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Are You A Neat Cook?

My mom was what I call a “neat cook.” One of those who cooks without making a mess. When she was done cooking there was very little clean up. She occasionally comments on other friends/relatives cleanliness while cooking, as in, “When Mrs. H. cooks her kitchen looks like a hurricane hit it!”

I, on the other hand, didn’t inherit that trait. When I'm done cooking my kitchen doesn’t look like a post- hurricane zone, but it does look like a pretty good storm passed through. If Mom were to critique my cooking style (which she has), she would say that, in addition to the mess, I dirty too many dishes, bowls, pans, and utensils.

Mess? Yeah, kind of. When I dice an onion or something, stray pieces go everywhere. Transferred contents seldom completely make their intended target. And then there's the spatters, drips, etc. While I don't know about *too many* bowls, etc., I do tend to prepare ingredients separately (i.e. chop onions, dice tomatoes, measure liquids, etc.) and combine them later. Then there's the extra cutting boards used for raw meat. DW does most of the clean up, but I made these messes long before we met.

What about you. "Neat," "messy," or somewhere in between? If you're a "neatnick," what's your secret?

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  1. i am a bit like your mum then. i'm a clean freak and very efficient.

    1. Cooking on a sailboat and very small kitchens has made me quite tidy. Pro kitchens mandate efficiency in a small space so I guess my habits come from experience.

      Today, I have the luxury of a large, well-designed kitchen with what seems like miles of work space but I usually confine myself to my 18" and prep on a 1/2 sheetpan. When friends cook with me, I am always amazed at how much room they take and how much mess they make. But even more than the acreage is how much "stuff" they employ. I use the same knife while they'll use several. Instead of wiping out a saute pan, they'll grab another one. Maybe my work habits are also the result of not liking clean-up.

      Now, having admitted to all this tidy-tidy-tidy business, I am extremely lazy about doing the dishes at night. In fact, I rarely get more than the pots in the sink for a soak and leftovers in the fridge. DH does the cleanup in the morning when he makes our coffee.

      1. I guess I'm pretty neat, but that's because I'm lazy. I'd rather clean as I go so I can enjoy the meal and not return to the kitchen with a giant piles of dishes and utensils. My ex-boyfriend was a really messy cook, but I never complained because his meals were wonderful and he did all the cooking and I did all the clean up. I figured that was a fair trade off.

        I only use plastic cutting boards and I prep all of my veggies first and then move them to a separate area before I touch any raw meat. That way I don't worry about cross contamination. I lay a paper towel or used plastic bag down on the counter and all of my peels, seeds, skins, etc. from salad & veggies goes there. All that would be great for compost but I'm in an apartment. I try to put any "used" item in the dishwasher as soon as I'm done with it. I've found this keeps counters and sinks cleaner and although it may mean my dishwasher is full and needs to be run before there is room for dinner dishes, I still don't mind.

        Since it is over 100 degrees here in TX I've been doing a lot of grilling. If I'm marinating something it goes in a ziplock bag and so there is no clean up. Marinated food goes from ziplock to grill to serving plate. When I'm cooking something on my stove top and it splatters I wipe as I go so there isn't a lot of dried stuff that takes more elbow grease to clean.

        Not sure if this is what you were looking for, but I hope it helped.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Barbara76137

          I do much of what you do, but the amount of cleanup and the number of dirty dishes is what gets Mom, even if you clean as you go.

          >>>
          My ex-boyfriend was a really messy cook, but I never complained because his meals were wonderful and he did all the cooking and I did all the clean up. I figured that was a fair trade off.
          <<<

          That must be DW's rationale as well. : > )

          1. re: al b. darned

            The kitchen is a disaster zone when I cook. I was constantly being screamed at in culinary school for the mess. I find the chaos I create kind of comforting for some reason. Since I do most of the cooking (and most of the cleanup since we had our son) my wonderful wife never complains.

            1. re: donovt

              Preach on don! I have been known to use every last thing in the kitchen. No dish left unsullied. The wife just goes outside and avoids looking.

        2. Neat unless I'm cooking drunk.

          1 Reply
          1. If you're a "neatnick," what's your secret?"
            ~~~~~~~~
            OCD ;)

            seriously though, i'm not just a neatnik, i'm a total neat FREAK, and not just in the kitchen. mess = anxiety for me, so the rest of the house & the car get the same treatment, and i'll even "tidy up" the table at a restaurant if it looks messy.

            i use one board for veggies and one for proteins, and usually only one or two knives - my beloved Shun santoku is my workhorse, but occasionally i also need a paring, boning or filleting knife.

            i keep the trash can right next to me with the lid open, and toss waste in as i generate it. if a stray piece of something hits the counter or the floor, i snatch it up immediately and give the area a wipe if necessary. same thing goes with the stove top - i wipe up any splatters with a sponge while i'm cooking, which makes cleanup a lot easier later on because things don't get caked on or set in.

            i clean as i go, and that applies both to counter surfaces and dishes/utensils. for the sake of efficiency, ingredients get put away in groups - if i'm chopping a bunch of vegetables, i'll re-wrap whatever is left and set them all aside together until i'm finished, then put them all in the fridge at once. same goes for herbs & spices, use each one as i need it, set it aside on the counter as i go, then put them all away together.

            most of the dishes & utensils get washed or go in the dishwasher as soon as i'm finished with all the prep, and the counter gets cleaned/wiped down before i eat. i can't sit down and enjoy a relaxing meal knowing there's a sink full of dishes or a mess on the counter (just as i can't sleep after traveling, no matter how late it is or how tired i am, until every last item from my suitcase is unpacked & put away).

            3 Replies
            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

              Omigosh, it's like my left coast doppelganger. I do all of that, there's pretty much nothing to clean up after I cook. I can't stand messes or disorder, and I, too, neaten restaurant tables as I sit there... I can't stand to leave a spoon or a knife in the kitchen sink and to find it there in the a.m.

              My kid makes me crazy when she cooks here. Let's just say she's sort of my opposite.

              Jeez. OCD traits, not true OCD, though. I'm not compulsive, just have preferences.

              And if it's late enough, I'll unpack next day, but it's Very Rarely late enough. :-)

              1. re: mcf

                "My kid makes me crazy when she cooks here. Let's just say she's sort of my opposite"
                ~~~~~~~
                sounds like my mom & me. i lived with my folks for a few months when i was in the midst of a coast-to-coast relocation, and it drove me CRAZY to watch her cook...not that she does much cooking, but she managed to make a huge mess even just preparing something as simple as a roast pork tenderloin, or spaghetti & tomato sauce for my dad. i'd follow her around the kitchen cleaning up :)

                conversely, whenever i was cooking, she'd just watch me and shake her head/roll her eyes as i cleaned & put away everything along the way.