Tips on How to Keep a Kitchen Clean From the BA Test Kitchen

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It’s Get Organized week! Over the next few days, we’ll be highlighting the products and methods we use in, out, and around the kitchen to get our lives together.

I aspire to be the type of person who cooks with reckless abandon and maintains a glistening, clutter-free kitchen at the same time. (I mean, have you seen a Nancy Meyers movie?) I’m neat and tidy, but I’m somehow unable to bring my cleanliness to my cooking routine. Let’s just say I very much leave my mark—like the time I made a friend’s birthday cake, got red food dye all over my white kitchen tiles, and showed up to her party with bright red feet. So, I got Gaby Melian, Bon Appétit’s new Test Kitchen Manager, to tell me everything she knows about being a clean freak in the kitchen. Here’s what I learned:

Set up your mise en place

It turns out that doing a mise en place isn’t just for cooking videos and professional chefs. The French term for “everything in its place” is about having all the ingredients and tools a given task calls for ready before you start. The next time you make cookies, don’t just have your eggs and butter splayed out on the counter. Gaby recommends measuring out the flour, sugar, baking powder, etc. before you start to have your workspace totally organized—and so you’re not running back and forth between your pantry and your counter leaving a trail of dry ingredients as you go.

Clean as you go

Here’s a pop quiz: It’s Sunday night and you have friends coming over for a casual dinner of spaghetti and meatballs. A) Do you make everything in one full swoop and wait to wash all your pots and pans after your guests leave? B) Or, do you do the dishes in increments: once while the tomato sauce is simmering, again while the meatballs are cooking in the sauce, and once more while the pasta water is boiling? If you’re one of those people with a perpetually clean kitchen, you already know what the answer is. It’s called cleaning as you go, and it’ll drastically cut down on post-dinner clean-up time.

Don’t create a pile in the sink

This rule is a corollary to the above, because “cleaning” does not mean putting all the dishes in the sink and washing them “later.” What you might think is a tidy stack of dishes, all nested together like cute little Matryoshka dolls, is actually a total nightmare waiting to happen: Not only are you dirtying an already dirty dish with other dirty dishes’ dirt, but you’re letting all that crud get extra crusty by leaving them huddled together. Wash them! Dry them! Put them away!

keep kitchen clean bodytext illo

Illustrations by Simon Landrein

Only keep the essentials on the counter

Neat cooks store their pantry ingredients behind closed doors. Keeping jars of flour and sugar on the counter might make your kitchen feel like Meryl Streep’s in It’s Complicated, but if you’re not baking every day, put them away. Gaby suggests keeping only things you reach for daily on the counter, like olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Strategize how you use your cutting board

To avoid washing your cutting board multiple times during prep, strategize what to cut—and when. Get animal protein out of the way first; once you’ve prepped all the raw, greasy stuff, wash the cutting board with soap and hot water, then use it for everything else.

Don’t leave the kitchen while you’re cooking

Cooking is all about multi-tasking, but only with things that are related to the task at hand (like cleaning!). With that in mind, don’t leave the kitchen to watch a show or change your laundry because chances are, that’s the exact moment your tomato sauce will burst out of the pot and make a mess all over the stove. Gaby’s parting words: « Trust me, I’ve seen it! »

One last cleaning tip before you go:

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Kitchen Cleaning Tips: How to Clean Your Oven, Refrigerator, Vent Hood, and More

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It’s Get Organized week! Over the next few days, we’ll be highlighting the products and methods we use in, out, and around the kitchen to get our lives together.

If you cook regularly, chances are you probably clean regularly too: counters get a rub down, stovetops a quick wipe, dishes a thorough sponge bath after every meal prep. But there are plenty of spots in the kitchen that you probably aren’t cleaning that often, leaving you with inexplicably sticky cabinets or a refrigerator drawer with a head of liquified lettuce. That’s hella gross. Don’t be gross. We’re here to help you not be, with a guide to tackling all those overlooked spots in your kitchen.

Oven

Your oven’s greasy patina is not a good look, and no, it doesn’t need to retain the memories of everything you’ve cooked the last three years. So clean it! Start with an oven cleaner formula like Easy-Off. You just spray the entire interior of the oven, including the racks, then close the oven door and allow the cleaner to penetrate for 10 minutes. Then, remove the racks, transfer them to the sink, and wipe them with a sponge (not the one you use for your dishes!) and clean water; set them aside while you wipe the interior of the oven. For this, it’s helpful to have a small bucket filled halfway with clean water and a scrub sponge like a Scotch-Brite. Definitely make sure to wear rubber gloves, and up the ventilation anyway you can—turn on the hood, open a window, run the fan.

If you’d rather not use a heavy-duty oven cleaner, there are alternatives, like using soap-impregnated steel wool. Just know that it’ll require more elbow grease.

