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Can I use a wooden spoon utensil when cooking chicken?

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The key food safety hazard is bacteria, which is naturally present on the raw chicken and will contaminate the wood spoon. "Is a wooden spoon or utensil more prone to contamination than are non-wooden utensils, such as plastic or food-grade metal?" NO. The general recommendation is one should use food preparation utensils that are constructed from hard wood. Hard woods can withstand deterioration due to moisture and are also less prone to splitting, cuts, etc. The bottom line is that they will be easier to clean. Soft woods can be used in home food preparation but are much more difficult to maintain and clean. The key for using any utensil (wood or non-wood) is you do not want a utensil that has been in contact with raw meat to come in contact with a cooked or ready-to-eat food. This would be a source of cross-contamination. HOWEVER, if the same utensil is used during the cooking process (and comes in contact with the hot food, such as stirring the pot while the food is cooking), the bacteria on the utensil would be killed because it would be exposed to the heat of the food during cooking. Therefore, using a utensil in this manner is not a food safety hazard. It would be a food safety hazard if the utensil was used for placing raw food onto a grill and then the same unwashed utensil was used to remove the cooked food from the grill. The utensil surfaces would not have been exposed to temperatures that could kill the bacteria on it. Thus, the bacteria could re-contaminate the cooked food.

PREPARED BY: Angela M. Fraser, Ph.D., Associate Professor/Food Safety Specialist, NC State University in July 2004

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