Single sink, meat & contamination

ChristyMcKJune 21, 2014

I am looking forward to a single 33" sink. We won't have a prep sink. We have a dishwasher. We use sheet pans a lot and I love the idea of being able to soak something in the sink instead of on the countertop. I use a salad spinner to clean most veggies. I'm not a fan of the 70/30 sink divide for our space.

My question is how do single sink users navigate cutting meat, and dealing with eggs and other contaminants when they have other items in the sink they may not want meat contaminating (drain rack, coffee filter, salad spinner)? In particular, it seems keeping the drain rack uncontaminated would be difficult but necessary if you are drying large clean dishes on them. Do you take the drain rack out when cutting meat? Is it a pain (it seems there would often be items on the drain rack)? Right now I cut meat in one bowl and keep the other bowl 'clean'. Thoughts? Strategies? How do you deal with this?

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I have never cut any kind of meat or chicken inside my sink. I do that on a cutting board used only for that purpose and then cleaned/disinfected separately from everything else.

This post was edited by dcward89 on Sat, Jun 21, 14 at 9:37

    Bookmark   June 21, 2014 at 9:32AM
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I have a 30" single-bowl sink and no prep sink. I don't actually prep in my sink, other than rinsing/scrubbing veggies and peeling hardboiled eggs. I do all my cutting and prepping on a cutting board right next to my sink. I have two Epicurean boards, with two usable sides, and am always washing in between various uses, e.g., meat, veggies, bread. It's second nature.

As for dishes draining at the same time, I have a small dish rack on the counter on the opposite side of the sink from which I prep. Some people hate the idea of that, but I don't. It's practical, keeps clean things separate from prep and stuff like meat juices. If you don't like the look of a rack on the counter you can always put it back in the sink when you're done prepping.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2014 at 10:13AM
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I never prep in my sink, I use cutting boards on my counter. I might rinse a chicken or something but I also never leave anything clean in my sink so no worries about contamination. Clean dishes are put away, dirty ones from the current cooking project are either in the dishwasher or in the sink waiting to be rinsed and put in the dishwasher.

I do love my single bowl sink and I'm sure you will love yours too. You'll come up with a workflow that works for you in a very short time I'm sure.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2014 at 10:20AM
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I remove things from the sink when cleaning other things so they won't get any splashing from dirty water. Of course, after reading GW, I want two big sinks, and a small prep for produce.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2014 at 10:20AM
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This is not really profound, but related and moderately amusing:

I never drain clean dishes in my sink, always on the counter or in the dw. My SIL, however, keeps a drain rack in one half of her double sink. This works out really well for her...until the day we first visited their new home and my DH dumped half a glass of Diet Pepsi all over her clean dishes. By nature fairly clueless about domestic issues, he had no idea dishes stacked in the sink could be anything but dirty!

    Bookmark   June 21, 2014 at 12:09PM
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Thanks for all your responses!

Yeah, I guess I'm thinking about meat that comes in plastic containers (whole chickens, pork tenderloins from costco). I usually cut the package over the sink and let the meat juices drain down. I will often trim meat into the sink and then send it down the sinkerator. Maybe I should do this over the garbage can. The meat can be a little slippery though (can see it dropping into the can) and it makes for a strong attractant for our dog. But we take out the garbage nightly so as long as the liner works this would seem to be an option.

Still, when I cut meat on a cutting board which I also do, I wash the cutting board in the sink. Maybe I'm being a little uptight but it seems like it does potentially make cross contamination with other items more possible, particularly with a drain rack in the sink. I can always take it out but if stuff is on it then that would start to be a pain.

Do many of you have a 1/2 drainboard rack or does your drainboard fill the whole sink?

    Bookmark   June 21, 2014 at 12:15PM
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Don't put your dish drainer in the sink. Put it on the counter. That's what I do with our large single bowl sink. As soon as they are dripped dry, the dishes get put away as does the dish drainer/board. The contamination issue is just something that I've never worried about.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2014 at 12:22PM
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I never drain dishes in my sink. I always assume my sink is "dirty", and anything that touches it must be cleaned and dried on the counter or run through the dishwasher. I don't think the single sink vs. double makes all that much difference. I wouldn't dry dishes on half of a double bowl either due to splashing.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2014 at 1:27PM
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I do a great deal of prep in my sink, on the sink grid. I clear the sink as needed before I start. I use a scrubbable cutting board for the meats and poultry -- one has color markings on each side to keep track.

