I wouldn't call cooking my forte but I've definitely been practicing and improving. Making soup, however, is my thang. I make a mean soup and you're welcome to come over and try some. We all know that cooking and baking not only leads to delicious treats, but they come along with somewhat of a mess and necessary cleanup. Sigh. NOT! I borderline cook only so I can lavish in the untidy aftermath and turn my kitchen back into pristine shape. But to some, the oily bowls, floury measuring cups and food-splattered stovetop are the dreadful result of a fun activity. I HEAR YA. After slaving away preparing those veggies, you just want to relax and eat them. You want the mess to disappear. Well, it's 2014 and the robot on our phone knows which direction North is in. But that mess ain't going anywhere unless you deal with it. Here are some ways to keep things tidy while you cook. That means less cleanup at the finish line and a more direct path to getting that food into your mouth.
1. Make sure your work area is clean before beginning. Granted, everything is about to become a mess. But a tidy work space is an important start to cooking. Make sure your mail is out of sight, that your new toothbrush is in the bathroom where it belongs, and that no unnecessary tchotchkes are taking up your valuable counter space.
2. Cover up your fancy clothing. Grab an apron or take a couple of minutes to change into something less nice. Cooking presents potential spills and splattering and we don't want your shirt to become a victim. Cleaning up that stain will be a major setback so let's avoid the situation altogether.
3. Have a garbage can or bag super close by. Place a small plastic bag on your counter top (the ones that are used for fruits and vegetables in the supermarket work perfectly) or shift your garbage can so it's right under your working space. As garbage presents itself, put it right into the receptacle. This will keep your working area nice and spacious and well-kept.
4. Put away ingredients as you're finished using them. Taking out all of the ingredients needed to complete a recipe is a great start to cooking. It helps ensure that all of the necessary components are added and that you have them all in stock. But once you've measured that flour, it's time to close it up and put it back on the shelf. There's no reason for it to hog a major chunk of your counter space. It may even try to trick you into thinking you haven't added it to your recipe. So once you finish using an ingredient, put it away.
5. Wash dishes as you work. The sink or countertop will inevitably be covered in dirty dishes and utensils if you don't stay on top of them while you work. Quickly wash your measuring cup while the ingredients are being blended. Or scrub down your cutting board as the veggies are sautéing. Any bit helps reduce the pile at the end, so you may as well sneak some dish washing into your cooking routine.
6. Allow the sink to become a temporary dumping ground. Feel free to shuffle crumbs, unwanted food particles and over-poured ingredients into the sink. It's way easier to clean up than your floor. Ideally this mess will immediately make its way into the garbage but if a trip to the sink is easier, that's fine. Once you're finished cooking, give the sink a good scoop to remove all of these bits. Make sure the garbage is right there so you don't drip a watery mess on the way to the trash.
7. If you're cooking something extra splattery, protect your stovetop. A burner bib will catch most of the spill or results of splattered food. So if you know you're cooking something extra messy, put one down before you get going. They're disposable (and somewhat washable), so there's no fear of creating too much damage.
8. Rinse and soak dishes as you go. Food can turn crusty very quickly so a quick rinse saves a ton of dish-washing time. As you put dishes into the sink, add some water to them so they can start washing themselves.
Neither I nor technology can avoid the undoubtable dirty dishes and countertop left at the end of the cooking process. But staying mindful and using tidy tips will reduce this mess and hopefully save you time and effort once you're finished. This way you can stuff your face and the faces of your loved ones without having the cleanup anxiety hanging over your head. Now go make some cupcakes!
Here's a really corny sign to get you going.