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

DanaB Jul 10, 2009 12:30 AM

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.. .

  1. j
    jorcna Jul 10, 2009 01:15 AM

    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
      CreativeFoodie42 Jul 10, 2009 06:33 AM

      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
        FrankDrakman Jul 10, 2009 06:49 AM

        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
        Sal Vanilla Jul 10, 2009 09:21 AM

        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
          kchurchill5 Jul 12, 2009 10:19 AM

          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
          LindaWhit Jul 14, 2009 09:56 AM

          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
            c oliver Jul 19, 2009 06:15 PM

            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
              LindaWhit Jul 19, 2009 07:29 PM

              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
                mariacarmen Oct 3, 2010 11:35 PM

                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. c
          Cathy Jul 10, 2009 02:47 AM

          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
            Jen76 Sep 12, 2009 10:12 AM

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

          2. k
            KiltedCook Jul 10, 2009 04:42 AM

            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
              babaoriley7 Jul 11, 2009 06:30 PM

              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
                DanaB Jul 11, 2009 10:16 PM

                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
                37998Susan Oct 3, 2010 08:59 PM

                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. Fritter Jul 10, 2009 08:14 AM

                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. phofiend Jul 10, 2009 08:39 AM

                  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
                    MMRuth Jul 12, 2009 06:37 AM

                    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
                      Kajikit Jul 12, 2009 08:06 PM

                      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. s
                    Sal Vanilla Jul 10, 2009 09:24 AM

                    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
                      Plano Rose Jul 11, 2009 12:22 PM

                      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
                        Will Owen Jul 11, 2009 05:12 PM

                        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
                          Fritter Jul 12, 2009 04:44 AM

                          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
                            Will Owen Jul 15, 2009 11:56 AM

                            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
                              Fritter Jul 15, 2009 02:56 PM

                              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
                              jgg13 Dec 28, 2009 02:09 PM

                              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
                                globalgourmand Dec 28, 2009 03:26 PM

                                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. steakman55 Jul 12, 2009 10:15 AM

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

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: steakman55
                            AndrewK512 Jul 12, 2009 11:23 AM

                            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
                              The Ranger Jul 15, 2009 09:15 AM

                              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. rednyellow Jul 12, 2009 01:59 PM

                              I am alone in my kitchen....

                              1. emmaroseeats Jul 13, 2009 09:08 AM

                                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. Bill Hunt Jul 13, 2009 10:08 PM

                                  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. tcamp Jul 14, 2009 08:30 AM

                                    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
                                      NellyNel Jul 15, 2009 02:13 PM

                                      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
                                        globalgourmand Dec 26, 2009 08:01 PM

                                        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. thew Jul 14, 2009 08:43 AM

                                      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. KaimukiMan Jul 15, 2009 12:50 PM

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

                                        1. s
                                          silence9 Jul 15, 2009 03:04 PM

                                          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
                                            Scargod Jul 19, 2009 07:49 PM

                                            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
                                              peajaye Jul 21, 2009 05:06 PM

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

                                              1. re: peajaye
                                                silence9 Jul 22, 2009 09:02 AM

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

                                            2. a
                                              AngelSanctuary Jul 19, 2009 05:54 PM

                                              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. Scargod Jul 19, 2009 07:56 PM

                                                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. b
                                                  Bite Me Jul 19, 2009 09:21 PM

                                                  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
                                                    c oliver Jul 19, 2009 09:37 PM

                                                    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. h
                                                    hsk Jul 19, 2009 11:03 PM

                                                    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. greygarious Jul 20, 2009 11:05 AM

                                                      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. Sooeygun Jul 20, 2009 12:39 PM

                                                        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. m
                                                          MsKelley Sep 9, 2009 02:13 PM

                                                          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. BamiaWruz Sep 12, 2009 08:54 AM

                                                            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. a
                                                              Allice98 Sep 12, 2009 09:11 AM

                                                              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. Popkin Sep 13, 2009 08:34 AM

                                                                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. Barbara76137 Oct 3, 2010 09:21 PM

                                                                  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
                                                                    thew Oct 4, 2010 05:02 AM

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

                                                                    1. re: thew
                                                                      LindaWhit Oct 4, 2010 09:47 AM

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

                                                                    2. re: Barbara76137
                                                                      Barbara76137 Oct 4, 2010 09:35 PM

                                                                      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
                                                                        LindaWhit Oct 5, 2010 06:22 AM

                                                                        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.

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