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Mike(Mi) 10-19-2003 08:36 AM

Obsession vs. Cross Contamination
During prepping for a cook ... cleaning, cutting, rubbing, brining, etc. , especially fowl, it seems like I'm always picking something up then washing my hands, touching something else, then washing my hands again, DOH, forgot to... (insert brainfart here), whoops, set something down on a clean surface ... wash hands or implements or spice jar or counter again. :roll:

It's got to the point where I've even got 4 towels out at the pit area, one for uncooked sticky gunk, one for cooked sticky gunk, one for charcoal stains and one for drying ONLY after object to be dried has been through the Clorox bath (I go through a lot of Cornhuskers to keep my hands from turning into a mess.) ...And I don't even want to talk about the glove/mitt situation.

Its important to be careful about cross contamination, but I'm wondering, has anyone discovered a more efficient way to do these processes so you don't have to wash your hands or something else every time you turn around? I'm not generally obsessive/compulsive, just look at the mess in my garage, but I need a reality check. Is this too much obsessing, or is there an easier way? Thanks.

parrothead 10-19-2003 09:05 AM


Is this too much obsessing, or is there an easier way?
Safety first. I cook for a lot of people, and the worst thing I could possibly imagine is getting fifty phone calls the next morning, with people saying they are sick. Don't know whats with all of the towels though. I just use towels to dry after washing. Other than that, it's lots of paper towels. I geuss I do have one hanging out of my pocket to wipe hands on occasionally. Have even thought of taking a food service class around here just to make sure that I am doing stuff right.

BBQchef33 10-19-2003 09:53 AM

Sounds like we read the same book on how to make a mess. I also have towels and mitts all over the pit area. The only way I keep myself in some kind of order is to use 2 seperate places. I use the granite tops on the Grill island for prep work(the cooties area) and a stainless steel table in the pit for non cootie work. I try to do my clean/ contaminated prep work seperate, get all of one done before going to the other. And grab a box of latex gloves. They come in handy.

Im surprised no one comented on this at B2.. or even used it. I keep a box of latex gloves in the food area. They come in boxes of a few hundred at costco and home depot. Come in handy for lots of stuff, especially cleaning the water pan in the bandera or sraping out the bottom of the backyard chef. I always use them when prepping ribs and chicken in the pit. If you want to go a step further, you can by a waterless antibacterial scrub that you just rub on and wipe off.

I tried 2 things to get my towel situation under control with limited success. First i mounted towel holders in the pit area(3 off them). That worked, but i wrecked alot of paper towel rolls when i was to lazy to put them away and they got caught in overnight rain. Then I went to the red "shop towels" you get at costco. in bbags of 50 and started using them. Kept a box to throw them in and then just threw them in the washing machine after I got enough for a load orr they got to grungy. Thats still works pretty good.

rbinms33 10-19-2003 11:02 AM

I know exactly what you mean. I'm usually not as concerned with pork and beef as I am with chicken. You touch the chicken, put it on the counter, pick up the rub you've got to clean everything up. Some of the things I do to avoid this, or at least make it easier, are:

1.) Go to Sam's/Costco and get a 4 pak of those Clorox wipes and a 12 pak of Bounty paper towels. They're easy and they're throwaway items. I very rarely use towels because once you've touched them, they're contaminated and then after it's all over you've got to wash them.

2.) Use tongs as much as possible instead of your hands. I've gone to the $$ store and invested in a half dozen of them. Once you've used a set and you're not going to be using them again for a while, throw them in the dishwasher and get another set when you need them. If you're going to be using them in the next 5 minutes, rinse with hot water and wipe off with a paper towel.

3.) Get a helper when you're rubbing down any type of meat. That way you can rub the spice in while they're doing the sprinkling. Also, they can open any cabinets, doors, or drawers so you don't have to.

4.) While at the $$ store, pick up some plastic platters and/or serving dishes that you can use to keep the meat in overnight and while transporting to the grill. Don't wash in the sink and reuse. Just put it in the dishwasher and grab another one. Aluminum half/full size pans work well for this too and you can just throw them away instead of having to wash them.

A couple of other things I've adopted.....I'm the guinea pig. I always taste anything I've cooked long before anyone else gets to it. I've even had people ask me why and I always tell them, "Just to make sure it's good". They think I mean good tasting but I'm making that if somethings wrong with it, only one person gets sick instead of a whole group.

On using serving gloves, if I'm cooking for a bunch of strangers that I don't know, I use them. They don't know me and don't know the type of person I am, so for them to see me using my barehands is an instant turnoff. But when I'm cooking for family and friends, I have a pair of rubber gloves I use to pull the meat off the grill but when I take it inside, I usually do everything with my bare hands. Normally, this might be a problem, but they already know I have an OCD when it comes to handling food and washing my hands. I've always got someone around me either keeping me company or asking questions and I want them to understand that if I handle their food I do it with clean hands. That's why I wash and rewash every couple of minutes. If I have to sneeze or cough I go to the other side of the room....and then come back and wash my hands.

When in doubt, it's much better to be on the safe side, than to wish you had.

StLouQue 10-19-2003 11:04 AM

Here's what I've adapted for home use from my professional kitchen (sanitation) training. Keep one old, ragged dish towel soaking in a bleach water solution for use on ANY potentially contaminated surfaces, including a quick hand rinse. A clean, dry (old, ragged dish) towel or roll of paper towels if drying is required.

