What Stace had to say on Thursday, February 4th, 2010
Those gross tv chefs

So a discussion began last night, on a forum of which I am a member, about the rinsing of raw meats before cooking, specifically poultry. Some rinse, some don’t. Another member commented that apparently the FDA recommends against rinsing. You know why?

Because the water can splash and land on other things, thus spreading bacteria.

I had to laugh. I love the idea, first of all, that the FDA is recommending against a basic sanitary routine because the people doing it are apparently not capable of cleaning up after themselves. Seriously.

But it got me thinking about one of my biggest, hugest pet peeves ever, which I’m going to share with you.

See, I am anal about raw poultry and/or pork. Seriously. I treat that shit like it’s nitroglycerine. Nitroglycerine which also carries the Ebola virus. And is armed with razor blades.

Here’s what I do:

I open the chicken or pork “package,” (you know, they usually come wrapped in plastic or paper) in the sink, with the water already running. I not only rinse–and I have been known on occasion to mix a capful of bleach with a gallon of water and use that for the first rinse, followed by quite a few thorough inside-and-out rinses–but I leave the water running while I remove the chicken to a plate. Then I wash my hands, wrap the original package in paper towels and throw it away (I always have a foot-pedal trash can). Then–water still running–I wash whatever I used to open the package, my sink, and the surrounding countertops. Then I wash my hands again and then turn the faucet off. Then I dry the sink & counters, then dry the chicken. Then throw away those paper towels. Then I wash my hands again, and while my hands are soapy I wash the faucets and spigot.

I touch the raw chicken only with my left hand, if at all possible, so I can use my right to get things from the fridge, cabinets, open spice jars, whatever (I usually don’t have to, since I gather those things in advance, but sometimes it happens). If I have to use my right on the raw meat, I then use a double thickness of paper towels if I have to touch anything before washing my hands (and faucets) again. If I splash, I wash it immediately. If I accidentally touch something else, I wash it immediately.

Once the chicken is cooking I wash everything again, including my hands, the plate the raw meat sat on, and whatever utensils I may have used on the chicken, or touched after touching the chicken, even if I know I did not in fact touch it, and the spigots. Then I spray an anti-bacterial countertop spray on everything, including the floor, in case there were any drips.

Yes, I am anal. I’m not like this with all foods, and I’m not freakish about kitchen cleanliness in general, but after seeing an HBO documentary a long time ago about how salmonella can spread and kill people, and about trichinosis (found in raw pork)…yeah. (It may also come from being a nurse’s child and one-time candystriper, where we were taught the proper bathroom procedure: flush, wash hands, leave water running while you dry hands and use paper towels to turn the water back off and open the bathroom door, tossing the towels as you exit. Really. You will never carelessly use a tap again, after having all of that drilled into you.) Sure, the odds are slim. But that’s no reason not to be careful. And honestly, though it sounds like I go through a lot of steps, it’s really not that difficult or complicated when you’re actually doing it. It’s really just about minding what you touch.

So here’s what pisses me off. Cooking shows.

I cannot remember the last time I saw a cooking-show chef observe any kind of proper cleanliness standards when it comes to handling raw pork/poultry. Ina Garton’s roast chicken looks delicious, right? But Ina Garton does not wash her hands properly. None of them do. It drives me crazy. My eyes literally track everything they touch after touching that raw chicken, and I picture bright pink gobs of oozy, breeding germs all over their kitchens. The other day I watched Ina do her roast chicken. She touched the raw chicken with her hands and put it in the pan. Then she picked up her knife and chopped some vegetables. Then she used her salt and pepper shakers and handled some fresh-growing herbs–tearing the leaves off the potted plant on the counter. Then she got something out of her fridge, I think.

THEN–this is the best part–she says, “Oh, and it’s important to wash your hands when handling raw chicken.” She turned on the taps, rubbed her hands together for a second or two under the water–no soap–and turned the taps back off. So even if she HAD washed her hands properly, she’s just picked the bacteria back up from the tap, and then of course she chops something else with the knife whose handle she touched immediately after the chicken, and uses her spices some more, and all of that.

