The Lye Solution

Sodium hydroxide in a bottle
Sodium hydroxide in a bottle - Kittisak Kaewchalun /Getty Images

Even with all precautions in place, accidents can happen so you must be prepared for any eventualities. The correct immediate response can save the situation; for example, if you get lye crystals on any part of your skin, use a cloth to brush them off and quickly rinse your skin with plenty of water. Let the water run on the affected area for about 10 minutes or more. You can also apply soap to completely get rid of the crystals. After this first aid, contact your local Poison Control Center and seek medical attention to ensure all is well.

In a case where the lye solution comes in contact with your skin or gets into your eyes (whether it's the liquid or fumes), a thorough rinse with water is still the best first action. With your eyes kept as open as you possibly can, flush them with cool running water for at least 15 minutes. Immediately after, seek medical attention for further assessment and treatment to avoid any permanent eye damage. By arming yourself with both protective gear and the knowledge of how to handle any accidents, you can now confidently use lye for a safe and enjoyable pretzel-making experience.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.