Seasoned Advice is a question and answer site for professional and amateur chefs. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

When I see chefs on tv handling raw chicken or such and then stick their fingers in a salt bowl to seasoning them why is the salt in the bowl not contaminated too. I see this all the time on cooking shows.

share|improve this question

The bowl (and the salt/pepper) is contaminated if you touch it after touching raw chicken or any other unsafe food.

In fact, this is precisely why cooks and TV chefs mix it up in a little bowl first. They don't want to contaminate the entire container or even a perfectly good salt/pepper shaker.

They don't reuse the bowl afterward, they throw out any leftovers and toss the dish in the dishwasher. It's a convenient and safe way to season raw meat.

share|improve this answer
It is probably also worth remembering that those shows are heavily edited, so you may not see them wash their hands, but they do. – Cos Callis Jul 14 '13 at 22:07
you are right ..they probably do edit the show a lot..I didn't think they were that stupid..Ha – Brooke Gritch Jul 14 '13 at 22:39
@CosCallis: No doubt, although if you're trying to do something like rub a steak or chicken breast, it's pretty inefficient to wash your hands every time you need a little more seasoning. They probably do "double dip" and wash their hands at the very end. – Aaronut Jul 14 '13 at 23:22
I'm not sure about that. A salt cellar is not exactly the most habitable environment for most food-borne diseases, and some chefs don't bother with discarding the salt. That's not an endorsement of the practice, just an acceptance of fact. Also, when cooking for a show rather than real diners, sanitation is not necessarily of primary concern. – Ray Jul 15 '13 at 0:32
@Ray: It's a valid point, although these same chefs generally do exactly the same thing for other spices, rubs, etc., which are definitely not antibacterial. Salt also doesn't kill absolutely everything (for example, raw chicken can also host norovirus or rotavirus). In the absence of strong evidence one way or the other, I'd prefer to believe that they don't reuse it and hope that none of their viewers take away the assumption that it's OK. – Aaronut Jul 27 '13 at 16:48

As far as salt goes, it was used as a food preservative for 100's of years. Cellular organisms that are transferred from the cooks hand to the salt bowl die quickly. There is an osmotic affect where the cell and the salt dish want to be at the same salinity level. The cell will then let all of its water out trying to dilute the salt. It dehydrates and dies.

With that said most of the cooks are just following cue cards and will throw out all remaining items at the end of show. They don't even set up the ingredients. They may check it over after initial setup but they usually have staff that have to do that.

share|improve this answer
Remember that bacteria produce toxins. Neither cooking thoroughly nor salt will do anything to reduce toxins. Food storage Temps are essential: <40 if uncooked or >140 degrees cooked (Fahrenheit) will slow or kill bacteria, thus reducing the production of toxins. Increased final cooked temps are required for poultry, pork and some seafood. – Angie Mar 20 at 20:14

A high salt environment kills EVERYTHING that lives. including bacteria and germs.

share|improve this answer
Surely "germs" covers bacteria (already mentioned) and viruses (not living, and not killed by salt)? – Peter Taylor Jul 19 '13 at 9:31

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.