I had a fit when my husband said he never washes the tongs spatula or meat fork after cooking on the outside barbeque grill. He just let's them hang out there dirty (ugh) & uses them again without washing. Please help me explain to him why that is not only gross but dangerous.

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    As estaban's answer sort of explains, the big danger doesn't come from failing to clean them after your done cooking, but from not cleaning them after they've handled raw meat and then using them to handle cooked meat. – Ross Ridge Apr 30 '15 at 20:46
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    Utensils and cookware/serving-ware are very inhospitable places for bacteria and fungi to grow. All life needs food, water and an appropriate environment to grow. As long as the utensils do not have huge pieces of food and they get dry, there is no huge concern for normal people. However bacterial and fungal spores can survive and infect those with compromised immune systems or young children or the elderly(and a slim chance for a healthy person too.) – Mr. Mascaro May 1 '15 at 13:09
  • I generally agree with Ross Ridge and Mr. Mascaro here. The danger is mostly in reusing the utensils immediately while cooking, which can transfer bad things from raw meat to the cooked meat before serving. If the utensils thoroughly dry between cooking sessions, it may be "gross" (in your terms), but it's much less likely to be a health hazard than not washing during cooking. (That's the more common hygiene error.) Still, of course it's always better to keep things clean. – Athanasius May 1 '15 at 18:00
  • Isn't half the fun of going to a bbq, the Russian roulette game you play with your immune system? – Doug May 2 '15 at 7:51

You know I attended the BBQ Camp at Texas A&M, which was sponsored by Foodways Texas and conducted by the faculty of the Meat Science Department, and the first module of the workshop was food safety. One of the faculty discussed an experience he had when he was invited to a friends house for dinner. His host made steaks on the grill and carried the uncooked steaks to the grill on a plate, and when he finished he put the cooked steaks back on the same plate. Bad idea, exposing cooked food to a surface contaminated with raw juices.

Leaving the tongs and/or forks in an unclean state is very similar. While there may not be as big a risk in handling or placing raw foods onto the grilling surface, since they will be exposed to the germ killing temperature while cooking, there is a problem in handling the cooked foods with the utensils that have been exposed to raw foods and may have remnants of older bacteria. In addition a bigger problem occurs when using a fork, as the fork pierces the skin and can carry bacteria inside the meat which may or may not reach a germ killing temperature.

So clean your utensils, clean your dishware, avoid cross contamination, and keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.

I stuck a food safety link to the Texas A&M website for more information. Cheers.


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  • taken to extremes, that means not using the same utensils twice even on the same piece of meat, but taking clean ones each time you turn or move the piece. One can take things too far... – jwenting May 2 '15 at 7:14
  • @jwenting no-one takes it that far. Unless they move the meat by piercing it every time. Most people flip the steaks with tongs, so at most you could wash the tongs after adding the raw meat to the bbq. – jiggunjer May 3 '15 at 19:18

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