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Clean/wash up while cooking ?

A friend was over for dinner and she hovered in the kitchen while I was cooking. She noticed how I tend to wash dishes/cooking utensils/other prep bowls, plates, cutting boards and wipe the counter and stove top WHILE I cook. She mentioned she's never seen that with other people. I do it ALL the time (maybe being used to having relatively small kitchens in most of the places I've lived in, incl. my current apartment) so I don't even think about it when I do it.

Is this behaviour of mine unusual and unique ? I think it's efficient and prevents a sink full of dirty messy pile after all the cooking is done (shhhhh, that's how my wife does it and it drives me totally nuts !!!).

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  1. It's not unique; my mother did it that way and so do I. For me, part of my reason for doing it is that my kitchen is not huge and I don't have a lot of counter space AND if I don't need to stand over the stove, I feel I should be doing something while my food is cooking so it's natural for me to do the dishes while I wait. It does help in that once dinner is eaten, it takes me about 10 minutes to finish cleaning the kitchen normally. I consider it worth the trade off.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Cherylptw

      +1. Always clean up while cooking also to do something when I'm not doing actual cooking and to keep from having to face a sink load of dishes after eating.

    2. I like to start with a sink full of hot soapy water, an empty dishwasher and empty countertop compost and trash bins. Ingredients get put away when I'm finished, prep dishes and utensils get washed or loaded in the DW, and by the time I am serving dinner, there's generally nothing to deal with but plates and flatware. So much nicer to be able to relax at the end of a meal, instead of knowing that there's a disaster waiting to be tackled.

      1 Reply
      1. re: tacosandbeer

        I have a sink half full of very hot soapy water ready when I start cooking a meal. If I need to reuse say a knife I'll give it a wipe with the paper towel then a swish in the soapy water then a quick rinse under the hot water tap and I'm good to go. The rest, except for any large pots and pans go into the soapy water. After dinner I drain the sink and give whatever is in the sink a quick hot rinse then onto the drying rack. Quick and easy.

      2. This is what I do. In fact, I always empty any clean dishes out of the dishwasher and then put in all the stray glasses, etc., before I start. Knives, cutting boards and similar items are cleaned as I use them, mixing bowls and measuring cups/spoons get a warm soapy water soak as I progress, the dishwasher gets loaded while everything's cooking (and gets started if it's full). I have a small kitchen and it drives me crazy to cook with a lot of clutter. Plus,I am very protective of my "special" knives.

        1. It's SOP in every kitchen I have ever worked. It is how I was taught by my parents too. Nothing worse than a disaster of a kitchen when you are done cooking!

          It goes hand in hand with prepping before cooking.

          1. I always clean as I go... it's a very efficient way to work as long as you are careful. I won't stop to wash a pot while I have garlic sizzling in oil, but while onions are caramelizing or veggies are sweating, sure!
            I also make sure to do any dirty dishes before starting to cook and make sure the dish rack is clear so I have room to put the big bowls as I wash them off.

            1. It's very common. It depends, though, on whether one grew up in family with a history of small kitchens and no dishwashers. (I've never lived in a dwelling with a dishwasher; and I am in my early 50s.)

              1 Reply
              1. re: Karl S

                I've always done this, since there is often stuff you have to watch anyway. No, obviously not when I'm using the wok or sizzling garlic. I've never lived in a dwelling with a dishwater either, and I'm in my late 50s, a few years older than Karl.

              2. Wow, how I wish I were you. Really.
                I start with the best of intentions - I KNOW it's the better way. And I try, at least, to start with a clean sink to put things in, but before long there are fried foods that need to be turned ASAP, spilled dusts of flour, but the yeast will be over-proofed so I have to roll out that dough now, some liquid heating on the stove that's about to start boiling but I can't let it because the egg or cream in it will curdle, and pretty soon I'm on the road to perdition.
                I envy you so.

                1. I used to clean as I went through the prep and cooking process. Both in small and large kitchens, and I've never lived without a dishwasher.

                  When we designed and instaed our new kitchen we eliminated the need to clean as we go.
                  We have a pot filler over the cooktop, so we don't need an empty sink to fill pots with water while cooking.

                  We have a separate sink with garbage disposal in the prep counter for vegetables, etc. No need to have the main sinks clear to dump waste, egg shells, peelings, carrot ends, etc.

                  We installed twin dishwashers in our island, so we don't need to run one load while more cooking utensils sit in the sink or on counters waiting for dishwasher space.