I like the suggestion of latex gloves. However, my reusable black neoprene gloves go on when handling the meat raw or cooked in the Bandera. After each use, I dip my gloved hands into the bleach water, then hang the gloves to dry.

When the bleach water gets dirty enough to make me wonder about its effectiveness, I pour it down the kitchen sink as a deodorizer, and make up a fresh brew.

Mike(Mi) 10-19-2003 01:45 PM

Thanks Guys. I'm going to get some latex gloves, neoprene gloves, extra tongs, extra containers, hang another towel rack and think through some of the other great suggestions. When its time for the Thanksgiving Turkey, I'm gonna be clean AND organized ...I hope!

BBQchef33 10-19-2003 03:10 PM


Originally Posted by Mike(Mi)
When its time for the Thanksgiving Turkey, I'm gonna be clean AND organized ...I hope!


clean and organzied??? Only thing I'd commit to is prepare to be clean and organized........

now execution of the plan is gonna be the trick.

(voice of experience talking). All those towels and gadgets and buckets are around and guess what... your gonna pick up that jar of southern flavor with chicken goop on your hands... oops.

I forgot something. I picked up this container of anti-bacterial wipes from Home depot. They're made by ZEP, usually in that isle with all the cleaners and I never bothered with them.... then one day, some genius moved a few boxes of them them to the isle with all the BBQ stuff.... right next to the grill cleaners. Seriously.. a good move. .. i keep them in the pit and in the kitchen. That when when ya oops and grap that jar od souther flavor....... all ya need is a quick wipe.

chad 10-19-2003 10:19 PM

I, too, clean up a lot while prepping and cooking. The bleach water/towel is standard in most prep areas - I used this technique while in the restaurant biz. I butchered a lot and kept my grinder blades and plates in bleach water between jobs. A quick wipe with a towel soaked in bleach water will take care of just about anything.

One thing -- you don't need a LOT of bleach to be effective. Just a small capful in a washpan full of water is plenty. Too much just wastes bleach and causes corrosion problems and will burn up your skin.

I'm not a fan of the waterless sanitizers in handling food. I've used it in a pinch but prefer the 2 minute warm water and soap drill myself. This is just my opinion though and lots of people like the waterless sanitizers.

The surface where you work is important, too. It should be solid and sealed. Stainless steel is best but sealed tile, stone, etc. is perfectly ok.

Gloves are a great idea. I used to drive my GM nuts with the number of pair I used each day -- he accused me of opening my own doctor's office! It's not much of a concern for the home chef but I used to get infections in my finger nail beds from handling so much meat and other raw products. The docs never told me what exactly the infection was but I'm guessin salmonella and various other pathogens. I usually wound up on antibiotics for a week every few months.

I didn't see the gloves at Phil's place or I probably would have used them. I did make a lot of trips inside to wash up while prepping the food I was handling at B2 :D

This is a great thread -- glad to see everyone is chiming in and sharing ideas. Food safety should concern us all.

BBQchef33 10-20-2003 08:27 AM

another thing i realized last night, i use Saran disposable cutting sheets. They're wax sheets with a light lamination on one side. I always throw one of them on the cutting board, especially with chicken. then jsut throw out. makes things safer for the next thing to hit the board. I go threw them almost as much as paper towels. Also makes it easier to get food to the pot.

StLouQue 10-20-2003 11:46 AM

I step upon my soapbox fully aware this will likely be a less than popular stance. So be it.

Wendy and I have substantially reduced our weekly landfill donations through curbside recycling, finding other uses for stuff instead of throwing it out, plus purchasing (and using) fewer throwaway products. While the convenience of these products cannot be disputed, our conscience does not permit us to continue to use it and lose it without regard for the lasting effects of our actions. That's our choice, yours may differ.

Please, before taking offense, understand that my comments are intended as "food for thought" not judgement.

Bill-Chicago 10-20-2003 11:54 AM

Hell, we're up to $2.17 per garbage sticker, so we load up 3 or 4 recycle bins every week (one with just JD empties)

I got this pile in the yard where the people who lived there before use to have a garden. It is now my ash pile, bone pile, mowed grass pile, etc.

I like your idea of the use of bleach and gloves.

Every few weeks I need to do the pitch fork Mod to the Pile mod. By the time the snow melts in the spring, its back to being dirt pile.

Oldtimer 10-20-2003 12:22 PM

What the hell is a garbage sticker ? Also just one bin for JD empties, you slowing down ? :-)

Bill-Chicago 10-20-2003 12:25 PM

You gotta put a sticker on the handle of each 33 gal container, or the trash man won't pick it up.

Some municipalities have garbage fees thrown on the water bill, but they found recycling picks up substantially when there is a weekly reminder of how much it costs per can.

And they are 20 gal recylcling containers, and I smash all 20 1.75 liter bottles from the week so they'll all fit :)

smokeemifyougotem 10-20-2003 02:56 PM

Always use latex gloves from Sam's Club. One other thing I do is wrap my spice jars/bottles in Saran Wrap before I touch any of the meat. This way, once finished with the rubbing phase, I just take the Saran Wrap off and throw away - don't have to worry about cleaning up the spice jars.

Mike(Mi) 10-20-2003 07:01 PM

Oooh, Oooh!! Saran Wrap on the spice jars!!! Thanks! (Yes Phil, I am preparing!) :D

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