I also put mixing bowls down on the grid so the sink catches the splatter -- very handy. Why I love deep, big sinks. So functional.

My dirty dishes go directly into the dishwasher. Anything that needs washing by hand (which is usually sharp knives or a wooden utensil) gets pushed to the side of the sink (mine is 30" so there's plenty of space) and washed, set out on a towel to drain, then dried and put away. I don't have any clutter in there -- nothing to get contaminated.

I put nearly everything in the DW. I don't understand hand washing & draining in this day and age. I don't wash cookware or good dishes & crystal by hand either. Makes no sense to me. Why I bought a dishwasher that handles all that.

Anyone concerned about cross-contamination on the grid can do something very simple to avoid it. Keep a bottle of alcohol under the sink and wipe down the sink grid with alcohol after the sink is cleaned, then rinse with hot water.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2014 at 1:31PM
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I wouldn't dry in the sink either. You are mixing functions and contamination is an issue, as you say. Moreso if others are around to use the sink too. I like the over the sink dry rack posted the other day, for a quick drain after washing, but I dry things by placing them in the dishwasher.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2014 at 1:43PM
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rococogurl said: "I put nearly everything in the DW. I don't understand hand washing & draining in this day and age."

I am one of those who will handwash when I have the time and energy. When things are "normal" at our house I handwash the majority of the time. I personally find it difficult to think about all the water and electricity used to run the dishwasher when I can get them just as clean with a fraction of the water and nearly none of the electricity.

That said, I am extremely grateful to be able to use the dishwasher in times of duress, like when I was also working outside the home and like now, when we are fresh in a new home and soooo busy with a gajillion things to be done.

snokkums2 said: ".... I like the over the sink dry rack posted the other day, for a quick drain after washing...."

Me too! I am still thinking about ordering one, but when someone said it crashed into their sink with a load of dishes on it I had second thoughts. Like rococogurl I generally wash cookware by hand, which is inherently heavy. I would be better served with a wooden or metal one that can slide into the cabinet when not in use.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2014 at 2:01PM
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My single sink is often a "dirty" zone too - meat "juice" has to go somewhere, plus we have to rinse styrofoam trays and plastic bags for recycling. I periodically clean the rinse grid and strainer basket in the dishwasher (my sink is only 25" wide). I'm going to get this for air drying dishes on the counter or over the sink:
It can be cleaned in the dishwasher and takes almost no space

See zeitgast's reveal for cool photos of it.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2014 at 2:11PM
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My DW uses from 1 to 6 gallons of water per load max depending on the setting. It uses about 500 KWH of electricity per year, or about $60 per year at my current rate (I need to change provider to get it down).

The yearly electric cost of the dishwasher is way less than my hourly rate.

Hand washing does not save. It costs if you figure that your time is valuable.

Perhaps some here don't attach value to time spent doing various tasks at home. But I think everyone should. I worked at well-paying jobs for many years and had to fight for every cent. The value of my time doesn't stop because I'm doing something at home. I don't believe in shortchanging myself and hope I can convince someone who might be not to.

It may be a matter of perspective but it's like that old saying about no one who was about to die ever regretted working less. Far as I'm concerned, same thing goes for chores that can be done by machine!

    Bookmark   June 21, 2014 at 3:40PM
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Greenhaven, The current models of dishwashers use less water and energy than handwashing. I still hand wash my big bowls and pots, as well as my knives which I'm kind of fanatic about, because I need them, and they take up so much room the DW would be constantly running if I put them in. I also have some things that just won't go in the DW. Check the stats for your DW, which should be available online if you don't have them, and make sure you really are saving by washing by hand.

Christy, I so sometimes leave pots or bowls to soak in the sink. If I want to use the sink for dirty work, like you're asking about, I first finish washing what's there, or at least move it out of the sink. Then I clean the sink! Then I'll put a turkey in it to wash, de-pin-feather, and trim. If I just have one chicken, I might cheat and just hold it while I'm cleaning it, and only clean the sink after.

If you like keeping your drainer in the sink, just lift it out and move it out of splatter range before you change your sink to raw meat status. Get a tray for it if you'll have things still dripping. They make some that are easy to roll up and put under the sink.