                  We have a butler's pantry with an additional 16 feet of counter space where I can duck items I don't want to clean until after the meal or cooking is done.

                  The most important item is the trash compactor under the counter between cook top and ovens. We get rid of a lot of waste that would normally clutter the countertops while cooking.

                  The most important person is my 16 yo daugher who is OCD about cleaning the kitchen. She throws us out after the cooking is done, because she wants to clean it her way. I love the service and will miss it when she goes off to college in 18 months.

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: bagelman01

                    And somewhere over the rainbow we'll all have the disposable income and space to afford this kind of set-up. And the prime rib for the dogs.

                    1. re: Chatsworth

                      I don't even want that much space, even if I had the liquidities. Like a smaller footprint, and not only for the environment. I've been busily getting rid of stuff, and rehoming items. Difficult, but feels great.

                      What happens to the compacted trash? In my neighbourhood, we will be getting compost recycling soon (it is already running in parts of our borough/arrondissement) and that will cut most of my trash, as I eat a lot of fresh vegetables, living near a public market.

                      1. re: lagatta

                        #1 see answer to Chatsworth about why so much space.

                        Compacted garbage goes to the transfer station and is sorted there.
                        We do have a compost setup in the back woods. The garbage disposers feed a storage tank in the basement that gets emptied on the compost heap each week.

                      2. re: Chatsworth

                        Mrs. B is a builder/designer. Our home is both her portfolio and her showroom. So instead of paying rent for an office/showroom with a big expensive kitchen that doesn't get used clients can see one with loads of features in daily use.
                        My law office is also attached to the home as is MIL's real estate office. Nineteen rooms and a studio over the garage all making perfect business sense.
                        It's not all about disposable income.

                        The dogs haven't had beef in six months as the youngest is allergic. They are making do with poultry and lamb.

                        1. re: bagelman01

                          Don't worry, none of us were attacking you!

                          1. re: bagelman01

                            It sounds like a beautiful kitchen and a great way for Mrs. B to show her design work. I am envious of the setup you described...especially the OCD daughter!

                        2. re: bagelman01

                          Boy do I envy you your OCD young daughter. I thought my daughter would become my little helper with dishes but it never happened. Nothing worked. I think kids just plop out with their own personalities and you get what you get.

                        3. Clean as you go is a great concept; my teeny tiny kitchen and microscopic counter space almost demands it. However, to take my attention away from the stove to deal with something in the sink is a recipe for disaster. I need to focus on the task at hand so I try to at least start with an empty dishwasher and toss dirty stuff in that general direction. I also live with Mr. Cleanup, who wants to follow along behind me to wipe down the stove before he even serves himself dinner. At first I found this annoying, then realized that if I don't let him do it, this compulsion will manifest itself in other ways.

                          7 Replies
                          1. re: Cheflambo

                            Basically we're all OCD in some way, for better or worse :-)

                            I hate emptying the DW of clean dishes, because it takes so much more time to put things back in the cupboards, and it's hard to keep the momentum going if I've started prepping/cooking. So that's one thing I have to psych myself up to do first. With an empty DW I can fill it up with dirty prep bowls/plates/utensils as I'm cooking. For smaller utensils & flatware I keep a large tupperware filled of hot soapy water in the sink and they get dumped in there after usage.

                            For recipes where I have to look at the instructions, I put one of those clear suction cups (buy 'em in multi-packs at dollar stores) and stick it on the microwave door (over-range MW/vent), then take a foldback clip to hold the recipe and hang it on the MW door.

                            Or if it's in a book, I put it on one of those bookstands.

                            'Tho these days a lot of folks prolly are using their tablets to look at recipes.

                            1. re: LotusRapper

                              Brilliant idea about the suction cup recipe holder. I am soo stealing this idea!

                                1. re: LotusRapper

                                  Doggone it...no fair! It is brilliant. I often get recipes from the web but don't like having my iPad on the counter so I usually print the recipe. What a clever idea...my husband will think I'm a genius haha!

                                  1. re: jlhinwa

                                    I just put the printed recipe on the frig with a refrigerator magnet.

                                    1. re: 512window

                                      my fridge isn't magnetic, even though it has a "stainless steel" appearance... thanks a lot, KA

                              1. re: LotusRapper

                                I have seen Pants Hangers used for keeping cookbooks open too.

