You just whipped up a delicious home cooked meal for your family and now you’re ready to spend the rest of the evening relaxing—but instead, you’ve got to clean a stack of dirty dishes and countertops covered in crumbs. Sound familiar? We’ve all been there, but it doesn’t have to be this way. Any restaurant chef will tell you that cleaning as you go is a crucial part of the cooking process: It keeps your space clear and tidy, so nothing gets in the way as you work. Follow these simple tips so you can focus on the best part—cooking—and avoid making a giant mess in your kitchen the next time you’re preparing food.
Start with a Fresh Slate
It may seem silly to clean up before you’re about to begin pulling lots of dishes and ingredients out of your cabinets, but trust us on this one. Keeping your kitchen clean will be way easier if your space is already tidy to begin with, and you’ll have more room to spread out if you need it. So before you do anything else, wipe down the counters, wash any dishes in the sink, and make sure there’s room in the dishwasher or dish rack. Now you’re ready to get this party started.
Speaking of neat countertops, you’ll want to take advantage of your utensil holders as much as possible. Make sure any tools you might need—whisks, wooden spoons, spatulas, and so on—are readily accessible so you can grab them at a moment’s notice without having to dig through drawers and pull everything out. Just remember: You only want the essentials out on your countertops. If you’ve got too many appliances and gadgets in your cooking space, you may not have enough room. Anything you won’t need right away can stay in its spot in the utensils drawer or cabinet until it’s time to use it.
Set Up Ingredients Ahead of Time
When you’re in the middle of cooking, the last thing you want to be doing is tearing around your kitchen for a certain ingredient or a particular spice. Instead, prep ahead by reading closely through the ingredient list right away, gathering everything you’ll need, and measuring all of it out. It’s what professional chefs call the mise en place, and it makes cooking neater and more efficient. An added bonus: You won’t have to worry about running out of a crucial ingredient in the middle of a recipe.
Keep a Dish Towel Handy
Spilled some water? Dropped some flour? Left some crumbs behind? All of those take just two seconds to wipe up in the moment, but can add up to a bigger, more time-consuming mess if you wait until you’re finished cooking to handle them. A dish towel can quickly tackle those small spots—and it’s one of the sustainable kitchen tools you probably already have on hand.
Remove Food Scraps ASAP
Keep a composting bin on the counter and use it to collect your food scraps as you prep, so you can get them out of the way before they leave a stain or solidify onto your counter. Alternatively, you can use a mixing bowl for tossing in any leftover bits and pieces as you go.
Soak it Up
From knives to silicone spoons, you’re probably going through a lot of utensils as you prepare your meals. Don’t let them build up into a gross pile in your sink. Instead, pop them straight into the dishwasher or into a bowl of soapy water, where they can soak while you finish cooking. That way, when it comes time to actually wash the dishes, the chore will be faster.
Clean While You Wait
Once you’ve finally gotten your dish in the oven, you might be tempted to put your feet up and scroll through apps on your phone until it’s ready. But this is the perfect time to take care of any messes still waiting for you, so that your cooking space will be clean and your kitchen organized by the time your meal is ready to eat. After all, you might as well get it out of the way now, so you can relax and enjoy the fruits of your labor when you’re done cooking.
Ready to deep clean your kitchen? Use this kitchen-cleaning checklist to make sure you have everything covered.