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Washing fruit that most people don't wash


Fat Guy
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I assure you I'm not one of those people who washes his hands six times an hour or is too germ-phobic to ride the subway. But I have taken to washing the outside of fruits like oranges, grapefruits, limes and even watermelons.

These fruits typically come covered in disgusting waxy coatings and are filthy to boot. Now, it's true you don't actually eat the outside, but I've found that a clean outside leads to a better tasting inside. Whether you cut or peel an orange, for example, some of that residue manages to get in there and I think it affects the flavor and, potentially, the safety of what you're eating. I find that if I wash off the outside of an orange before cutting or peeling it, it just tastes (and smells) better.

Am I alone here?

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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well, FG, I wash the outside of pretty much anything that I am going to get into the interior of ! (Cans, for example....hantavirus, anyone?)

I think the classic caution is for cantaloupes, right? Salmonella? Not to mention you have no idea who was fondling your fruit........... :wacko:

I also wash the outside of meat, which may be extreme.

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I was just thinking about the meat issue. A few years ago a chef I respect took a hard line against rinsing meat, saying it washes off flavor. And, since meat typically gets cooked at high-enough temperatures to kill anything harmful, I've never been a meat washer. But I wonder.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I was just thinking about the meat issue. A few years ago a chef I respect took a hard line against rinsing meat, saying it washes off flavor. And, since meat typically gets cooked at high-enough temperatures to kill anything harmful, I've never been a meat washer. But I wonder.

I don't know that I believe washing meat would wash away flavor. Most of the flavor is the cells of the meat, which I don't think would get damaged from rinsing in cool water. All the juice from those outer cells would be lost by searing the meat anyways.

I think a taste test would solve the issue and give you an excuse to eat a couple of steaks.

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I spray most of my fruit with a water and vinegar mixture, then rinse it off with tap water. I read somewhere (probably Fine Cooking since that's the only cooking magazine I get, but it may have been online) that a bit of vinegar mixed with water did a better job of removing surface bacteria on fruits and vegetables than just water. I use it on almost all fruits and vegetables, including berries, grapes, etc., though the article suggested using it on hard fruits (apples, etc.).

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I generally wash apples, citrus, melons, pineapple and sometimes bananas with water AND soap, using a brush if necessary, then rinse. Ditto for cauliflower, and broccoli if it is visibly dirty or has aphids (otherwise, just water).

The soap seems to help keep the fruitflies at bay (maybe by removing or killing the eggs?)

Grapes and strawberries which have a lot of soil also get the soap treatment, but usually just a rinse.

If the produce is from a garden or farm which I know, then I just rinse. But just thinking about all the hands which have been on my food, and then the various sorts of storage and transport conditions...eeeww.

Karen Dar Woon

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I spray most of my fruit with a water and vinegar mixture, then rinse it off with tap water.

My wife taught me this trick a long time ago, it's something her parents always did with fruit back in China. Apparently it is a traditional way to clean fruit. I like to wash grapes and even berries with a mix of mostly water and a little fruity cider vinegar, then let them dry off. You can't taste the vinegar, but it definitely makes the fruit taste better. I'm not sure why, it it just does.

"There's nothing like a pork belly to steady the nerves."

Fergus Henderson

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Normally I completely forget about washing fruit, whether the rind is edible or not ... but that doesn't mean I don't think the washing makes sense. If there's a contaminant on the skin, all the handling involved in removing the skin will almost inevitably get that contaminant on the interior. But still, I forget to wash. Now watch a nice nasty case of salmonella come along and kick my butt, and provide the necessary negative reinforcement so that I never forget again. :laugh:

I was just thinking about the meat issue. A few years ago a chef I respect took a hard line against rinsing meat, saying it washes off flavor. And, since meat typically gets cooked at high-enough temperatures to kill anything harmful, I've never been a meat washer. But I wonder.

The main reason I wash meat is to remove any stray fragments of bone/gristle/random assorted other cruft left behind by the meat saw. Totally aside from the contamination issue, this residue is just plain ol' gritty and unpleasant. Maybe it too would fall off/burn up/whatever in the cooking process ... but why not get it the heck outta there at the git-go? So--if I feel any grit when I'm handling a hunk of raw meat, I do rinse it. Briefly.