And it’s not just Ina. They ALL seem to do it. Guys, a casual rinse is not washing your hands. And you should be doing it immediately, not five minutes later after you’ve left a seething trail of illness and death all over your kitchen, where any unsuspecting person could set down their cookie or whatever. Don’t touch raw poultry and then rub your hands on your fucking dishtowel! What the hell is the matter with you? If a health inspector saw that you’d be in huge trouble. I understand you have a time constraint, but is it that hard to at least do your useless “wash” immediately after touching the meat, rather than after you’ve contaminated everything?

See, here’s the thing. People watch these shows to learn how to cook. They watch these chefs–experts–to pick up techniques and learn how to handle food. The impression they give that it’s fine to just slop a little water on your hands is not okay. Imagine doing that, then handing a cracker to a child. *shudder* I watched something (again, on British TV) a while ago where, after watching a woman prepare a chicken for roasting, they ran one of those black lights over her kitchen to show her all the things she’d touched without even thinking. It was fucking disgusting.

The woman was horrified (and rightly so) because she had, in fact, gotten her daughter a drink while she still had germy hands. But why on earth hadn’t she just washed them? Because she never thought about it. Because none of the cooking shows she watched emphasized how important it was, how even the slightest little drip of bacteria-laden liquid or the slightest touch of bacteria-laden hands can spread serious illnesses.

Seriously, I know I’m a bit freakish but it just bugs the fuck out of me.

So I had to rant about it here, because if you can’t share your weirdo obsessions on your blog, where can you share them, right?

What are your food weirdnesses? Ever watch cooking shows?

Tomorrow I’m going to blog about castles and do some links and updates and stuff. At least that is the plan.

16 comments to “Those gross tv chefs”

  1. Synde
    · February 4th, 2010 at 3:15 pm · Link

    Awesome post!!! I totally agree!! Water running in the sink
    one handed! Then soap and water when done!
    Bobby flay πŸ˜•
    never washes his hands! He is gross!!!

    • Stace
      · February 4th, 2010 at 6:23 pm · Link

      I know! I mean, he bugs me anyway, but when they don’t wash their hands it’s just bleh. Especially since they often eat with or handle the cooked food with those same, unwashed hands. Ick!

  2. Rubi Jayne
    · February 4th, 2010 at 4:02 pm · Link

    I can’t watch cooking shows for that very reason, which is sad, because I like cooking shows. I just can’t stand the haphazard way they handle food.

    And my mother (of all the people in my life) finds it “weird” that I wipe down my kitchen – all my counters, stove top, cabinets, handles, sink, everything – with Clorox wipes before I even get out the first ingredient to cook. Or even the first pan/pot.

    I will say this, though, I don’t leave the water running when handling raw meats. Living in a state that’s been in a drought situation for far too long, I can’t abide the waste of water. I will, however, have someone turn it on for me when I need it. Or just wear gloves (like you find at the doctor’s office). I started wearing gloves to handle raw meat when Girl was just learning to walk and I was home alone with her. You don’t really have time to wash your hands when your toddler has (somehow – I’ll never know she did it) climbed up into the window sill 2 1/2 feet off the floor and is skimming across the ohsovery narrow sill, pushing against the notsoverysecure screens, and in danger of falling, especially if you startle her. So… doctor gloves. Yeah.


    • Stace
      · February 4th, 2010 at 6:29 pm · Link

      Lol, the gloves are a good idea! I’ve thought of trying them, but I probably wouldn’t trust them anyway, you know what I mean?