Re the over the sink grid that was on a recent thread, I've had mine for about a month before that was posted and LOVE it. But it's not an all purpose drainer. I use it for big, drippy mixing bowls a lot. I have the "grass" drainer for small items, and a drainer meant for flat plates and cutlery, and a mat. The drainer mostly lives under the sink with the dishpan. The roll up grid will hold smaller things, but they go flat, not standing between the bars. It doesn't have tines and stops for that, like a standard wire drainer. It's great for making a double decker sink. A good place to set a colander at counter level. A PERFECT place for scrubbing and drying a silpat.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2014 at 3:53PM
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Fori is not pleased

I too always regard the sink as contaminated unless I know better. When I had a bigger sink, I had no problem dismembering a turkey at the bottom, but I'd clean it before and after.

Anything in the sink is dirty.

Before rinsing something especially risky in the sink (chicken, I'm looking at you!), I'll usually be inspired to finally move the dirty stuff that's already there so that the salmonella is somewhat contained.

We are slobs. That means we have to be careful. :) We've never had an incident of food poisoning so I guess it's working.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2014 at 3:57PM
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Greenhaven, I too like to hand wash but have pretty much stopped because hand washing uses way more water than a dishwasher. I never knew that until we were without a dishwasher for a while and our water usage and bill shot way up. The water company confirmed for me that hand washing dishes uses far more water than the dishwasher.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2014 at 4:11PM
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There have been a lot of discussions about pre-rinsing dishes before putting in the DW, not to mention simply handwashing entirely.

I live alone, and in a single day I could use 1 cup, 1 glass, a couple of plates, and a small pan. I'm not going to run a DW load for that. So I let it fill up a bit and that takes 4 or 5 days. If I've eaten a fried egg or something with meat on it, any remaining residue is gonna get nasty/smelly inside that sealed chamber, esp. in the summer. So I rinse. Sometimes I rinse so well, in essence I've already handwashed.

I know I could do just fine without a DW, but no way would I choose not to have one.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2014 at 4:37PM
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I believe dw efficiency is vastly improved in these modern times. A good thing1 I guess it all depends on how one goes about handwashing. Although I admit I would be hard pressed to hand wash a whole sink of dishes in only a gallon of water.

Sorry for the highjack, did not mean to spark a fire!

    Bookmark   June 21, 2014 at 8:03PM
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I also live alone yet hardly ever use my dishwasher. Since there are so few dishes, it's a snap to quickly wash, dry and put them away. Mine is a compact model (18" wide), I could justify running it once a day given the number of dishes and pots I have.

The difference in savings is not always clear cut or that significant. For example, I use about 2 gallons to hand wash and about 1 gallon to rinse. The dishwasher on the normal cycle uses 3.5 gallons. Granted, I use almost double the water and gas since I wash dishes twice a day (M-F), but that's also assuming I wouldn't pre-rinse for the dishwasher which I'd have to do (eggs every morning).

Hand washing requires no electricity for me. The DW runs for about 1 hour and if I choose to use the heater to dry immediately, that's a big energy hog (500 watt element).

The full size dishwashers offer more features but quickly utilize much more water and electricity if one chooses to use those features. I looked at one spec and it said water usage can be 4 to 7 gallons and run times of two to three hours (depending on cycle choices). Heaters for drying and "sanitizing" cycles use a lot of electricity. Choose the cycle wisely.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2014 at 9:41PM
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I have a friend who has a handwashing sink on the periphery of her kitchen. I'm sure it was put in for ritual washing of hands before meals, but I was thinking recently how great it would be to have just for washing hands so that doesn't dirty the clean-up sink, especially after getting unexpectedly eggy or something. :) They have them in commercial kitchens, why can't we?

But then I remembered that I didn't put a sink in the butler's pantry, which could have functioned for this as much as for washing stemware, because of how much space a sink, and its plumbing, takes up. And, I could use the laundry sink that way, but I don't...

    Bookmark   June 21, 2014 at 11:50PM
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I never had a problem washing mucky hands at the kitchen sink, although I wouldnot wash barn-y hands if someone were prepping food there. I have had more than one friend, however, think that was completely unacceptable. I guess it is all in how one is raised. If I wash mucky hands or paintbrushes in the sink it gets cleaned afterward.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2014 at 12:17AM
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This talk of hand washing brings back memories of volunteering in Ethiopia. I would have loved any sink! Fortunately none is necessary once you have a a bucket of water and a bar of soap! Although that is definitely not what I'm opting for here.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2014 at 12:26AM
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