Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Secret Life of Wooden Spoons

My friend and fellow Foodie, Mark Hansen (of the Black Pot), commenting on my last entry about kitchen tools, told me that he liked wooden utensils for stirring things. I have to agree. I've always liked wooden spoons for dealing with cookie dough and certain stages of bread making.

Wooden spoons have been around since time began, it seems. The earliest ones I've found information on date back to 250 B.C. with the Iron Age Celts. They're not just used for cooking and eating, either. For over 200 years the Russians have been painting them, in some pretty amazing ways, as decorations (and now as tourist kitsch).

Before electric mixers came along, wooden spoons were used for to cream butter and sugar. Today they are used stirring all kinds of things from beverages, to casseroles, to risotto.

Wooden spoons offer several advantages over metal ones. First, they don't scratch up your non-stick pans like metal does. They also don't transfer heat very well, so they're great for dishes where heat is a concern. Top it all off with the fact that most wooden spoons are incredibly inexpensive to buy, and you've got a great product.

Of course they also tend to absorb strong odors, so be prepared to have them smell like onions and garlic (or worse) if you use them for that sort of thing.

As nice as all this sounds, wooden spoons lead a secret life that's made me wonder if I should keep using them or not. This secret life is literally that, life. They can be a safe haven for germs.

Washing wooden spoons in really hot water, certainly at the temperatures needed to kill harmful bacteria, can damage the spoon, hastening your need to replace it. If you don't wash it in really hot water, though, some of the bacteria may decide it wants to take up residence.

With the cost of new ones being so cheap, it's not like it's a big deal, but it's still given me pause. My kids broke my last set of wooden spoons, and I've not replaced them yet for that very reason. I'm considering some plastic ones, but I've not found any I really like, yet.

Maybe some of you know of some plastic spoons that can replace my good ol' wooden ones.

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