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I have noticed cooks using cake testers to temp fish, meat, chicken, whatever. I am concerned about cross-contamination. First it gets poked into a sometimes raw meat, then touched to the cook's face (under the lip), then back in the chef's coat pocket. Repeat ad nauseam. 

First, you are incubating bacteria in the "sheath" for the tester and 

Second, you are touching a cooking utensil to your face. Would you touch tongs or spoons to your face?

Solutions:

1) Sanitize tester between uses 

2) Touch to inside of wrist instead of face.

I read somewhere that it's impossible to contaminate any food item with the tiny bit of bacteria you are transmitting with a cake tester.

But to me that sort of thinking is a slippery slope. Use your common sense: A coat pocket full of undercooked meat particles?!
 

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And how about a chef's fork ? You poking raw and cooked meat from different animals all day long with the same fork ?
 

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I've heard of the mythical cake tester for years but I'm not sure what the point is. You pretty much get the hang of temps after ten or twelve thousand steaks./img/vbsmilies/smilies/lol.gif
 
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I have noticed cooks using cake testers to temp fish, meat, chicken, whatever. I am concerned about cross-contamination. First it gets poked into a sometimes raw meat, then touched to the cook's face (under the lip), then back in the chef's coat pocket. Repeat ad nauseam.

First, you are incubating bacteria in the "sheath" for the tester and

Second, you are touching a cooking utensil to your face. Would you touch tongs or spoons to your face?

Solutions:

1) Sanitize tester between uses

2) Touch to inside of wrist instead of face.

I read somewhere that it's impossible to contaminate any food item with the tiny bit of bacteria you are transmitting with a cake tester.

But to me that sort of thinking is a slippery slope. Use your common sense: A coat pocket full of undercooked meat particles?!
Hi MaxS,

A pretty standard procedure is to keep your cake tester in a pint container filled with salt. The salt kills any bacteria that is on the tester. Leave it in the pint container on your station through service instead of your jacket pocket. It also never falls out like it does often if in your jacket pocket.

I love cake testers, it's part of your standard uniform in many kitchens. Even if you can temp. proteins accurately by hand like me the cake-tester is invaluable for testing vegetables (potatoes!) and a million other things. I'll never be without a cake tester again.
 

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Yeah, its only use isn't just for temping steaks. You can check the temperature of things that you are re-warming, like braised items, vegetables, etc. The list is endless. Some larger cuts of meat (Tomahawk Ribeyes, thick cut porterhouses, etc) can benefit from it too, since touch can be a little less accurate with larger cuts of meat. 

Frying a piece of fish or an arancini? 

Great for roasted fish too. Can check a piece of halibut to see if it still "sticks" in the middle or if it goes right through. 

I've done the salt thing too, seems to work. 
 

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Salt does not kill all bacteria. Some have evolved to survive in high salt environments and others actually require salt to survive.
Agreed. Generally most bacteria can not survive at a very high salinity (such as a pint container filled with pure salt) but some have adapted to tolerate. These bacteria, like Staph, for example generally aren't food related. There is always a risk to some degree with bacteria and pathogens we take as chefs (medium rare meats, raw oysters among a million other things) but keeping your cake tester in a pint container filled with salt is something I consider safe. I've seen a pair of tongs used on raw and cooked proteins interchangeably throughout service on essentially every grill station I've ever seen and haven't seen anyone die, and these weren't kept in salt for sure.
I have seen people taste from the spoon they ate plating with ans also see people carry around a tasting spoon they re use. Always seems to be fine dining guys who think this is a good idea.
Yes, I am glad somebody else has noticed this nasty habit! It is ALWAYS the guys with fine dining experience. I even had an executive chef who promoted this behavior among all his cooks. It's a very bad habit because it's clearly against health codes firstly and secondly it's not the greatest for your own health (ever seen how dirty the water is in the bain holding that spoon?). Small plastic disposable tasting spoons are cheap as peanuts.
 

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I have been in the spoon kitchens. Pretty gross. The container always looks like the bottom of a fish tank. I had my kitchen using solutions for keeping cake testors until the health depart said no no.

We switched to thermapens years ago. I can't stand the thought of someone touching any part of their body with something that could come in contact with my food. Almost as bad as a server who addresses your table and then reaches behind and pulls an order pad out of the back of their pants. If I miss that on the way in, I can't even bring myself to order when that pad comes out and back in.
 

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I'm not sure I every knew there was such a thing as a cake tester, at least not in any commercial kitchen that I've worked in. I use a toothpick (no, not the one in my mouth!), the blade of a paring knife or the thermometer probe. The toothpick is tossed. The knife and thermometer are cleaned and sanitized after use. Any fork, spoon or similar utensil for poking, tasting, etc., should be used once then sent to the dish room.
 

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This reminds me of years ago I worked for a temp secretarial agency in England. I was sent to a "Lyons Corner House" (was a tea room, also did lunch). Lunch time they provided lunch in the kitchen. I was eating lunch one day when the waitress came in with a dessert with custard, she told the chef that the customer sent it back complaining the custard was cold. The chef put his finger in the custard and licked it and said it was fine and sent the waitress back out with it.  I never ate there after that!
 

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This issue is so similar to the habit of storing knives in a bucket of quat sanitizer, the knives pulled out and wiped off before each use, but not wiped before replacing in the bucket.

Tried to explain that keeping knives in a water solution all day wasn't good for the knives, and that quat sanitizer with an inch thick raft of food particles isn't exactly doing the job they think it's doing, only to be met with blank stares.
 

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Referring to the original post,

I have never used that long thin metal stick (cake tester) to measure done-ness before, but I've seen it used and if you were used to it, and it works for you, all the better.

I have seen the kitchen life evolve through many years of working for different kinds of Chefs.

Years ago, no one would think twice about wiping their knife on their apron or sharpening it on the corner of the counter.

Using the "cake tester" as you call it putting it up to your upper lip, then putting it back in your pocket, was just another one of those things.

Not any more. 

Sanitation and hygiene have caused us all to be very much aware of what we do and how we need to constantly bring that point home to everyone we work with.

It's a daily struggle, and I can surely relate.
 

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a little before ya'lls The buffet meat guy would have a selection of long metal skewers hanging and if someone ordered a med rare he would pick one out and plunge it into that prime like an old cheap stage production. Then withdraw it and place it under his old stubbly bottom lip above the chin. Then zero in on the area he thought was med rare and hack away. Some of the people liked the show, he even made some tips. Course those were the days when someone wanted it hotter, back to the kitchen to wrap it in lettuce leaves and plunge it into hot Au jus or even the old fryolater./img/vbsmilies/smilies/lol.gif Those were the days, no sneeze guards, someone would forget the pics or tongs and I would watch the animals picking cheese and fruit with their hands or their used utensils off a mirror while wiping a runny nose, sneezing or coughing on the whole tray. I used to man the dessert station because most would take a bite and put it back if they never tasted passion fruit or nesselrod.
 
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