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I'm not a professional chef, but I think someone will have this issue, somewhere, and is a chef. A similar question asked about having a cold, but nail biting is much worse due to the obvious amount of cuts one develops on fingers.

Apart from the obvious (and difficult to achieve) goal of stopping the habit, how can I maintain proper hygiene and food safety while cooking?

I would say gloves, but I think it's going to be a problem for complex manipulations, and it could affect the taste of what is prepared. Is there a special brand specifically for this purpose? If not, what other precautions can I take?

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on related note, I'd probably better off accepting some answers – Stefano Borini Sep 20 '10 at 22:19
You bite your fingernails until they bleed? Ouch... Have you considered switching to Tex-Mex? – Shog9 Sep 20 '10 at 22:51
maybe make community wiki for multiple answers. – plor Sep 20 '10 at 22:56
Hi Stefano. I believe that kitchen safety/hygiene questions should be on topic, and since we're just starting to tiptoe into this area, I've edited the question to make it as clear as possible that this is still about cooking. I've tried to keep as much of the original question as possible intact - but let me know if I've inadvertently changed the meaning. – Aaronut Sep 20 '10 at 23:20
I've heard of people using bitter orange or other flavorings they don't care for on their fingers as a reminder not to bite their nails. Unfortunately, if you're cooking, you'd hopefully be washing enough to get rid of it, and I'd be afraid of it otherwise getting into the food and causing off flavors ... and hopefully you're not biting your nails while cooking, but it might help doing it for other times of the day. – Joe Sep 21 '10 at 1:44
up vote 8 down vote accepted

Gloves are annoying and, much like condoms, do obscure sensation and--in the case of kitchen work--precision with your fingers. For those reasons I avoid them wherever possible.

As a lifelong nailbiter (from when I was about 9 until I was 31), it was a habit that was really hard to give up. But it has been worth it, not just professionally. I know this isn't the answer you're looking for, but: stop biting your nails.

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If we're talking about latex or vinyl gloves, they also catch and tear very easily on anything even remotely sharp. – Aaronut Sep 21 '10 at 14:29

There is a basic set of criteria when cooking in any kitchen, either industrial/commercial or personal. These include but are not limited to:

  • Don't touch your face or hair
  • Wash your hands frequently
  • Don't use the "kitchen rag" for drying your hands after washing them
  • Sneeze into your elbow pit
  • Don't taste your food with your fingers
  • Keep your cutting boards CLEAN!
  • Follow the Danger Zone temperature guide
  • Don't work in a kitchen with a open cut (obviously, and I would say, even if it's bandaged, don't work in the kitchen until it's partially healed)
  • Keep your hair back and clothes clean
  • And generally avoid cross contamination

Obviously, there are more and this should probably be a community wiki for further exploration on the topic.

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Great list! I actually pull my shirt away from my chest and sneeze down into my shirt, I feel like this stops more germs that might spray out around the top and bottom of my arm if I were to use my elbow. Not sure if that's a sound method or not but thought I'd throw it out there. – stephennmcdonald Sep 21 '10 at 0:17
Too funny! I sneeze down my shirt as well! – Juju Sep 22 '10 at 0:13

Whether you bite your nails or not wash your hands thoroughly and keep your hands out of your mouth while cooking. If you have an open cut then wear a bandage and a glove.

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If you can't keep your fingers out of your mouth, you must wear gloves. Yeah, it sucks, and it does inhibit sensation, and is a general PITA. Eventually, you should learn to keep your fingers away from your mouth, and THEN you will be able to work glove-less.

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Use a nail biting stopping paint like "stop'n'grow". They are food safe, as long as you don't soak your nails in the food, other people won't taste it

You need to keep using the paint for a few years, best with kids, but adults I guess can make the decision? Maybe ask a trusted person to check you have it on every day

NB I use it on the end of Scout scarves, it stops the junior Scouts sucking their scarves

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