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Cooking and tasting . . . do you use the cooking spoon?

A couple of people over on the thread about Top Chef Masters think they saw one of the chefs tasting food from a bowl with fingers that were returned to the bowl, and tasting a sauce with a spoon that afterward was shaken off, back into the bowl. Here's the thread: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/635093

Without putting a radar on that discussion, I'm interested in knowing how you handle this stuff in your own kicken. Do you taste with the spoon you are stirring the stew? Do you use fingers to test the consistency of the frosting? Does this freak you out?

Personally, I wash my hands a ton when I'm in the kitchen, especially after handing raw meat/poultry/produce, but I am really not fickle when it comes to tasting things off of the stirring spoon . . . it's going back into a boiling soup/sauce/stock, right? I just don't see where that poses a sanitary risk to the people around you. Maybe I'm wrong, and I should get a clean spoon every time I taste, but at least in the home environment, it seems unrealistic, not to mention unnecessary. YMMV, but I would love to hear from you on this issue.. .

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  1. My general rule is this: if I am preparing a meal for guests I try to use separate spoons, etc. every time. It the meal is for the folks living in my home- same spoon because I'm usually the one doing all of the cleaning.

    8 Replies
    1. re: jorcna

      I'm the same. If it is for other guests, I use a separate spoon. Otherwise, for me and my boyfriend (who I cook and eat with 99% of the time), I use the cooking spoon.

      1. re: CreativeFoodie42

        I'm with you there! If you're going to kiss him/her, double dipping the spoon should be the least of their worries!

      2. re: jorcna

        Yep. Me too. I clean as I go mostly and my DH cleans after me. But he does not care about my koodies.

        1. re: Sal Vanilla

          Doesn't bother me. When catering, always careful, but for family, friends, Na. And I know they don't care either. One of my chef friends does the same and he doesn't care. Not a big deal for me.

        2. re: jorcna

          Same here - usually only cooking for myself, so no issues with germs - I'm the one that put 'em there, I'll be the one to take them back.

          But when cooking with friends, always use a tasting spoon.

          1. re: LindaWhit

            But, honestly, Linda? Do you do that just for show? Like more people wash their hands in a public restroom when someone is there versus when they're alone :)

            1. re: c oliver

              Honestly, c oliver. It's not for show. Invariably, I'm helping to cook at someone else's house (like with the dinner club I participate in), so I follow their lead - which is always a tasting spoon.

              As for washing my hands in a public restroom, I'm always the one doing the full-on washing whereas I don't want to say how many women run the water for 3 seconds and they're done. Ick.

              1. re: LindaWhit

                among my group of friends who like to cook, not family, we all taste off the cooking spoons. none of us seem to mind each other's cooties.

        3. Take a small bit on the stirring spoon and hold out to let cool. Let it drip/drop stew onto the palm of my hand. Lick my hand. Put spoon back into the cooking pot.

          It isn't like I am not washing my hands a lot already.

          In any case, I only have one main cooking spoon to clean and I always have my hands with me.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Cathy

            I use a little glass ramekin. Just pour or place a taste of whatever in it and slurp.

          2. When I'm working as a Personal Chef, I carry a bunch of cheap plastic spoons in a pocket. Then I 'taste and toss'. The cooking spoon or tongs or fork are used for cooking.

            At home I use one tasting spoon, as my partner and I already share everything anyway...

            3 Replies
            1. re: KiltedCook

              I imagine there are more eco-friendly ways to do this. In fact they make "plastic" tableware that is supposedly biodegradable. Might be worth looking into that.

              Sorry for the PSA

              1. re: babaoriley7

                One could just use teaspoons from their set of silverware and wash them in between usings. It would involve more washing, but less waste than throwing out a spoon after tasting from it. That behavior reminds me of ad campaigns in the mid-1960s, which propelled us into a "throwaway" society, where they showed people fishing on lakes and rivers, and throwing away over their shoulders an empty can of beer, with the slogan being "It's great to be American!" Like, we have so much, we can afford to throw it away. These ads came out after WWII, to break people of their recycling habits, because the economics dictated that more production from new material would mean more $$.

                One could also wash the plastic spoons for re-use, rather than throw them away..