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I was just thinking about the meat issue. A few years ago a chef I respect took a hard line against rinsing meat, saying it washes off flavor. And, since meat typically gets cooked at high-enough temperatures to kill anything harmful, I've never been a meat washer. But I wonder.

Flavour might not be an issue. But maybe the surface absorbs some water and will be harder to get a nice browning on?

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What you experience when a washed orange tastes better is called the Observer-expectancy effect, or "placebo effect." It is indisputably real.

Any dish you make will only taste as good as the ingredients you put into it. If you use poor quality meats, old herbs and tasteless winter tomatoes I don’t even want to hear that the lasagna recipe I gave you turned out poorly. You're a cook, not a magician.

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I was just thinking about the meat issue. A few years ago a chef I respect took a hard line against rinsing meat, saying it washes off flavor. And, since meat typically gets cooked at high-enough temperatures to kill anything harmful, I've never been a meat washer. But I wonder.

i have always washed my meat. sometimes you still have animal blood on it. that needs to come off, before i cook ANYTHING!!

"look real nice...............wrapped up twice"

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I have noticed a lot of regional variation in the cleanliness of food in grocery stores. When I live in Germany I am not surprised to find feathers and chicken crap inside cartons of eggs. Or bags of potatoes with so much dirt in the bottom of the bag that I could almost start growing a new crop. And the pork chops are typically covered with grit from the bone saws. On the other extreme, the produce guys in my grocery here in southern California trim each brussels sprout individually before putting it on display.

But washing off bone chips is a small price to pay for a tasty pork chop. I really hated moving back to the US and our water-infused, low-fat, dry, tasteless meat.

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I wash all my fruit, since I almost always use the outside too (no citrus fruit ever goes unzested). I usually don't wash anything I am peeling, although I suppose that any contaminants would get transferred to the flesh by the knife. I guess I'm not too germaphobic when I'm home. In a restaurant it's a different story. Too many other people coughing, hacking and touching things. Blech. I have not resorted to bringing my own utensils but I'm getting closer.

I once saw a guy sneeze into his hands and get a big slimy booger. He wiped his hands off on the under side of the counter at the bank teller window. I nearly vomited on the spot. That's what got me germaphobic when I'm not at home. Maybe Howard Hughes wasn't so crazy...

Edit to remove redundancy.

Edited by Darcie B (log)
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I once saw a guy sneeze into his hands and get a big slimy booger. He wiped his hands off on the under side of the counter at the bank teller window.

My concern is that he went to the grocery store from the bank and knocked on all the watermelons before choosing one. That's one of the reasons why I always wash them.

I have a store, and I receive a lot of goods off the back of delivery trucks - and things come in filthy. Especially in the winter, when there's slush and muck everywhere - it all gets transfered to the goods. The produce is being shipped in the same mucky trucks.

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I once saw a guy sneeze into his hands and get a big slimy booger. He wiped his hands off on the under side of the counter at the bank teller window. I nearly vomited on the spot.

Oh Jesus Christ, I almost threw up, and I just read that. :wacko:

I am a meat-washer. I pat it dry with paper towels to solve the wetness problem.

Err, reading this thread makes me want to wash everything way more. I wasn't washing citrus fruits unless I used the peel (which for me is seldom). I haven't dealt with a watermelon myself (still living at home this past summer), but I would probably at the very least wipe it down with a damp paper towel. I think I'm going to start using the vinegar+water method.. Something said about fondled fruits... 'scuse me while I have a heart attack in the corner over there...

I have to say, it really bothers me when people don't wash their fruits or vegetables, so "excessive" washing is not strange to me. I cringe at the idea of eating something that hasn't at least been under water... maybe I was a raccoon in a past life.

"I know it's the bugs, that's what cheese is. Gone off milk with bugs and mould - that's why it tastes so good. Cows and bugs together have a good deal going down."

- Gareth Blackstock (Lenny Henry), Chef!

eG Ethics Signatory

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What you experience when a washed orange tastes better is called the  Observer-expectancy effect, or "placebo effect."  It is indisputably real.

This morning I recruited a friend for a semi-blind test. I washed one orange and didn't wash another. I cut them both into sections. Then I had him hand me sections of each orange without telling me which was which. I ate the meat out of the sections and was able to identify washed and unwashed with 100% accuracy over 8 instances.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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