12 tips for cooking with less mess

slicing zucchini
Public Domain Unsplash

A bit of forethought will save you a ton of elbow grease.

Cooking is messy business. It's impossible to put a home cooked meal on the table without creating a disturbance in the kitchen, but there are ways to make less of one. The following list offers suggestions for a neater, more streamlined approach to cooking that will reduce the amount of time you spend cleaning up after dinner – which, let's be honest, is the last thing you want to be doing after a couple glasses of wine!

1. Empty the dishwasher.

Never, ever start cooking a meal before the dishwasher has been emptied (unless it's dirty and still has space in it). This gives you a place to put things directly as you finish with them.

2. Fill the sink with hot soapy water.

For those items that don't go in the dishwasher or that you need to reuse immediately, toss them in the sink for a quick soak. They'll wash up easily.

3. Set up a bowl for scraps.

Walking to the trash or compost bin may only take a few seconds, but when you don't have to move at all, it's even better. Set up a bowl for garbage and a bowl for compost right beside your cutting board.

4. Use parchment paper.

Line baking sheets with parchment paper before roasting vegetables or baking cookies; the paper can be reused multiple times if it's not too messy and it saves you from having to wash baking pans. Same goes for muffin tins.

5. Wipe instead of wash.

Sometimes items only need a wipe with a wet cloth, rather than a full scrubbing. I do this with cutting boards and knives that have only come into contact with vegetables, as well as baking sheets and stones, cheese grater, vegetable peeler, etc. Then you can put them away immediately.

6. Have a grease jar on the go.

Never dump grease down the drain. That's how fatbergs form! A better approach is to keep a grease jar handy. Pour excess oil/fat/grease into the jar and either dispose of it once solid or cool, or cook with it.

7. Clean your cleaning cloths obsessively.

My rule is a two day maximum for dishcloths, which prevents foul odor from building up and contaminating everything that comes into contact with it. Once a week my husband pre-soaks all the dirty dishcloths, tea towels, and aprons in the laundry sink with some vinegar and then washes in hot water. It gets all the ickiness out.

8. Use a sheet pan in the oven to catch drips.

Cleaning baked-on gunk is much easier when it's on a portable tray, as opposed to the bottom of the oven. Whenever you're baking something overly juicy, put something beneath it to catch the mess. (A preventative solution is to use a larger pan than you think you need.)

9. Pour over the sink.

If you have a large quantity of liquid that need pouring, do it in the sink so any mess is contained and easy to clean up. I do this with pots of stock and whenever I need to decant olive oil from a 3-litre can to a smaller glass jar. (I've also read that using an electric hand mixer in the sink make splatters easy to clean.)

10. Use a Pyrex measuring cup for liquids.

Just pour them all into the same measuring cup, starting with oils, which will help everything to slide out neatly.

11. Use a scale when baking.

Place a bowl on the scale, tare it to zero, and add ingredients by weight. This will save you from dirtying measuring cups and spoons.

12. Slow down a bit.

It can feel like a mad rush to get dinner on the table, but if you make time for some cleaning along the way, it will make cleanup go faster after the meal and your cooking process more enjoyable.

12 tips for cooking with less mess
A bit of forethought will save you a ton of elbow grease.

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