              2. re: KiltedCook

                I have a catering business and my husband does the same...bunch of plastic spoons! Me...just keep grabbing the metal spoons off the hanging rack...I'm washing tons of dishes anyway who cares and it keeps you in practice to never slip up even in your own kitchen. You never know who will stop by. I wash my hands constantly and never touch a door or handle with clean hands that will be near food...it just takes one time to slip up, get someone sick and your business is down the drain!

              3. At home for my own family I use the cooking spoon. After all it's my own food. I still wash and sanitize a ton. I'm always diligent about cross contamination even at home.
                If I'm having guests I would not dream of double dipping. Never ever.
                In a true professional kitchen it's grounds for termination. I want to stress that because I doubt any of use are naive. There are many restaurants out there that perform nothing short of miserable in regards to sanitation. However (this is just my opinion) I don't consider any place that would disregard a guests health or basic sanitation as professional in any way. If you watch TC you will see more than one Chef popping a spoon out of their front jacket pocket. They get used once then sanitized or you use plastic spoons and dispose after use.
                If you get a chance to re-watch the episode of TC in question (A DVR helps so you can go slow, rewind etc) you can clearly see the individual that posted about double dipping or eating off their fingers then putting the excess back in the bowl on the other thread back was dead wrong. That just was not the case nor should it ever be.
                Let's also remember that was tartar so if saliva wound up in that product it would not have been cooked out.

                1. I gathered up all the mis-matched teaspoons I could find and put them in a cup next to the stove. There are probably a dozen of them. When I need to taste something, I grab one, then immediately drop it into the sink. When I finish cooking, they all get washed and the cup is re-stocked. There is always a clean spoon handy.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: phofiend

                    I do that too, as I have a bunch of mismatched silver teaspoons from my godmother. However, I will often put what I am tasting in a tea cup first, to cool off slightly, and then taste it from there, obviating the need to keep using more spoons.

                    1. re: MMRuth

                      I grab a teaspoon from the cutlery drawer (right next to the stove) and use that to taste... then it goes into the sink to be washed - unless the teaspoon supply is chronically low, when it gets a quick rinse under the tap so I can use it over again! The rinse/clean spoon is more so that I can taste for seasoning without getting confused by how it was before than for sanitary reasons. But if I'm just reheating something for myself (ie microwave it, stir it, taste to see if it's warm enough, put it back into the microwave etc.) all bets are off...

                  2. I think that Top Chef Master may have been caught in the act of normalcy.

                    I won't freak you out with real life in a busy kitchen with sometimes questionable sanitary practices. I can barely let my mind go there.

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: Sal Vanilla

                      If you drop the food from the stirring spoon onto the tasting spoon, you can reuse the tasting spoon. Of course, this is not done over the pot.

                      1. re: Sal Vanilla

                        I'm inclined to agree with Sal. You know you're not supposed to do it, but that's the spoon you have so that's the spoon you use. Actually, unless the cook is nursing some dreadful viral infection or typhus or something there's little chance of his spreading pestilence by tasting the gravy...and even if he is contagious, it's be a lot more dangerous sharing a subway car with him. My opinion is that 90% of the reason this is such a no-no is our exaggerated sensitivity to Yucky Stuff. We can't seem to get over it, even after we've taken up "French" kissing...

                        1. re: Will Owen

                          So you can catch hepatitis or other blood born pathogens setting next to some one in the subway?
                          Not very likely.
                          How about if your cook has a bleeding mouth ulcer or just a simple bleeding gum from flossing that morning?
                          Honestly the folks that seem to think this behavior from a restaurant would be ok kinda make me laugh. I'm not much of a gambler but I'd place a fair wager that 99.9% of every one that received a plate with some one else's hair in it would send it back.
                          What's worse? A hair or saliva carrying at least the potential for far worse.
                          I'll take that risk with some one I want to kiss. That's way out in left field (IMO) from saliva in my food from a stranger. Of course I'm assuming the vast majority of us are past the spring break phase of life and no longer run around making out with total strangers.
                          Again, lets not forget that what prompted the topic was a thread that involved tarter so no heat or sterilzation involved.
                          There is a reason this is a major health code violation and it's not just because some one might be squeemish about the "Yucky Stuff".

