This will set your tongs wagging.

Levers. Conduction. Hygiene. And why tongs can be gentler than hands.


Tongs picking up chicken1-Minute NomNom

Tongs are a versatile tool in the kitchen. One of their key advantages is their soft touch, and it is clear once you strip apart their design and physics.

Tongs are a class-3 lever. Class-3 levers have the fulcrum at one end, and the force produced (on the load) at the other. The force applied (effort) is in the middle. produced at the other. The force applied is in the middle.

Tongs with the fulcrum and forces labeled

When we use such a lever, the force we produce on the load is lower than the force/effort we apply. The tongs are thus gentler and have a softer touch on the food you are using the tongs on. That is why you can control them better, especially when handling delicate food.

When cooking over hot fires in the kitchen or at BBQs, tongs also protect your hands. Firstly, by serving as extensions of your hands, your hands are farther away from the heat. Secondly, tongs are often made of materials that either do not conduct heat well, e.g. plastic, or are relatively poor conductors, e.g. stainless steel. Another benefit of tongs is that if your hands have been handling raw foods, using tongs to handle other food reduces the risk of contamination.
 Hand holding Serving kitchen tongs in bakery shop

To have even better control over your tongs, vary the position at which you apply your force. If you use the equation:

(force applied at handle) x (distance from fulcrum) =
(force produced at blades) x (distance from fulcrum)

where would you put your force to get the gentlest touch? Share your answers!

Feed Me!

What other cooking or eating utensils are class-3 levers? Share your thoughts, photos, diagrams and links in the comments section!


Screen Shot 2015-01-10 at 6.02.39 pmLike this? Be gentle and like me to discover more. All you need is a minute a day to explore the world’s marvels through the phenomenon of food!


photos: in order –  depositphotos/instiniaribeiroantonioPhanuwatNandee


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