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How to Clean While You Cook

How to Clean While You Cook

When you’re dining in instead of eating out, cleanup can feel like a hassle. Try cleaning while you cook to make cooking at home more enjoyable!

Eating at home saves money and can help you reduce food waste by avoiding those oversized restaurant portions. For a lot of the folks I know, one of the big benefits to eating out isn’t that someone else does the cooking but that someone else is responsible for cleanup. Cleaning the kitchen after a nice meal can be a drag, and cleaning while you cook can really take the edge off of this task.

I know, cleaning is pretty un-fun no matter when it happens, but when you clean while you’re cooking, at least you don’t have a sink full of dirty dishes looming over you while you eat supper. The whole idea of cleaning while you cook has always been second nature to me. My Nani Dorothy taught me to do this, and she was one of my formative cooking influences. Like his mom, my dad was also a clean-while-cooking fan, so this routine has kind of been passed down through my family.

It’s not until I cook with friends or my husband makes something for supper that I remember that not everyone has this habit, and it’s hard to watch those dishes pile up in the sink as the meal progresses!

Related Reading: 10 Ways to Reduce Food Waste at Home

There are a couple of benefits to cleaning up as you go:

1. The dishes are done, man! You can sit down to your meal and not worry about loading anything into the dishwasher that’s not on the table. With less to do after the meal, you can relax and enjoy what you made.

2. It’s easier to clean now. As those dishes sit, food gets dried and stuck to them. If you wipe them down now, you won’t have so much scrubbing to do later on.

Cleaning While You Cook: Tips!

If you’re new to this habit, it takes some getting used to, so I’ll share a few simple tips that help me get the dishes in order while preparing a meal.

1. Start with an empty dishwasher. Before you chop an onion or pull out that bag of quinoa, make sure you’re starting with a tidy kitchen. It’s much easier to clean as you go if you’re not dealing with last night’s dishes or this morning’s coffee mugs on top of the dishes you’re dirtying now. If you don’t have a dishwasher, then clear out that drying rack.

2. Look for down time. Does that sauce need occasional stirring? Are you waiting for the oven to preheat before putting in the lasagne pan? This is the perfect chance to clean a little bit! Load the dishwasher with a few things, hand wash one of your mixing bowls, or put away ingredients that you’re done with: it all adds up to a cleaner kitchen when supper is ready!

3. If you can’t wash, soak! It is so much easier to clean a pot if you don’t let food get dry and stuck to it. If your recipe doesn’t have a ton of down time, put soapy water into the pots and pans that will need hand-washing later. It will make washing go by in a flash!

The whole idea behind cleaning while you cook is to save time, so dining in is more enjoyable. Even if you can’t get to every dish, it’s worth tidying up a bit, so you have less to face when the meal is done. What do you guys do to make eating at home more fun?

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Read more: Conservation, Eating for Health, Food, Green Kitchen Tips, Home, Household Hints, , , , , , ,

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Becky Striepe

Becky Striepe is a freelance writer and vegan crafter living in Atlanta, Georgia. Her life’s mission is to make green crafting and vegan food accessible to everyone! Like this article? You can follow Becky on Twitter or find her on Facebook!


+ add your own
12:15PM PST on Feb 6, 2013

how else would one cook? just leave each dish out? o.O

12:13AM PST on Jan 16, 2013

i wish my partner would do this! he doesn't even wipe the drying board, so he puts clean plates onto a dirty board! gross! i always clean up as i go, even if it is chucking things into the sink with warm/hot soapy water. the hotter the water, the quicker it'll evaporate off the things meaning you don't need to towel dry [tea towels are #1 for bacteria spreading] and you can get the draining board clear for the next lot!

8:07AM PST on Dec 18, 2012

Good info.

2:18PM PST on Nov 17, 2012

This is an absolute must. I can't imagine leaving all the dirty dishes piled in the sink to do at once. Even though I have a dishwasher, I find it easier and faster to clean as I go and start to soak with dish soap, when finished with a prep dish while continuing with the cooking process. I do use the dish rack in my dishwasher to let the washed dishes dry in so this keeps my very precious, and short supplied counter space free. That is something to look for ladies when you go to buy a home: don't short yourself on counterspacein the kitchen even if the rest of the house seems fabulous. I regret this and there is no way to remodel to increase the counter space without infringing on the living room space. The size of the house you buy is pretty much set, unless your really rich and can actually expand the size of your house, in which case you would have bought a bigger home to begin with. One with more counter space.

4:10PM PST on Nov 14, 2012

Thank you for sharing.

1:17AM PST on Nov 13, 2012

Interesting. Thank you for posting it.

10:39PM PST on Nov 12, 2012

Thank you for the article; I feel that cleaning as you cook is a great step in efficiency and hope that i can be more consistent in this activity; my behavior in the kitchen is changing depending on whether the baby needs to get to the bath immediately or a child cries or i am summoned to do another task for my children, and so sometimes the dishes are not attended to as i cook; however, I do have enough little ones that i do not have to worry about whether they will be done for the night, thankfully!

12:43PM PST on Nov 12, 2012

Funny, this is something I've always done. When someone asks "where's your dishwasher", I just raise my 2 hands.

5:05PM PST on Nov 11, 2012


11:44AM PST on Nov 11, 2012

This is absolutely imperative to me as it keeps everything under control and my open spaces free for the next section of the meal...Food prep in order to make the ultimate in presentation, is the true art in cooking!

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