As part of our Quick Cooking Series, we’re showing you how to optimize your workflow in the kitchen so you can cook faster and cut down on cooking cleanup!
If, after preparing a meal, you often find yourself surrounded by a pile of dirty dishes and a kitchen so disastrous it would make tidying-up expert, Marie Kondo shudder, listen up!
Below, we’re going to show you how to streamline your cooking process so it’s more efficient, as well as how to make your end-of-meal cooking cleanup easier and faster.
After all, it doesn’t matter how fast you can prepare a meal if you have to spend half your night cleaning it up!
1. Start With a Clean Kitchen
Before you start your cooking process, make sure your kitchen is clean. When you start with a clean slate, you know all of your dishes and tools are ready to go, which saves you from discovering they need to be cleaned mid-cooking. It’s also much easier to keep a clean kitchen clean than it is to start with a messy kitchen, compound that mess through your cooking process, and then tackle the giant mess later on.
2. Read Through the Recipe
If you’re cooking from a recipe, read it through before you pull out any dishes or ingredients to get a sense of the process ahead. Once you have an idea of what the recipe entails, gather everything you need — ingredients, tools and dishes. Make sure to place all of your supplies within arms reach so you don’t have to take trips around your kitchen once the cooking process begins.
3. Keep a Trash Bowl or Trash Can Near You
Before starting prep, pull out a designated trash bowl or put your trash can next to you so you can quickly toss any discards without having to leave your prep station. It’s amazing how much time you can save when you don’t have to walk back and forth to the garbage can! You can learn more about organizing your kitchen and the value of setting up a prep station in our article here.
4. Prep Dry Ingredients First
When you’re ready to begin prep, start with the dry ingredients first. Measure spices before you measure sauces; measure flour before you measure milk. By working with dry ingredients first, you won’t have to wash and dry your measuring cups and spoons before you prep your wet ingredients.
5. Prep Vegetables Before Meats
Just like prepping dry ingredients before wet ingredients saves you an extra cleaning step, so does prepping vegetables before meats.This is because when you prep vegetables first you don’t have to wash your cutting board and cutlery between ingredients like you do when you work with raw meat. You can also save yourself this extra step by using a plastic cutting board liner like this one. This order is so effective Cook Smarts community members even ask that our prep steps be written in this way.
6. Stay Organized with Prep Containers
After you prep each ingredient, transfer it into a prep bowl to keep it organized and to clear space on your cutting board. Place ingredients that cook at the same time into the same prep bowl. If the recipe calls for garlic and onions to go into the pan at the same time, keep both ingredients in the same bowl to cut down on the number of dishes you’ll have to clean later. Collapsable prep bowls like these pop up when they need to be used, collapse when they need to be stored and come with lids when you need to prep long before a meal.
7. Batch Prepping / Cooking Equals Batch Clean-up
One of the most effective ways to cut back on cleaning time is to prep and cook in batches. By cooking in batches, you essentially cook once and clean once. So rather than cooking (and cleaning) throughout the week, you’ll only need to clean the dishes you use to eat your pre-prepped meals and not all of the pots, pans and anything else you used to cook them.
8. Reuse What You Can
Before you head for the sink with a pot, review your recipe and ingredients to see if you can use the same pot again. For example, a wok like this one can be used to boil pasta, to create a pasta sauce and to toss pasta in the sauce when it’s ready to serve. It has a wide cooking surface, a lid and high sides so it’s essentially a pot and a saute pan in one!
9. Clean as You Go
Clean as you go by transferring the pots, utensils and prep bowls you can’t reuse to the sink for cleaning or place them in the dishwasher to clear space on your counter. Cleaning as you go is all about recognizing the little opportunities to sneak in a few minutes of cleaning so that by the time your meal is cooked, you won’t be left with the full shebang of cleanup. If you’ve wondered how to keep the kitchen clean while cooking, cleaning as you go is one of the best techniques to use.
10. Soak Dirty Dishes
Place dishes that have food stuck to them or which will become crusty if left to dry in a bowl or sink filled with warm soapy water to soak. This will prevent food debris from drying on the surface of the dishes so cleaning them later will be quick and easy.
11. Get a Good Pan Scraper
When you do find yourself needing to scrub a dish, save yourself some time and trouble by using a pan scraper like this one to remove the stuck-on food. This scraper has both rounded and squared edges to help you scrape off tough-to-reach food and is safe for non-stick pans.
12. Make it a Team Effort
If you’re cooking for your family, divide up the cleaning duties so your kids can pitch in to help! By giving them clearly assigned roles, you not only provide them with an opportunity to contribute to meal time, you help them build life skills, too! If it’s just you and your spouse or partner, try making a deal to switch off cooking and cleaning duties. If you cook, he / she cleans and vice versa.
What are some techniques you use to keep your kitchen clean while cooking? Any kitchen cleaning tips you want to share? Let us know in the comments!
As always, we’re here to help you live your best life in the kitchen and provide delicious memories for you and your family. For more cooking tips and resources, join our cooking community by signing up for our newsletter below, and together we will discover the ease of a home-cooked meal.
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