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

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...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.

              1. Ugh, it's such a pain, isn't it? When working with chicken, sometimes I make a s&p mix in a bowl and yes, I waste some but I don't care-- it's pennies.
                Last night I made chicken cutlets for a pasta dish. Trim chicken. Wash hands. Salt chicken. Wash hands. Pepper chicken. Wash hands. Place chicken in skillet. Wash tongs.

                3 Replies
                1. re: monavano

                  There's GOT to be a better way!

                  1. re: CindyJ

                    Food handler gloves. Cheap and good for other household chores like cleaning, car repairs and painting. I get 100 for $3 or $4.

                    1. re: coll

                      Combine 1 glove with a spoon in the other hand: trim chicken, salt & pepper using ungloved hand holding spoon(s). Gloved hand: place chicken in skillet. Peel off glove.

                2. Sprinkle prepared seasoning on one side of product; then onto the prep surface BESIDE the product. Put seasoning away. Pick up food product and lift onto seasoned prep surface. Continue with recipe.

                  1. One reason to have kids.

                    1. The only other idea I could think of is to just keep some tiny little spoons handy to transfer the S&P to your palm or to sprinkle with. The only thing that would get contaminated is the handle of the spoons (you could re-dip the rounded part of the spoon again and again into the fresh S&P), and that's easy to wash.

                      1. MIL always housed her pepper mill in a "Pam" ( or similar) spray lid, the pepper mill lived in it.
                        she'd then grind it and it was already in place for use in a tiny type of container, the lid of the spray can. for salt, have it in a little bowl for easy use but to not contaminate it, have a little spoon in there and dip that in not your fingers.

                        1. I just wash my hands frequently.

                          1. I never realized that salt and pepper waste was such a problem.

                            Who would've thunk it.

                            8 Replies
                            1. re: ipsedixit

                              ipsedixit, ^^^ not me. I'm stumped too.........but gotta go, I'm outta coarse sea salt, gotta get to the market :)

                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                It's part of a larger waste problem. Well, maybe not really a PROBLEM, but something to think about. When I bread those same chicken cutlets, I toss out lots of flour and breadcrumbs, too.

                                1. re: CindyJ

                                  just start with a smaller amount of flour & breadcrumbs - you can always dump more into the dish if you need it.

                                  1. re: CindyJ

                                    We're talking salt and pepper. Both of which are (relatively) cheap and abundant.

                                    And ... breadcrumbs? Really?

                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                      Really! I tend to toss lots of other food, too. At some point, all that waste adds up.

                                      1. re: CindyJ

                                        But seriously.

                                        Worry about the real food you are wasting. Not the salt and pepper and crumbs.

                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                          It wasn't the waste that had me post my original query -- it was a matter of technique.

                                          1. re: CindyJ

                                            Well, aren't you only worried about your technique because you end up tossing the leftover salt and pepper?

                                            That sounds like a concern about waste.

                                2. I use a diner sugar shaker (carefully labelled) or big-holed cheese shaker to shake coarse salt.

                                  1. Although I usually try not to waste things, and in fact, constantly try to think of ways to reuse things rather throwing than throwing them away (for example, plastic bags, empty jars, ribbons and gift wrap, etc.), I don't worry about salt and pepper. Perhaps because they're relatively inexpensive. I always mix together the amount of s&p that I think I'm going to need in a small bowl, and use my fingers to scoop up and sprinkle. My kosher salt is kept in a salt cellar, and I have a Peppermate mill into which I can grind extra pepper ahead of time. Worse comes to worse, if I run out of the s&p mixture, I can wash my hands once and then pour some additional salt and pepper into the bowl.