      I’ve never wiped down all the surfaces like that, but I certainly don’t think it’s weird. I have been known, while the chicken cooks, to give everything another wash just to be sure, ha. And oh! I will never forget the time when Princess (my older daughter) was…14 months or so? I came out of the bathroom and didn’t see her in the living room. So I checked her room. Nope (we had a tiny one-floor house; two beds, one bath. It was really more of a bungalow than anything else). I peeked into the kitchen, no. I was just starting to freak when I saw her. She’d pulled all of the books off one of the shelves and climbed up, onto the shelf, and was just lying there, huddled up, with this huge smile on her face. Kids, huh?

      And I kinda want one of those black lights, but at the same time…ugh, no. I don’t wanna know! (Except after preparing chicken or pork!)

      Thanks for the comment!

      • Rubi Jayne
        · February 4th, 2010 at 10:53 pm · Link

        I was hesitant about the gloves at first, too, but then I thought of it like this: doctors use them to protect themselves & they’re sold for home medical use. At first I would double glove, but once I started trusting them to not rip, break, whatever, I just used one glove (per hand). I don’t use them all the time; only when I expect things around me to be happening too fast for safe hand washing.

        And I will (and do) freely admit that I am very anal about wiping down the kitchen before (and after, actually) I cook. People… touch things… then other things… and put stuff down on the counters… and then touch other things… and heaven only knows when they washed their hands last… and then I’m supposed to go in there and have to touch those same things then touch the food I’m preparing?? Not a chance.

        Kids are weird when they’re that little. In a cute sort of way. Like little aliens.

        One of those black lights would be a must if I traveled more. Those hotels are full of germs. Otherwise, I just want one to play with, double check if Girl really cleaned her bathroom or just wiped it down with a wet rag, things like that.


  3. Rubi Jayne
    · February 4th, 2010 at 4:05 pm · Link

    Also? I want one of those black light thingies.



  4. kirsten saell
    · February 4th, 2010 at 4:41 pm · Link

    Man, you do not want to watch me cook.

    I serve food at a restaurant, and I’m very anal about handwashing there. I probably wash my hands with soap and warm water 80 or 100 times in a 4 hour shift–any time I touch my mouth or nose, handle money, wipe down a table or highchair, or deliver dirty dishes to the kitchen.

    In the kitchen at home, I bleach nothing. And I mean nothing. I use a homemade cleanser of bleach, water and dish soap to clean all the surfaces in my bathroom, but my kitchen is different. I wipe my counters down with soap and water, and wash my hands immediately after handling raw meat (mostly because I hate the slimy feel of it on my skin), but I don’t bother much with my faucet (it’s a single-handle one I can turn on with my wrist), have never used Comet to scour my sinks, and have no problem giving a knife a quick rinse between cutting up raw chicken and dicing carrots I’m only going to boil anyway.

    My mother was the same way–my home-ec teacher would have fainted–and we’re the only family I knew growing up who never once suffered food poisoning. Not only that, we were hardly ever sick, and usually recovered from colds, flus and the mumps in half the time our friends did.

    My three kids all had the swine flu recently–I gave each of them Tylenol for all of a day, and they drove me batty the entire time because they were cooped up indoors together hardly acting sick at all. All three of them were back to school within 6 days (my oldest within 4), and it would have been sooner except I knew the school would just send them home the first time they cleared their throats.

    I know Americans are obsessed with sanitizing and sterilizing everything, but the truth is, kids who grow up in a sterile, germ-free environment don’t get a chance to exercise their immune systems, and they end up unprepared for real illness when it comes. So I hope that if you’re bleaching everything in your house in a bid to rid yourself of all the creepy-crawlies, you at least let them eat the occasional handful of dirt. It’s good for them. :)

    • Stace
      · February 4th, 2010 at 6:46 pm · Link

      Soap and water is plenty for countertops, though. I don’t bleach my countertops either, and the spray is generally only for apres-raw-chicken-or-pork. Every once in a while–like every few months–I’ll wash the countertops and spray them, just as part of general tidying, but I never bleach them.

