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Jan 6, 2012 07:00 AM

Sprinkling salt and pepper -- so basic, but...

...but I always end up wasting so much of it. Let's say I'm preparing boneless, skinless chicken cutlets and I want to salt & pepper them before I bread them. What I typically do is grind some pepper into a very small bowl, spoon some coarse salt into another small bowl, and use my fingers to sprinkle the S&P on the chicken. That way I don't have to be concerned about contaminating the salt in the jar I keep it in, or messing up the pepper grinder with the "chicken stuff" on my hands. But I always have leftover S&P, which gets tossed out because it's been contaminated.

I suppose a one-handed battery operated pepper grinder could help, but not solve the problem entirely; I could handle the chicken with one hand and operate the pepper grinder with the other. But maybe there's a better way to get freshly ground pepper onto the meat. And what about the salt? Is there such a thing as a shaker that's designed specifically to work with coarse salt? I don't want to grind it -- I only want to sprinkle it on the chicken.

When handling raw meat or chicken, do you have any tricks or secrets for sprinkling S&P?

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  1. well, to season cuts of meat like in your example, this is what I do: open the package (fork usually works well to pierce plastic & keep my hands clean) & grind pepper directly onto the meat. For salt, I pour a little coarse salt into my palm & sprinkle it on. Then, I use a utensil to put that side of the meat down in the pan & repeat seasoning on the meat. If breading, I most often just mix seasoning in with the breading, but you can use the fork or tongs to move meat through breading stations. I hate handling raw meats, so I always use some utensil. I also wash my hands a lot. DH could tell you, I am more than a little cross-contamination-crazy.

    For whole birds, I do pour coarse salt into a small bowl & then grind the pepper into the same bowl. After rinsing & drying the bird, I then season. I rarely have left over S&P, mainly because I'll pour it all on & love the salty, crispy skin!

    1. I also portion s & p into 2 small bowls, and then use a teaspoon to sprinkle so I don't contaminate the s & p.

      1. When I want to season raw meats, I'll handle the meat with chopsticks to keep my fingers clean for handling the salt (pinched directly from a salt cellar) and pepper (ground directly from a mill).

        1. After handling the raw meat I'll wash my hands and then grind the pepper and add the salt. If the meat has to be handled between the first grinding/salting, I'll either use tongs to turn it over or I'll use my hands, which then get washed again. come to think of it, I'd probably wash my hands before even handling the tongs! Sometimes I'll enlist the spouse--if he's willing-- to grind the pepper over the meat (but never the salt!) if I don't want to have to wash my hands again.

          I inevitably end up washing my hands constantly to avoid cross contamination. For some reason, grinding the pepper into a little bowl just seems like too much work, so I usually just grind it over whatever I'm preparing after the umpteenth hand washing, but I will on occasion toss the salt into a bowl to rain it over with my fingers, and throw out any remaining salt.

          And then there are the times when, hands raw from too much washing, I'll just use a plastic bag on either hand to grasp the pepper grinder or salt box. The bags used to put produce into at the market work really well for this. Of course, I usually fail to plan ahead for that and would need to.....wash my hands first in order to retrieve the bags!

          3 Replies
          1. re: janniecooks

            Don't want to sound crude, but I don't bat an eye...
            Pure salt is pretty inhospitable to food borne pathogens, so while I generally just use a small (1.5 ounce) bowl to hold my prep salt, and don't worry about double dipping. The salt will kill everything. if it gets clumpy, I just dump the rest.
            As for pepper, I'd rather wipe off the mill once between the raw food and cooking phases of meal prep than get another bowl dirty and wash my hands 3 times for one step of mise en place.

            1. re: lunchbox

              Pure salt is pretty inhospitable to food borne pathogens
              Salmonella *thrives* in a salty medium. and while other bacteria may not multiply in there, salt won't kill the spores.

              1. re: lunchbox

                Perhaps I do go a bit overboard with the hand-washing, but I've been to too many homes where the residents don't wash their hands (even after using the toilet), where the salt and pepper and appliances and utensils are grubby, where people don't wash before starting to handle food, etc. It's off-putting to say the least. So I wash my hands early and often and publicly and noisily. I want my guests to see our kitchen hygiene habits. No one has and no one will ever become ill from eating at my home. And yes I have picked up a very nasty bug from eating at someone else's home.

            2. Generally, I use the two bowl method and just use the leftover salt and pepper for cooking the rest of the meal.