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I make a mess in the kitchen

Very often on sunday afternoons when i have some time, i'll make ahead a couple of things to make dinners easier during the week -

yesterday i made soup, potato salad, and pesto (for 3 different meals during the week...). I don't know how I do it, but I end up with a HUGE pile of dishes in the sink. I feel like for 3 side dishes, this is way too much of a mess! What am I doing wrong? I do use a clean spoon for any new item im using - mayo, mustard, flour, etc.... But somehow I have tons of pots and pans and gagets all over the place (peeler, grater, food processor.....2 different pots for the soup, one for the potatoes, a bowl for the salad...). I wipe down the same knife and cutting board throughout (after using garlic or ginger or something strong). I have no idea how to use fewer items.

Is it just me, or does everyone make a mess in the kitchen? How do you cut back on the number of items you use?

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  1. I do not make a mess in the kitchen. Unfortunately my husband does. One thing is I reuse bowls, spoons, etc....a quick rinse is usually all it takes. Hubby likes lots of bowls and pots and the bigger the better. For instance if he is making us breakfast, he will use two bowls for eggs (one for his, one for mine), another for cheese, two plates for the bacon (one to microwave, one to drain. I will grate the cheese on a paper towel. I will use the same bowl for each of our eggs (when his go in the pan, I'll crack the eggs for mine in the same bowl). I use one plate for bacon.

    1. I am SO not in a position to offer you advice, because I am a messy cook too, but some things that help me...
      - put foil or parchment paper on sheet pans or roasting pans that go in the oven: parchment for breads, cookies, etc., foil for roasts, veggies, etc.
      - definitely use the same spatula/ spoon over and over again- most times, you'll just need to wipe it off with a towel or rinse it... all the little things add up
      - keep a grocery sack or something similar hung on a cabinet knob and toss any trash or what have you in there- that way you're not laying an egg shell on a plate or countertop

      1. I fill the sink with soapy water and, as I use stuff, I wash it off and set it in the drainer to dry. It only takes a second to wash and rinse whn the dishes are "fresh" and everything is usually dry when I am done, so I can just start putting them away.
        I also load the dishwasher as I go...Somehow the mess doesn't seem so bad if it is "clean" (to me anyway.)

        1. clean as you go - that's my mantra. it's easy peasy if you quickly address the cleaning issues as they arise. my husband is a huge mess and has been banned from cooking :).

          1 Reply
          1. re: potterstreet

            Hear hear.

            I probably make the worst mess of anyone I know, but I wash and dry in between prep stages, so the cumulative effect is nil. The big pots and pans that make the sink look full get washed immediately after they cool, which could be between courses -- eventually everything ends up in the DW.

            We used to let things sit until the morning, but doing dishes at 6:30AM really sucks!

          2. A few things- clean as you go, and more importantly, messy dishes are often the result of poor prep work- not sitting and thinking about what recipes or dishes you use through a recipe. You need to consider each of these so you aren't being wasteful as you go.

            1 Reply
            1. re: jpschust

              Probably the easiest way to tackle the "poor prep work" issue is to read through your recipe (or, if you're not using one, jot down the ingredients you intend to use). Then, identify what you'll need for each, ie, peeler, knife, cutting board, bowl or dish to put the prepped item in, etc. Then, figure out what you don't actually need. That is, if you're making potato salad, and you know you're going to be keeping it, make the whole thing in the container its going to live in in the fridge. And for something like that, just about every item could be prepped right into that container.

              If you're already using your food processor, use the grater attachment for it instead of another item. I wouldn't advocate starting to change your practice of using clean spoons and other utensils. Its a sanitary habit and those aren't bad. I'm a believer, I have a cup full of spoons of various sizes for scooping things out of jars or tasting items and then tossing the spoon into the sink.

              Clean as you go, as others have said, is brilliant. Even if all you do is rinse and put it in the sink, it will make the end-stage clean up that much better.

