Raw Eggs Aren’t the Only Reason You Shouldn’t Eat Cookie Dough
All cookie dough is edible if you’re not a coward, but sometimes being a little bit of a coward pays off. Being sick, particularly the kind of sickness that comes from being poisoned by food, is never fun, and raw cookie dough can make you quite sick, even if it is quite rare.
Most people assume eggs are the culprit, and they sometimes are (though it’s pretty rare), but no one ever expects the flour, which could also potentially cause trouble. According to the FDA, it’s not Salmonella you have to worry about, but E. coli (because of animal poop):
“Flour is derived from a grain that comes directly from the field and typically is not treated to kill bacteria,” says Leslie Smoot, Ph.D., a senior advisor in FDA’s Office of Food Safety and a specialist in the microbiological safety of processed foods. So if an animal heeds the call of nature in the field, bacteria from the animal waste could contaminate the grain, which is then harvested and milled into flour.
Common “kill steps” applied during food preparation and/or processing (so-called because they kill bacteria that cause infections) include boiling, baking, roasting, microwaving, and frying. But with raw dough, no kill step has been used.
This is important to know because, for some reason, a few “edible” cookie dough recipes list raw flour as one of the ingredients. I won’t tell fully grown adults what to put their bodies—eat untreated mouse poop if you must—but I would not feed it to the children, the elderly, or the immunocompromised.
How to make truly safe, edible cookie dough
Luckily, you can make truly safe cookie dough, you just need to pasteurize your eggs and flour. For the eggs, you’ll need an immersion circulator. Just put them in a water bath set to 135℉ for 75 minutes, then use them in your recipe like you usually would.
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To kill potential E. coli bacteria in your flour, you just need to nuke it. Place it in a large, microwave-safe bowl, and microwave in 30-second intervals, stirring in between each blast, until it reaches 165℉ on an instant-read thermometer. Let cool, then use as usual. (Or you could bypass all that and use graham crackers instead. Graham crackers are famously free of mouse poop.)