Seasoned Advice is a question and answer site for professional and amateur chefs. Join them; it only takes a minute:

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 cook raw meat, especially chicken strips, I have it spread out on the chopping board with a few bags and containers of spice to the side. I don't actually use too many shakers for spice. Since my fingers can only hold so much spice at once, I often go back to the bag and grab some more and rub it on the meat. But this is after my fingers have touched the meat. Does this contaminate the spice in the bag or container?

Also, chefs on TV shows frequently make it that way, does this mean it is a safe practice?

share|improve this question
1  
For more on how to avoid contamination: cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/68085/… – Stephie May 25 at 3:32
12  
Hi Celeritas, your question is a duplicate of an older one which asked basically the same thing - but framing it as a critique on TV chefs who do this. I find your straightforward question better, so I merged the old one into this, and had to add a sentence about TV chefs at the end so the answers to the old one aren't completely out of place. – rumtscho May 25 at 9:39
    
Bacteria grow on raw meat at room temperature. It has been shown by meticulous research that even a brief touch will transfer them to your fingertip, which will then transfer to anything you touch. Since many bacteria are dangerous ( but killed by cooking), it is NOT a safe practice, unless the entire batch of the spice you touch is to go on the meat before cooking. And wash up immediately after. – user254665 May 26 at 18:34
    
@user254665 If you want to write an answer, please post an answer. – Jefromi May 26 at 23:02
1  
Small contamination + growth medium (unpreserved food) + room temperature + time = sick people. Most all contaminations start small. People get sick from large contaminations. Your immune exists for a reason. This is why I get annoyed when some news network deals with a slow news day by making some unsuspecting mother cook with invisible fluorescent powder on her raw chicken only to horrify when they come in with a black light and illuminate every surface in the kitchen. No. This nonsense doesn't make you safer. I'd rather lick her walls than eat meticulously handled room temperature food. – CandiedOrange May 27 at 1:56

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
17  
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
1  
@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
4  
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
3  
@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

Yes, that'll contaminate your spices. You really don't want to touch anything after touching raw meat, unless it's something you're about to wash or cook.

It's not too hard to avoid this though. You can keep a clean hand and a dirty hand - grab spices with the clean one, rub them in with the other. As Joe points out, this is also helpful if you end up needing to do anything else, like grabbing another spice, stirring something on the stove, looking at a recipe, or answering your phone.

You might also be able to use a spoon, but you'll want to be careful not to let the part of the handle that you touch also touch your spice containers, which might be more trouble than it's worth.

If you're using multiple spices, it's also often a good idea to just mix what you'll need ahead of time. If it's in a bowl just for this meat, you don't have to worry about contaminating it.

share|improve this answer
2  
I try to stick with the clean hand / dirty hand as much as possible. The clean hand is my primary hand (ie, the one that holds the knife), and the dirty hand holds the food while I'm cutting. It also means that I have a clean hand should the phone ring. – Joe May 25 at 14:59
1  
Mixing ahead of time has another benefit: the mix is more even (sprinkling each part individually could leave you with a salty area and a spicy area). For mixes of dry ingredients, you can save time by mixing a jar full and tipping out what you need into a pinch bowl each time you cook. – Chris H May 26 at 6:29

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
3  
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
4  
In addition to toxins, you may have food particles which allow bacteria to grow for a period of time (before the salt has time to dry out the food particle entirely). – Joe M May 25 at 14:51
1  
Also this doesn't apply at all to things besides salt. (I know the question this answer was originally posted on did focus on salt, but it also mentioned pepper, so I don't think this was ever a really comprehensive answer.) – Jefromi May 25 at 18:24

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

share|improve this answer
3  
Surely "germs" covers bacteria (already mentioned) and viruses (not living, and not killed by salt)? – Peter Taylor Jul 19 '13 at 9:31
17  
If it kills everything id be more worried about touching the salt. – marsh May 25 at 12:56
2  
Well it does. Try drinking sea water. Or a bottle of soy sauce. Compared to bacteria you are fairly big. Need a bit more than a pinch of salt to kill you. The problem with this answer isn't that it's wrong. It's that it doesn't tell you how to use this information in relation to the questions problem. – CandiedOrange May 27 at 1:42

Your Answer

 
discard

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.