              I used to absolutely destroy the kitchen when I cooked (and, people who have known me a long time still tease me about it) but over time, I've gotten better at judging what I really need to use and at taking the few moments of down time (when something has to cool a bit before the next step, when something is coming back to a boil or a simmer, etc) to "clean as I go."

              Last note: at some point, who cares? :) If the food is good, its worth the clean up!

            2. i just remembered something else i do to make things easier and less messy. go through all the recipes you intend to make and chop all your onions at once, etc - that saves time and mess. i bought a bunch of metal prep dishes and bowls at my local asian shop and work with a traditional mise-en-place now which really has made things much easier.

              1. I try to do all of my chopping and mixing of spices/sauces before the actual cooking of a recipe if possible...I try to clean as I go, and yes, I must admit, if the recipe is really messy, I DO use foil pans

                1. I think it is a skill that some people have and others don't, like being good at reading maps or something. As hard as I try, and as much as I clean up as I go, everything falls apart at the end and I always have a big mess.

                  1. Another vote for clean as you go. Our kitchen is tiny, so I don't have the luxury of counter space for leaving dirty dishes. If I'm going to be doing "big cooking", I start out with an empty dishwasher, and a large bowl of hot soapy water in the sink. When I finish using something I can't use again, it goes in the dishwasher. When I finish using something I can use again, it gets a quick wash and rinse and gets put on the drainer. I wind up pulling more dishes off the drainer than out of drawers and cabinets once I get going.

                    1. I'm a clean as you go person, and I just found myself in your situation yesterday also. I made several fiddly recipes...a soup, enchilada sauce and the subsequent enchiladas, a pasta and sauce, and a light breakfast. Cleaning as you go is absolutely essential to one's sanity in the kitchen, I've been forced into this by a large kitchen with teensy workspace. I've also found that things like a stick blender (process your food in whatever receptacle it's already in, rather than dirtying your food processor) and large and small metal prep bowls make my life easier (rinse them when they're dirty and have them ready for the next use). My worst problem now is a dirty floor once I've spent a whirlwind Sunday in the kitchen.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: ballulah

                        Ballulah, that's what dogs are for! :)

                        1. re: Andiereid

                          HAHAHA! My dog has been known to sniff the things that fall on the floor (like in yesterday's case, cilantro sprigs, a few dollops of enchilada sauce, some chopped jalapeno and/or carrot, some stray pinto beans) and look up at me like I'm crazy for "throwing" him this stuff! He's happy to lick up any stray bits of cheese, though.

                        2. re: ballulah

                          Absolutely brilliant note about the immersion blender. Greatest dish saver ever! Not to mention a darned handy tool in many other respects.

                          1. re: ccbweb

                            It's funny I bought one several months ago, and just broke it out for it's first whirl this weekend. I'm a convert, never has pureeing soup been so easy or so much fun. It was also a whiz on the rehydrated dry chilies, onion and garlic mixture I made my enchilada sauce with...and no four pieces of a Cusinart bowl to clean up after!

                            1. re: ballulah

                              Oh me too on the immersion blender. I have it mounted on the side of the cabinet right next to the sink, plugged in and ready to go. I just take a pot of soup over, put it down in the sink, and blend it right there. Any splatters are down in the sink instead of on the counter, and the only thing I have to clean up is the removable part of the immersion blender that gets a quick rinse and goes straight into the dishwasher - the pot goes right back on the stove. No mess!

                        3. It took me a long time to learn to:

                          A) Start with a clean kitchen, empty dishwasher, no clutter.
                          B) Clean as I go.
                          C) If I need another bowl I can just rinse one that's dirty.
                          D) I rarely need more than one or two pans - it some how just works that way. I think it's from spending so much time learning to stir fry.
                          E) Use a piece of bread or a tortilla as a spoon rest. Heck yeah.
                          F) Don't let anyone messy in the kitchen. Then again I have no problem chasing people from my narrow galley kitchen with drunken profanity and a massive cleaver. I joke. Sort of.