                          1. re: Fritter

                            What we are discussing here is what WE do. Or don't. If I had a cold or flu or any sort of communicable disease, chances are remote that I'd be cooking for anyone else anyway, but I would certainly avoid getting my cooties into the food. Same with canker sores and the like.

                            1. re: Will Owen

                              It seems to me if you read through the thread it's a dual topic. That's why I tried to make it clear I was talking about restaurants. ;)

                            2. re: Fritter

                              I think it is silly and no, I wouldn't send something with a hair in it back. I suppose I could be 0.1% of the folks in that category though.

                              1. re: jgg13

                                Nope, I wouldn't send it back for a hair. If my boyfriend "sent it back" every time he found one of my hairs or-- worse yet-- every time we found one of our cat's hairs.... we'd be hungry.

                        2. Depends on whether anyone is looking, just like for the rest of you who won't admit it

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: steakman55

                            I must confess, I do the same. If someone is watching I will almost always go out of my way to make sure I don't reuse a spoon/finger, but when they're not, I could care less. However, I wouldn't ever taste out of the stirring spoon, that seems wrong to me, as hypocritical as that is...

                            1. re: steakman55

                              It's completely dependent on the presence of one SIL. If she's present I'll go out of my way to let her see me "double-dip" a tasting spoon. Otherwise I use clean spoons because I have a dishwasher.

                            2. I am alone in my kitchen....

                              1. If the food is hot I just use the stirring spoon to taste or I occasionally tip the taste into my hand. If it's a cold item, like a tartar sauce, I dip my finger, typically my pinky, in. I wash my hands semi-compulsively. I'm only ever cooking for friends and family though...

                                1. Do I? No. We always have a drawer full of long-handled teaspoons, and use these for tasting, either carefully washing, or replacing the spoon for the next taste.


                                  1. Wow, you all are very sanitary. I have absolutely no qualms about using the cooking spoon for tasting, whether I am cooking for the family or guests. If I am sick, of course, I'd refrain. To the best of my knowledge, no one has suffered ill effects from this.

                                    I guess I hope that restaurants are more careful but of all the things I worry about, that is pretty low on my list.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: tcamp

                                      tcamp - I'm with you. I'm shocked at how funny people are about this subject.
                                      I always taste and retaste with my finger or a spoon (the same spoon! UNWASHED!~)
                                      I'm pretty sure that if you are a guest in my home - you won't be skeeved by me!

                                      (And I wouldn't be skeeved either) It's not like I am spitting into my food!

                                      1. re: NellyNel

                                        Ditto NellyNel and others above. Though I feel slightly guilty about it, I only go out of my way if I think they people I'm cooking for would really care. Otherwise, I could care less about double-dipping and so could most people I cook for. I was in the kitchen with a friend, though, who washed her hands after just running a lock of hair behind her ear. She said "I've got to wash my hands first because I just touched my hair" and got me on my best behavior. But really, it feels like a hassle to me. A little off-topic but, in general, I think America is a bit too germ-phobic. Perhaps I'm ignorant.

                                    2. not usually, but not because of sanitary reasons. i cook with tongs or wooden spoons. i find i taste the food better (?) off a metal spoon. but i will use the same teaspoon more than once

                                      1. taste off the cooking spoon, then give it a quick rinse under the tap before i use it to stir again.

                                        1. Hello... I keep a hunk of baguette nearby, tug free a small, crusty piece as needed, and dip (once only per piece) into the sauce/soup,etc.. In essence, I eat my 'bread-spoon', and there's nothing to rinse/re-use. At Catholic Mass/Communion (with wafer/host and wine), this is known as 'intinction', but obviously with more gravitas (not gravy) to the act...

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: silence9

                                            God idea, but wait.... I bet you touched the bread with your fingers. The bread goes in the food and viola, it's all contaminated! Just kidding.

                                            1. re: silence9

                                              silence9, you are hilarious and my new favorite author. do you have a blog?

                                              1. re: peajaye

                                                Thanks for the kind words :-). A blog is on my 'to do' list. Stay tuned! Will let you know...

                                            2. Um...yes...I do all the cooking and cleaning and omg, if I have to use a new spoon every time...but I never have to cook for people I didn't know really well.

