One of the reasons many people rely heavily on restaurants and convenience foods is that they require little to no cleanup. Instead of spending time washing dishes after a meal, you can just toss those Styrofoam containers and plastic forks in the trash.
Unfortunately, cooking requires some cleanup, but it’s not impossible to have a mostly clean kitchen before you sit down to eat. Cleaning as you go is a common practice in professional kitchens, but can be easy to implement in your home. Whether you are cooking an elaborate four-course meal, or something simple on a busy weeknight, following these tips can help relieve one of the biggest stress factors of home cooking.
1. Empty the Dishwasher and the Sink
Nothing makes a kitchen seem dirtier than a sink full of dirty dishes, which is why this tip is at the top of the list.
This is one of the easiest and best ways to help your kitchen clean up go smoother. Making sure your dishwasher is empty means that when you are done with a mixing bowl or utensil, it can go straight into the dishwasher, out of sight and out of mind. Then, when you sit down to dinner, you can run it. When you’re done eating, take a few minutes to unload it, and you’ve got one of the peskiest issues of kitchen cleaning done without a lot of hassle.
2. Clean the Counter
You should take the time to clear your counter of everything that doesn’t need to be there on a daily basis, but it’s especially important to have a clear counter when you’re ready to cook. Having room for cutting boards and a few mixing bowls not only makes the workflow easier, but it’s also safer when you don’t have to shove a cutting board into a too small space before you can chop your vegetables. Put away stray dishes, baking pans, and other random items before you cook, and make a habit to keep non-kitchen related items (such as work paperwork or school books) off the kitchen counter.
3. Wear an Apron
While you may not want to get an expensive apron dirty, you really don’t want to stain your good clothes. Invest in a high quality apron and get in the habit of putting it on whenever you cook. An apron with pockets will allow you to carry your most used tools with you as you walk through the kitchen, and allow you to always have a towel handy to quickly clean up spills before they dry and become more difficult to clean. Find a good spot in your kitchen to keep your apron handy so you’ll always have it available when you need it. If you do happen to get a stain on your apron, treat it quickly.
4. Keep a Broom and Dustpan Nearby
If you don’t already have a broom and dustpan in your kitchen, get one and find a spot for it. If you spill breadcrumbs or flour on the floor and have to run out to the garage to get the broom, you are more likely to put that task off, especially if you’re in the middle of stirring or chopping something. The closer it is when you need it, the more likely you’ll be able to get your spills cleaned up quickly and efficiently.
5. Put Ingredients Away As You Use Them
Almost everyone does it once in awhile. You get the sour cream, butter, and cheese out of the fridge, add them your bowl and then walk across the room to get the flour. Everything ends up on the counter while you mix your recipe, and if you’re making more than one thing, your counter can get crowded pretty fast. Get in the habit of putting away each and every ingredient after you use them. Not only will your kitchen stay cleaner, but in the case of refrigerated items, you’ll be safer as well.
6. Set Up a Trash Bowl
Instead of walking over to the trash every time you have potato peels or butter wrappers to throw away, get a big bowl and set it in the most widely used spot in your kitchen. Use it to throw away scraps and other garbage and then empty it all into the trashcan at once. This way, you’ll avoid leaving trash on the counter (it happens to everyone), and you’re not walking to the trashcan over and over, wasting time.
7. Keep Leftover Containers Nearby
Keep your storage containers in an easy to reach place, and if you can, try to organize them in a way that makes it easy to find both the container and the matching lid. It may be tough to do, but having easy access to these containers means you’re not wasting time walking across the kitchen or digging through a drawer when you need to put the rest of the grated cheese away quickly. Having quick access to plastic wrap, freezer bags, and aluminum foil is helpful as well.
8. Read Your Recipe Before You Begin
There are many benefits to reading your recipe before you start cooking. In addition to assuring you don’t run out of ingredients, you’ll also know what kind of down time you have between tasks. You can then use this down time to do things like wash dishes, sweep up messes, or wipe the counters. Using your time wisely when you have it means you’re not left cleaning a huge mess in the kitchen after you’re done eating, when all you really want to do is relax and watch television.
9. Soak Pots and Pans ASAP
Get those hot pots and pans in the sink as soon as possible to avoid heavy scrubbing later on. In most cases, rinsing food from cookware, plates, and bowls while it’s still fresh can go a long way in making it easy to clean later. Even a quick rinse before putting something in the dishwasher can help. If you know you’re cooking something that will probably need soaking, set up a sink or bin full of hot soapy water before you start so you can just go from the stove to the sink.
10. Develop Habits and Stick to Them
It can be very difficult to keep your kitchen clean on a regular basis, but it is far from impossible. Making sure to be consistent in your habits is the first step. For example, something as simple as running the dishwasher every night before you go to bed and emptying it first thing in the morning can go a long way in keeping a clean kitchen all day. The kids can simply put their dishes in the dishwasher when they’re done, and you aren’t stuck spending 20 minutes doing dishes before you can cook. By finding out the things that are important to you and developing habits around them, you’ll be amazed at how easy it is to almost always have a clean kitchen.
No one likes doing dishes, sweeping floors, or cleaning the kitchen in general. Unfortunately, it has to be done if you want to save your sanity when cooking. By following these tips, you can always have a clean kitchen no matter what type of meal you’re cooking. The less stress you have when you cook, the more likely you are to do it on a regular basis.