                            2. I do try to clean as I go to the extent possible without taking my attention too much from the cooking at hand, though the deal in our house is that I cook and my husband does the dishes. Early in our marriage I had to break him of trying to get a head start on the dishes while I was still cooking - washing utensils I was still using and generally getting in my way. I know he had good intentions but it drove me crazy! :)

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Skamper

                                At least he wasn't the type on the couch with a beer and remote ;-)

                              2. I clean while I cook, in fact I won't sit down if there's even one pot still dirty.

                                1. I clean as I go, as much as possible. And I have a large kitchen, so it's not a matter of needing the space. It's just more pleasant to have a relatively clean space.

                                  1. I clean as I go as well. It's funny, my wife claims she cleans all the pots and pans after I cook but I usually wash most of the prep bowls and pans before the meal is completed. She gets the last ones I served from. I stopped trying to correct her long ago. Some battles are not worth fighting.

                                    1. I didn't clean while I cooked until I was in my twenties; my mother never taught me to do so. Then a German visitor looked at the mess in the kitchen and asked, "Why don't you wash up as you go?" I immediately saw her point and have washed up ever since.

                                      Current kitchen is small and has no dishwasher, so it is even more important to stay on top of things.

                                      1. I clean as I cook as well..Don't think there is anything odd about it:)

                                        1. I clean as I go and I need my kitchen to be clean when I begin prepping. I just cannot think as well in a mess. My husband thinks I'm a little OCD but it's what works for me.

                                          1. I've always loved to cook and I'm so grateful for the many, many years I cooked in tiny kitchens for it was there I learned to cooked "clean". Like you, I clean as I go. I just find it much easier to focus in a clean, well-organized kitchen.

                                            1. Yes, but not pots. Hubby does those. :)

                                              1. I have to clean as I go or I get very anxious. Don't like piles of dirty dishes in the kitchen.

                                                1. Not weird at all. Work cleanly!

                                                  1. <She mentioned she's never seen that with other people>

                                                    She should come to my house. I will show her exactly that.

                                                    < I do it ALL the time >

                                                    I think anyone who has gone with college with limited amount of dishes and cookware will do just that.

                                                    Another thing I do is that I prep as I cook. A bit more stressful. I have to time the processes right.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                      "Another thing I do is that I prep as I cook. A bit more stressful. I have to time the processes right."

                                                      I wish I can do that. But I can't. I need EVERYTHING mise en place'd before I even turn on the stove (unless I'm boiling a pot of water in which case I'd start that first). It's ceremonial. Then I bow to the Kitchen God, clap my hands, and say: "Chef Boyardee !" and I get to work.

                                                      (just kidding about the ceremony part ......)


                                                    2. Completely agree with the space-impaired and borderline-OCD commenters. Just wanted to add that the Big Book of Swear Words comes out if the pan (or spoon or scraper or...) is not available at a crucial moment because it's still crusty from its last use.

                                                      1. I have a small kitchen and will clean while dealing with all my prep. After that's done, I don't bother because I'm focused on cooking. I don't have a d/w in this house yet. I will also focus on making less mess. I'll double-duty some prep pans (nothing to worry about with cross-contamination) and use foil for lining some bowls that hold meat, etc. Small kitchen = smart moves.

                                                        1. When my in-laws were visiting us in Nashville, FIL (the family's Boss Cook) asked us to have a dinner party, for which he was going to prepare an elaborate Colombian stew. When the time came and I asked what I could do to help, he told me to just join our guests and he'd handle it. Now, Pops was a good cook, but firmly believed that the cook just COOKS and leaves the cleanup to lesser mortals. He also had a large wall cupboard at home, filled with cookpots, while I had maybe eight vessels with over a gallon capacity … we see where this is going, right?

                                                          So about an hour into the project, he hollered at me for help. The sink was host to a tottering tower of pots and pans, and he was asking where I kept the rest. I said, "Steve, this is all I've got," and with no further comment started washing. "Can't your wife do that?" he asked. I just shook my head and kept going …

                                                          I don't multi-task worth a damn, but if I'm going to use many pots or tools I'll try to re-use as many as possible, and do cleanup during roasting or braising when the food needs little or no attention. As for Mrs. O, she will pitch in if I need her, but the kitchen is my playroom and I usually prefer to do it all myself.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: Will Owen

                                                            My stove and my sink are 5 feet away from each other. There's been times when I catch myself tossing the sautee pan with my right hand, while holding a sauce pan on the left hand under the running tap !

                                                            But I find it difficult to peel garlic with my toes at the same time. Gotta work on that ! ;-)

                                                          2. Kind of sort of yes? I wash my hands several times going from raw meat's etc to other things. I generally have a supply of cutting boards (probably 6?) and utensils that once they are used they just go in the sink. (if used with raw meats) I am constantly wiping down or cleaning up between various stages of preparation.