When to do it: At least twice a year.

toughspots fridge s illo

Illustration by Simon Landrein

Refrigerator

Cleaning your fridge is also a good excuse to clean out your fridge, so start by removing absolutely everything—all groceries, condiments, that box of baking soda in the back (it probably needs to be replaced anyway). Check the dates and toss what needs to go. Then pull out any removable shelves, drawers, or door inserts, and give those a good wash with hot, soapy water.

For the rest of the refrigerator, try diluted bleach or white vinegar (but please, never never mix the two), an all-purpose cleaner like Formula 409 Multi-Surface Cleaner, or a simple solution of diluted dish soap. A Dobie Pad will scrub off any sticky food or spills without scratching your fridge’s surfaces. A Mr. Clean Magic Eraser can help remove any tough stains.

For really tough spills—you know, the ones left there for who knows how long—wet a sponge or rag with very hot water, wring it out, and press it onto the congealed leakage. The combination of heat and moisture will make it more pliant and easier to wipe away, essentially by reconstituting it.

When to do it: Quarterly (or more, if you’re known to hoard).

toughspots venthood s illo

Illustration by Simon Landrein

Vent Hood and Cabinets

Ever wonder how your cabinets get so sticky? Airborne cooking oil is the primary culprit. A degreaser like ZEP Heavy-Duty Citrus Degreaser or diluted ammonia, paired with a Dobie Pad, will make short work of removing cooking residue. These are heavy duty products, and you should wear protective gloves and ventilate your space when using them (note, too, that many commercial degreasers can’t be used on marble, granite, or other natural stone surfaces). For a gentler cleaning agent, Simple Green is an excellent choice, and is safe to use on natural stone.

When to do it: At least once a year.

toughspots dryingrack s illo

Illustration by Simon Landrein

Sponge Holder and Drying Rack

Funny how the things that help us clean our kitchens are often the biggest, baddest breeding grounds for bacteria themselves. A toothbrush (but not the one you use in your mouth) combined with a product like Lysol Antibacterial Kitchen Cleaner is perfect for scrubbing away mold, mildew, and other bacteria that build up on sponge holders and drying racks. Afterward, wash them down with hot, soapy water.

When to do it: Once a month.

toughspots faucet s illo

Illustration by Simon Landrein

Faucets, Soap Dispenser, Refrigerator Handle

High-touch areas, like light switches and doorknobs, are often overlooked during routine cleaning sprees, leaving germs and bacteria ready and waiting for the next hand that touches them. Nowhere is this more true than in the kitchen. The sink, especially the faucet, should be regularly wiped down with an all-purpose cleaner to remove bacteria and food particles left behind in the course of meal prep. The same goes for refrigerator door handles and soap dispensers, which are often touched after you’ve handled raw meat and poultry.

When to do it: Way more often than you think! (So at least once a week.)

toughspots smallappliances s illo

Illustration by Simon Landrein

Small Appliances

Small appliances that sit on kitchen counters will, like cabinet fronts and vent hoods, develop a patina of airborne grease, dust, and splatters from cooking. The exterior of small appliances like toasters and coffee makers, and any other items that are stored in the open, should be wiped off frequently with an all-purpose cleaner and a rag or paper towels.

When to do it: Add this job to your regular kitchen cleaning routine—it’s easy and fast, so make it a habit.

Never underestimate the power of white vinegar:

white-vinegar.jpg

Jolie Kerr is a cleaning expert, advice columnist, and host of the podcast, “Ask a Clean Person.”

All products featured on Bon Appétit are independently selected by our editors. However, if you buy something through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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The 12 Most Horrible Kitchen Tools to Clean, Ranked

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I don’t care what any of my old roommates told you: I actually like doing dishes. I love the satisfaction I get from motoring through a big stack of conscientiously scraped and rinsed plates the morning after a dinner party, or a sink full of identical short tumblers—that shit is like ASMR for me. Line ’em up, knock ’em down. Lather, rinse, repeat.

BUT, there exists an entire category of things in the kitchen that I would literally rather throw in the g-d garbage than wash, kitchen tools that are so completely impossible to clean that the very thought of putting sponge to them fills me with eye-twitching fury. They will sit in the sink for days, unwashed, until I, in some fit of drunkenness or despair, have a full on rage blackout and, blinking back tears, attempt in vain to wrestle them in submission. (For the record, I don’t have a dishwasher, or a very large sink, or decent water pressure, or much patience to speak of—these conditions clearly contribute to the specificity of my irritation.)

