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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...