I have to confess I've never been much of a tongs user in my cooking, though I understand they were fashionable in kitchens during the last decade or so.
Yeah, I even bought a couple of pairs of tongs; one for the backyard grill and one for the kitchen utensil drawer.
Still, didn't use them much.
When my mom and dad decided to drastically pare down most of their cooking tools, I helped myself to not one, but two or possibly three pairs of tongs. That's one of them in the photo. I thought they might kick-start me into the tong-using cognoscenti, but I failed to arrive.
I know that most trendy tong-using means those crab-claw type looking things, not the gentle one in the picture. The crab thing, that's the kind I bought, the bite-grip. Two pairs. Not sharp teeth, but kind of scalloped.
I understand their value. You get a little better hold on your food than you would with a mere pancake flipper. And if you're not a complete doofus, you probably will gouge neither your skillet nor your food.
Tongs, they are so yesterday.
In fact, just yesterday I was reading how tongs were actually so day-before-yesterday. Whoever it was I was reading (and if any astute visitors here can help me out — help me out) made the point that you don't want to use tongs on your food (I think it was fish) because, well, hey, you wouldn't want to have tongs used on you, would you? (But if I were dead and sizzling in oil, I really don't think I'd care one way or the other.)
The actual point being that you ought not to shred the food you're sauteeing by puncturing it with stainless-steel pincers, and dude, if that's the way you flip fish, keep away from my fluke.
So today my issue of Food & Wine arrives, with an article by Daniel Patterson (with whom I have issues, not necessarily issues of Food & Wine) on cooking with your hands. I couldn't agree more, except in the case of extreme heat or cold. I know, "cold" isn't "cooking," but relieving a refrigerated chicken of its biological integuments — i.e., finding the joints with your fingers so you can hack it into parts — is icy prep work, especially when you have skinny little fingers like mine.
Don't use tongs, Patterson advises. You get a closer connection to your food and damage it less. Your hands will tell you when it's done to your liking.
He tells a story of his wife (ex?) cutting into meat in the pan, once, twice, letting valuable juices run out and spatter, and carving unforgivable scars in the food — god, no wonder they're divorced. His point is you should pinch the meat to judge from its density how done it is.
For some reason, the story ends with a recipe for lemon-ricotta pudding. But thank god, no tongs were used.
OK. Flip forward several pages. Same issue. Ten tips on summer grilling. Tip number 8: "Use a pair of tongs... to turn meat or move it around on the grill. ... If you must cut and peek to check doneness, make a small slit with a knife."
Eek! Who wrote that? Mrs. Ex-Patterson?
No, it was Steven Raichlen, the television barbecue master and inventor of beer-can chicken.
Wow. I think I'm going to let my subscription to F&W run out.
I'll keep the tongs, though. They're good for fishing pickles out of jars.