                                              I'm really clean if it's for like strangers or at work though, almost to the point of paranoia about it.

                                              1. I think this concern is asinine. I wash my hands before I start food prep. I rinse off my hands if my dog licks my finger. She is our Royal Taster and scrap manager.
                                                My family grew up sampling the food and when we cook together we are sharing the cooking spoon and passing it around. Same when friends are here. This is just anal to worry so much about a spoon. There are much more important issues in the kitchen to worry about, like your cutting boards... OMG!!

                                                1. I don't taste with a finger. i use a few spoons. If i do taste from a spoon and put it back, it's a are event and i only feel guilty if i am fighting something and think I can give someone a cold or flu.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: Bite Me

                                                    You're probably as apt to give someone a cold or the flu passing them on the sidewalk. I'm of the firm opinion that we're at our most contagious when pre-symptomatic. I worked in a doctor's office for three years and was never sick. That's when I formed that opinion.

                                                  2. I don't, but I agree with you, if you're tasting a boiling soup/sauce/stock it's not a big deal from a sanitary risk point of view. If you're tasting something just warm, say a hollandaise, then it's more risky.

                                                    IMO there's always a ton of stuff to wash after a dinner party, what's a couple more spoons? If it's just for me I don't bother using different spoons (but I don't usually taste it either, I know how much seasoning I like unless it's something new).

                                                    1. I have a long pewter tasting spoon acquired over 30 years ago. It's the size of a cooking spoon but the handle in cross-section would look like a U and at the other end is a smaller spoon. You dip into the pot, and by the time the broth or sauce rolls to the tasting end, it has cooled enough not to burn the taster's mouth. There are wooden versions online but not as well-designed, nor would they reduce the heat as well.

                                                      1. For tasting I reuse the same soup spoon, not usually washed. Well, I would reuse it if I could find it. I often can't find the spoon cause I have put it down somewhere stupid. Like it's sitting on the coffee table in the living room, because I had it in my hand when I wandered in there.

                                                        When I worked in a hotel, most cooks/chefs had a spoon in their back pocket. Used it, rinsed it, dried on side towel and back in the pocket.

                                                        1. I love to cook and my children love to help me so I keep a small tasting bowl for each of my boys (9 and 5). They are my official tasters. I try to model good behavior by using a bowl and spoon to taste when cooking.

                                                          1. I actually lay a spoon on a plate, so it remains there the entire time and I drop things into it from the main pot and off the cooking spoon/ladel.

                                                            It's easier this way.

                                                            1. Always a new spoon. Can't help it but I am really grossed out to do otherwise! For those that don't change habits for guests please don't invite me for dinner! I am just shuddering!

                                                              1. Like the first posters to reply, if it's for guests I'm more careful, but for hubs? He's gonna catch whatever I have either way, so I use the cooking spoon. I'm sure he gets a lot more of my saliva via other means lol

                                                                1. 99% of the time I cook for myself, so just taste as I go. But, if I am cooking a larger quantity of anything that I will be eating for more than just one meal or possibly freeze, then I am really anal about not "contaminating" the food by using the cooking spoon for tasting. I also won't stick fingers in anything that I'm not going to consume at that very meal.

                                                                  I just don't want to go in the fridge the next day or so and see that the leftovers I slaved over the previous days are beginning to mold due to my own saliva.

                                                                  4 Replies
                                                                  1. re: Barbara76137

                                                                    you have mold spores in your saliva? i'd see a doctor about that

                                                                    1. re: thew

                                                                      ^^^^^^^^ that. Barbara, I seriously doubt that mold will grow on something refrigerated less than 24 hours.

                                                                    2. re: Barbara76137

                                                                      I guess I need to clarify for thew and LindaWhit, but when I'm "cooking for the longterm" I am more picky. Last night I followed a flawless recipe and today one of the diners is complaining. It doesn't matter that he's eaten crap before and after my meal. I ate all the ingredients before the meal. I've also eaten them after. I know nothing I made was a problem.

                                                                      1. re: Barbara76137

                                                                        If you've eaten the same things, then the issue isn't your cooking - it's the diner's stomach. The cooking process will probably eliminate any potential "contamination" as well. But that's not what thew and I were referring to when we asked about the mold from your saliva.