      I totally agree re the importance of regular germs for building strong immune systems. It’s why I don’t allow antibacterial soaps in my house (except one in the kitchen, which I rarely use). I don’t insist on washing my kids’ toys or bleaching the floors (hell, it’s a big deal if I vacuum them! and I don’t even own a bottle of bleach at the moment) or anything else, really, and I don’t freak out about other foods, either. Of course if you’re going to boil the carrots it’s okay to use the same knife. I do the same thing (my issue with Garton was she touched the knife’s handle, thus contaminating it, and then used it to chop salad vegetables, and then touched those with her bare hands which had just touched the knife handle again). I don’t even always remember to make the girls wash their hands before dinner, and who knows where their little hands have been!

      It’s just raw chicken and pork, like I said in the post. Not other foods. Salmonella etc. aren’t normal, immune-building germs, they’re deadly bacteria, and I get kind of freaky about them. As you can see. πŸ˜‰

  5. Michele Lee
    · February 4th, 2010 at 8:08 pm · Link

    My kids always help me cook by turning on the water for me to wash my hands and squirting soap on my hands. We color code plates for “raw” and cooked food when grilling (bright pink for raw, brown for cooked.) I use different cutting utensils to check when it gets close to done.

    I don’t rinse my meat, save for whole turkeys and chickens for roasting, but I also only prepare meat in certain areas of the kitchen. We do always ear meat well done though.

  6. BernardL
    · February 5th, 2010 at 12:28 pm · Link

    If you’re going to be anal about anything in cooking, handling poultry and pork are the ones to be extra careful about.

  7. hagelrat
    · February 7th, 2010 at 11:59 am · Link

    I am never having you over for dinner! 😯
    I am fairly neurotic about washing my hands but that’s it. I have never noticed or worried about hygiene on TV cooking shows, and I reckon what we see on TV is a great improvement on what goes on in most kitchens.

  8. GladysMP
    · February 9th, 2010 at 12:25 am · Link

    This has me chuckling. I will be watching TV cooks so carefully now that I will probably miss the recipe details. LOL

    Happy Valentine’s Day to you!

  9. Bernita
    · February 9th, 2010 at 5:44 am · Link

    I am more careful about washing things (particularly the cutting board and knives)when preparing chicken and pork but not as anal as you are.
    When my kids had a bug, I always put a slug of bleach in the dish water.

  10. writtenwyrdd
    · February 10th, 2010 at 7:48 pm · Link

    Not to gross you out or anything, but I dated a butcher some years back. He worked at a high-end, yuppie market, and he quit because his conscience was bothering him. When the meat got to the sellby date, the manager had them rinse and repackage the meat with ! And you know, that explains why sometimes packaged meat smells awful the day you buy it…

    Bleach may not be as silly an idea as some people think.

  11. writtenwyrdd
    · February 10th, 2010 at 7:48 pm · Link

    That was supposed to say “with a new sellby date.” Doh!

  12. darchole
    · February 12th, 2010 at 7:51 pm · Link

    Since I’m a biologist and I work in research I really have to point something out:

    If you’re using anything to disinfect you really need to let it set for some time to make sure it actually kills anything. (And yes, we’re guilty of this in research too.) Doesn’t matter if it’s bleach, anti-bacterial/microbial spray, alcohol, or boiling water it takes more than a few seconds to do it’s job. It depends on what it is for how long you have to leave it, but usually a couple of minutes kills just about anything. Of course just removing something from the environment works too, but if you want to kill something you have to take time under consideration.

    For the cat owning people an example – toxoplasmosis (the disease) caused by toxoplasma gondii (the parasite) isn’t killed by bleach. You really need to heat it up (by cooking or using boiling water) to kill it. However people with healthy immune systems are fine, because they can kill the parasite (which is why washing is a decent method to decrease/eliminate infection for most people). For pregnant women, the fetus/baby is at risk, but since cats who are infected can only transmit it for a very short time, (in the US) pregnant women are at much, much, more risk from undercooked food including unwashed veggies than their cats.

    Wikipedia actually has a decent description:

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