How to Avoid Cross-Contamination When Cooking Meat
A simple question on social media sparked a heated discussion about whether or not we should go the extra mile when preparing meat for dinner.
A viral video posed the question, “Do you wash the spoon between raw and cooked or do you assume the spoon cooks with the meat?” The clip, posted on October 14 by TikToker @madzfit_, shows a flat wooden spatula stirring ground meat in a pan, with a caption that reads, “Your answer to this really says a lot [sic] about the type of person you are.
The question clearly resonated, as the four-second clip has over 3.7 million views and thousands of commenters are sharing their opinion on the matter.
“Absolutely. Clean the spatula and tongues as well when you near the end of handling the meat on the BBQ,” one TikTok user said.
“Wash, always. chicken, beef, pork, whatever. always wash,” added another user.
“People change utensils? ! What?!” another TikToker commented, to which someone else replied, “Oh man…. My brother caught salmonella this way. Always change or wash.
Others seem to display the fact that they know they are probably should do it, but don’t, let fate decide what happens to their digestive system on Taco Tuesdays or Sloppy Joe Thursdays.
“I use the same spoon. I am stronger. I’m better,” one TikTok user proudly said.
“As far as my grand ancestors go, we never changed spoons and it was just fine,” another person added.
“Both,” said another TikTok commenter with a laughing crying emoji. “I can never decide.”
So… should you wash your kitchen spoon or not?
If you’re like that last reviewer and aren’t sure whether or not you should wash or change your spoons in the middle of the sizzle, we have a definitive answer for you: yes, you should.
“I know it sounds boring to have to do this, but really, the problem is that when you use that spoon to touch raw meat, you contaminate it with the food-borne pathogenic bacteria potentially on it, Meredith Carothers, public affairs specialist with the Food Safety and Inspection Service, told TODAY Food.
Carothers said while it’s not guaranteed there are foodborne illness-causing bacteria that can make people sick in every raw meat product, you still want presume that there is just in case. She explains that cross-contamination, or the transfer of harmful bacteria to food from other foods, cutting boards and utensils when not handled properly, is what you should be wary of when handling potentially contaminated items. .
“If you touch that raw meat, you put its juices and potential bacteria on the spoon,” she said, adding that while you cook the meat, the meat may reach a safe internal temperature to kill bacteria. it contains, but the spoon actually hovers mostly above your heat source, leaving the possibility of contamination if you don’t change. “Anything on the spoon won’t necessarily be cooked unless you leave it submerged in a soup, you know what I mean?”
If you’re still unsure whether a deep wash of your cookware is necessary, we even got a second opinion – from Christopher Arturo, Chef-Instructor of Culinary Arts at the Culinary Education Institute.
“It’s important to wash the kitchen utensil in between or have separate spoons when cooking raw meat,” Arturo told TODAY.
“For example, if I’m grilling chicken breasts, I’ll have separate tongs for raw and cooked. While you’re cooking meat, the spoon will no longer contain any raw product, but you don’t know if the spoon has reached the temperature that bacteria cannot survive,” he explained.
“It’s not necessarily a guarantee, and not everyone will get sick, but the fact is there is potential,” Carothers added. “It’s safest to wash that spoon in between when you notice it nearing the end to make this the safest situation possible.”
And it’s not just about cleaning the spoon, according to the two experts – it’s about the specificity type spoon, too.
“I also wouldn’t recommend using a wooden spoon,” Arturo said in reference to the original TikTok video. “Wood harbors bacteria and is frowned upon in professional kitchens.”