Safety Precautions for Working with Lye
Here are some caveats about working with lye, because no doubt about it, the stuff is poison. Handle it correctly, though, and you will be rewarded with Traditional Pretzel Buns that you just can’t get any other way.
- When working with lye, wear one or two layers of latex or non-latex gloves or brand new/clean dishwashing gloves.
- Wear eye protection–either your glasses or onion goggles if you have them. The likelihood that you will splash it in your eye is pretty small, but it is much better to err on the side of caution, so protect your eyes!
- When mixing your lye solution, measure the water first and then slowly pour the lye crystals into the water. The bottle states to never pour water into lye, so be sure to follow that direction and pour your lye into the water.
- Stir the water gently to dissolve the lye. No splashing!
- Place your pretzels or pretzel buns into the water. Don’t drop them in like they’re Alka-Seltzer. Again, you want to avoid splashing. Lower them in gently either in a spider or with your gloved hand, flip gently and then remove to several layers of paper towel to drain for a few seconds before placing them on a parchment-lined and pan-sprayed cookie sheet. That’s right, spray your parchment with pan spray. This may seem like overkill, but wow, for some reason, pretzels stick to parchment like crazy, and the pan spray keeps that from happening.
- Don’t touch the dipped buns with your naked hands. The lye could potentially cause stinging or burning. Don’t worry about eating them, though. Their trip through the oven renders them perfectly delicious and edible!
- Carefully dispose of leftover lye solution immediately after using by pouring it down the drain and then washing everything well. Lye is the main ingredient in drain cleaner. A 3% solution isn’t necessarily going to clean your pipes, but it won’t hurt them either.
Here’s what the bottle of lye crystals I bought looks like. If you’d like to purchase some to use safely when making traditional pretzel buns and pretzels, here’s an affiliate link for you. Please note Sodium Hydroxide/Lye is not eligible for Amazon Prime free shipping. As of today, June 3, 2016, the price is 2 pounds for $3.99 plus $9.00 shipping. Two pounds is enough for you to make approximately 30 batches of pretzels.