I actually think the experience of washing these items can be so traumatic that I completely repress any memory I have of dealing with them—otherwise, like, why would I even use them? Maybe I’m writing this down as a message to my future self, like when 14-year-old-you sends a letter to 24-year-old-you reminding you not to be a poser, and how sick the Red Hot Chili Peppers are. Or maybe I’m just a bored food writer procrastinating from other work, with a large platform and little oversight. Regardless, below you’ll find my list of most hated kitchen items to wash, ranked from least to most horrible.

hard to clean tall water glasses

Illustration by Jordan Awan

12. Tall Water Glasses

Maybe if I had child-sized hands, or had a child who could use their child hands to wash dishes for me, then cleaning tall, narrow water glasses would be easy. But I am childless and have adult hands and hate every second I have to spend trying to cram my adult fist into these stupid things.

hard to clean carafe

Illustration by Jordan Awan

11. Carafe

I repeat: Adult. Hands. And don’t try to tell me how easy they would be to wash if I bought some kind of « bottle brush » that looks like a glorified toilet bowl cleaner, because I won’t.

hard to clean colander

Illustration by Jordan Awan

10. Colander

Whenever I use a colander to drain something, I think to myself, « Ah, what a truly, TRULY useful kitchen tool! » And then when I go to wash one, I realize that it isn’t a kitchen tool at all, but an existential torture device. When you sponge one side, you push all the crud to the other side; when you sponge the other side, it pushes all the crud to the side you just cleaned. And on, and on, and on. Like a dog chasing its tail, except the dog does it for so long that it dies.

hard to clean fine mesh sieve

Illustration by Jordan Awan

9. Fine Mesh Sieve

See above, but twice as bad. How do you wash something that has no surfaces?!

hard to clean fork

Illustration by Jordan Awan

8. Fork

You know, it’s weird, but I kind of love washing spoons. Fold a sponge in half, with the bowl of the spoon in the middle, apply a little bit of rotating thumb pressure and blammo! Clean spoon. Forks, on the other hand, are reeeeeal fuckers. The tines?? How the hell am I supposed to clean every single side of every single tine?? And don’t even get me started on the place where the tines meet—The Fork Crotch. There’s always bullshit in The Fork Crotch, and if you don’t clean it properly, immediately, before it has any opportunity to dry, then that bullshit is going in someone’s mouth.

hard to clean whisk

Illustration by Jordan Awan

7. Whisk

Whyyyyyyyyyyyyyy loooooooooooord.

hard to clean wine glasses

Illustration by Jordan Awan

6. Wine Glasses

Once upon a time, I was the kind of young bohemian with dreams and values who drank wine out of juice glasses like a true proletariat and was free and beautiful and pure. But spend enough time steeped in the hellscape of Young Professional New York and a certain psychosis takes hold. And when that psychosis takes hold, you do things like buy wine glasses. And then you put wine in them. And then you try to wash them. And then you die. Well, not, like, actually die, but you could! Every time I wash wine glasses I convince myself that one of them has a secret invisible chip on the rim, and that I’m going to slice open my hand while washing them and then pass out—I faint at the sight of my own blood—and bleed to death before anyone finds me. For this reason I only wash wine glasses when someone else is at home, or when I’m wearing a Life Alert.

hard to clean thermos

Illustration by Jordan Awan

5. Thermos

I absolutely love my Zojirushi « vacuum carafe, » which keeps my coffee at a completely undrinkable, molten hot temperature for days and days. But cleaning it? Forget it. The top part is an Escher-esque construction of like forty gaskets and interlocking plastic rings that, once taken apart to wash, can probably only be reconstructed by a Phd student. I tried once, and then just threw it out and bought a new one. And I’ve never washed it. Which is OK! I only put black coffee in it! Which I’m pretty sure is antiseptic, like pee!

hard to clean mandoline

Illustration by Jordan Awan

4. Mandoline

Somehow, I’ve managed to never cut myself while using a mandoline. Somehow, I’ve never managed to not cut myself while washing a mandoline. I hope you enjoy that shaved fennel salad, because I will pay in blood later.

hard to clean food processor

Illustration by Jordan Awan

3. Food Processor

So. Many. PIECES OMFG. Endless nooks. Countless crannies. The part that goes into the other part that is hollow and gets crud in it BUT allows literally no point of sponge access. Life is hell.

hard to clean crisperdrawer

Illustration by Jordan Awan

2. Crisper Drawers

Not only are my crisper drawers too big to fit in the sink, but they are always full of the most unspeakably horrible things. I like to think that the disgusting fluid that always manages to collect at the bottom of them is the fermented tears of every piece of food I have left rotting in the fridge; I hear their sobs as I clean, and I feel the shame of my ancestors.

hard to clean wire resting racks

Illustration by Jordan Awan

1. Wire Resting Racks

Here it is folks: The wire resting rack is absolutely, hands-down, beyond a shadow of a doubt the most horrible thing in the kitchen to clean. I mean, it’s just math. 41 wires run in one direction. 28 wires run in the other direction. That means that a single wire resting rack contains 1,148 little metal squares of LITERAL HELL for grease and slime and bits of chicken skin and crumbs and blood and tears to hide in. It combines the hulking ungainliness of crisper drawers, the torture-physics of the fork, the whisk, and the fine mesh sieve, and the nook-and-cranniness of the food processor—and then it does math on them. Bad, bad, scary math. It somehow exists in four dimensions at once, with limitless surfaces ready to catch and hold on to whatever you just washed off the last surface. It’s an endless, Borgesian library of greasy, soiled metal and existential despair. And I’m just going to let it soak for a little bit longer.

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