A simple question on social media has ignited a meaty discussion on whether or not we should all be taking an extra step while preparing meat for dinner.
A viral video posed the question: “Do you wash the spoon between raw and cooked or presume the spoon cooks with the meat?” The clip, posted on Oct. 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 alot [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 sharing their opinion on the matter.
“Absolutely. Also clean spatula and tongues when nearing the end of handling meat on the BBQ,” said one TikTok user.
“Wash, always. chicken, beef, pork, doesn’t matter. always wash,” another user added.
“People change utensils?! What?!” commented another TikToker, to which someone else replied, “Oh man…. My brother got salmonella that way. Always switch or wash.”
Other people seem to flaunt the fact that they know they probably should do it, but don’t, letting fate decide what happens to their digestive system on Taco Tuesdays or Sloppy Joe Thursdays.
“I use the same spoon. I’m stronger. I’m better,” one TikTok user proudly stated.
“As far as my great ancestors we never changed out spoons and Been just fine,” added another person.
“Both,” said another TikTok commenter with a cry-laughing emoji. “I can’t never decide.”
So … should you wash your cooking spoon or not?
If you’re like that last commenter and don’t know for sure whether or not you should be washing or switching out your spoons mid-sizzle, we have a definitive answer for you: Yes, you should.
“I know that it sounds annoying to have to do it, but really, the concern is that when you’re using that spoon to touch the raw meat, you’re contaminating it with the foodborne illness-causing bacteria that’s potentially in it,” Meredith Carothers, a Public Affairs Specialist at the Food Safety and Inspection Service, told TODAY Food.
Carothers said that while it’s not guaranteed that there’s foodborne illness-causing bacteria that can make people sick in every raw meat product, you always want to assume 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 have to be wary about when handling potentially contaminated items.
”If you’re touching that raw meat, you’re getting its juices and potential bacteria onto the spoon,” she said, adding that as you’re cooking the meat, the meat might be coming up to a safe internal temperature to kill the potential bacteria in it, but the spoon is actually mostly hovering above your heat source, leaving the potentiality of contamination if you don’t switch. “Anything that’s on the spoon won’t necessarily be cooked unless you’re like leaving it submerged in a soup, you know what I mean?”
If you’re still in doubt about whether a thorough wash of your cooking utensil is necessary, we even got a second opinion — from Christopher Arturo, chef-instructor of Culinary Arts at the Institute of Culinary Education.
“It is important to wash the cooking 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 product. As you’re cooking meat, the spoon won’t have any more raw product eventually, but you don’t know if the spoon reached the temperature where bacteria can’t survive,” he explained.
“It’s not necessarily a guarantee, and not everybody will get sick, but the point is, there is a potential for it,” Carothers added. “It’s safest to either wash that spoon in between as you notice it’s getting closer to being done to make it the safest possible situation.”
And it's not just about the cleaning of the spoon, according to both experts — it's about the specific type of spoon, too.
“I also would not recommend using a wooden spoon,” said Arturo in reference to the original TikTok video. “Wood harbors bacteria and it’s frowned upon in professional kitchens.”