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When making a dish, I of course taste it through out the process of cooking until its done. I have been extra careful - Each time I taste from the dish I use a new spoon - This means that I have to have ALOT of spoons ready all the time, and have to spend a significant amount of effort to keep them clean.

Is this common practice? Or is this too harsh compared to the norm (in restaurants). Are there any "tricks" that people use to get around the possibility of introducing your own germs into the dish, or minimizing this risk?

EDIT: I'm interested in the common practice in commercial settings (I have a small home-cooking business, and I want to align myself with the norm in restaurants etc..)

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alot of care? –  TRiG Apr 11 at 11:54
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@TRiG no, alot of spoons. –  mikeTheLiar Apr 11 at 14:17

3 Answers 3

up vote 17 down vote accepted

I'm interested in the common practice in commercial settings (I have a small home-cooking business, and I want to align myself with the norm in restaurants etc..)

Since this hasn't specifically been addressed yet, I'll throw in my experience in industrial kitchens/restaurants.

Plastic spoons. Hundreds of them. Thousands of them. Literally.

We had a bain marie at every station. At the beginning of every shift, it was re-filled with plastic spoons. Each station had their own box of spoons to refill throughout the shift. Every single dish was tasted at every single stage with a plastic spoon, which was then thrown out. I would say that I went through ~150 spoons on an average shift, god only knows how many when we were busy.

Purchased in bulk, the cost wasn't prohibitive. I would hazard a guess that a box of 2500 plastic spoons cost us about 30 USD.

While it might seem wasteful, the cleanliness/health payoff was worth it. I don't want to name names, but this was a multi-national, multi-billion dollar hotel chain (4 star/4 Diamond) and we had a third party come in and audit us 1-2 times a year, in addition to the Health Department. Both the third party and the Health Department had the authority to shut everything down at a moments notice if they didn't like what they saw. I don't know the statistics for the Health Department, but the third party rated our kitchens (we had three) in the top 10 cleanest operations in North America (within our company) more than once.

We also recycled the spoons, so there's that as well.

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I had a Sous Chef that would make daily Baskin-Robbins raids. Pink spoons were everywhere in that kitchen. Everywhere. –  Dryden Long Apr 10 at 17:29
    
Yeah, I kind of suspected this was the real practical answer. I'm sure they're incredibly cheap in bulk, and you could probably recycle if you were concerned about the waste. –  Jefromi Apr 10 at 19:09
    
@Jefromi I was thinking about adding in some more info anyway. Edit incoming. –  mikeTheLiar Apr 10 at 19:14
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@TFD no time. When we were busy, we'd do 500+ covers a shift, with three cooks (2 hot, 1 cold). Besides, what do you do with your one tasting spoon after you stick it in your mouth? Anything that it touches after that fact is contaminated. Getting shut down once would cost more than tasting spoons for the year. That's like saying it's wasteful to change your gloves between dishes (which we did as well). –  mikeTheLiar Apr 11 at 10:46
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@dan FWIW, that's what we would do if we ran out of spoons - move on to the silverware. Still single-use only, we had a dirty spoon bin off the edge of the line. –  mikeTheLiar Apr 11 at 19:52

You don't really need a lot of tasting spoons, just one. Use your stirring spoon to pour some into your tasting spoon without touching. Or if that's too tricky, serve a bit onto a small plate/bowl.

But if you're just cooking for yourself I personally wouldn't really worry about it, because in general you'll be cooking the food at a safe temperature, not just above the danger zone (140F/60C) but something safe for all meat (180F/80C) so whatever bacteria you put in with your spoon is just going to get killed. We routinely put potentially contaminated things like raw meat into our food while cooking, and let the heat take care of it; whatever you might be carrying isn't any more dangerous.

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I have a small home-cooking business - So no, I'm not only cooking for myself. When I AM cooking for myself\family I use the same spoon multiple times –  dan12345 Apr 10 at 6:17
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@dan12345 Well, then the first part is the part that's useful to you. I haven't worked in a restaurant, though; I'm sure common practices (and regulations) vary, but I don't know what they are for sure. (But I'd imagine that as TFD says, in most restaurants, they don't really need to taste-test for regular dishes, and beyond that, adding a few more spoons to the massive amount going through the dishwashers already can't be a huge deal.) –  Jefromi Apr 10 at 6:44
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I have seen many restaurant chefs re-use a spoon, usually it has been rinsed under a tap and wiped with a cloth, but not properly washed. I have also seen restaurant chefs dip their finger in sauces to taste it. When you consider restaurant chefs (I'm talking about high-end restaurants too, not just some casual eatery) plating your food with their fingers, ungloved, this is just a "get used to it" kind of thing. –  setek Apr 10 at 7:39
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@setek not in the kitchens that I worked in. You'd be hauled into the office so fast your head would spin. –  mikeTheLiar Apr 10 at 17:34
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@setek : if they have clean hands, plating might not be that big of an issue ... but once a finger goes into a mouth or touches the face, doorknob, etc., it's a huge problem. –  Joe Apr 10 at 17:44

When cooking at home use the same spoon or follow Jefromi's advice. When reusing a spoon, there is very little chance of cross contamination if you just re-dip the spoon, and don't actual stir it around

When cooking commercially; practice on family and friends and record the exact recipe. When the recipe is passable or perfect, follow it exactly for your commercial batches. You should then not need to taste very often

A commercial business wont be very successful if your dishes are hit or miss. They need to be all very good, and well practised. Unless you are some famous celebrity chef of course :-)

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