                                                            1. Clean as you go. The only way to fly. That includes counter tops, loading things into the dishwasher, and rinsing utensils you may need later on with food prep / cooking. Not unusual or unique at all.

                                                              1. I always do. A mixture of hating clutter in my workspace, and pure necessity based on space and needing certain kitchen tools/cooking vessels to have dual (or triple, or more) duty during the course of a meal prep.

                                                                1. You seem to believe there is a better or worse way to do this. Your behavior is neither unusual nor unique.

                                                                  But you do believe your method is better,"more efficient," etc. the problem seems to be that your wife's method drives you "totally nuts." The answer to the real issue is not to be found on CH. Whatever works for the individual is the correct method. It is not healthy to be "driven nuts" by your wife.

                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                  1. re: Sinicle

                                                                    Haha didn't think I'd get a lesson in marital relations here. Perhaps my description was too extreme. Perhaps like many CH's and maybe even yourself, I'm simply too fastidious and concerned about kitchen efficiency.

                                                                    1. re: LotusRapper

                                                                      I do all the cooking, my wife does all the cleaning. Our agreement is that it will stay this way IF I don't criticize her methods and she loves all I make. Works like a charm.

                                                                  2. Well, for the most part your way is how my wife does it, and I'm jsut fine with it. And she has the same thought, ". . .it's efficient and prevents a sink full of dirty messy pile after all the cooking is done . . ."

                                                                    1. I think it depends on the setup of the kitchen.

                                                                      If you've got lots of counter space and a dishwasher, it can be more efficient to wait - pile up the dirty dishes, and then load the dishwasher all at once so it's done efficiently.

                                                                      If you've got a small amount of counter space and no dishwasher, washing as you go is necessary.

                                                                      I clean as I go more now that I'm married, because we alternate - one day one of us cooks and the other does dishes, the next we swap - and my husband wasn't happy about the wait until the end part. It's kind of annoying because we only have one sink, so washing as I go means washing under a running tap.

                                                                      1. It. All. Depends. :)
                                                                        I like to be careful about cross contamination, so do make efforts to keep the counters wiped up. Also, I have multiples of frequently used tools, so can just put the used items into the d/w. After prep, I do a cursory clean, and load the dishwasher.
                                                                        But in between cooking and plating? Not enough time to clean up much. Other than to make space on the counter for plates. All other clean up can happen after eating.
                                                                        When hosting dinner guests, I put a couple of bus pans outside on the deck, and anything which doesn't fit in the sink can sit outside.

                                                                        1. I clean as I cook. I like making order out of chaos. I prep, clean, cook, and clean. I even clean pots/pans before I eat.

                                                                          It goes back to my first apartment and roommate as a teen. He was a slob, especially in the kitchen. I refused to do his dishes, so did he. (We are both pretty stubborn.) The dishes built up so high I couldn't cook or clean my own. Finally everything we owned was dirty. So one day I put all the dirty dishes, glasses, pots, etc. out in the backyard and left them there. I stopped cooking and ate out for several months. This was easy since I was working like crazy. I also bought a huge garbage can, the outside type, and put it in the kitchen with garbage bags in it. My roommate only used paper plates and plastic utensils. By this point bugs and animals had cleaned all the dishes out in the yard. I bought a dishwasher. My first major purchase besides a car, before even a tv. From then on every time something got dirty, and wasn't needed right away, it went in the dishwasher and the DW run every night.

                                                                          I have had a dishwasher in every apartment and house ever since. And it gets run every evening.

                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                          1. re: JMF

                                                                            50 years ago my brother got his first off-campus apartment. It was the third floor of a old house and the bathroom was partitioned off for a small kitchenette. Brother hated to do dishes or wash pots/pans. The bathroom had an old bathtub on feet and a stall shower. He always showered and stacked the dirty dishes and pots/pans in the bathtub. Every few months when the tub was full of dirty kitchen items, he run the tub and wash them.

                                                                            He said he ws very lucky that my parents never were willing to walk up to the third floor to see his apartment. And the local Salvation Army store had an endless supply of odd dishes at 5 cents each..........................

                                                                              1. re: bagelman01

                                                                                Eons ago, my now-dead (at a very old age) mother got a job cleaning up after two bachelor brothers. Remember, this was before the Second World War. They would eat off all their plates, and when the plates were dirty, would eat off the underside. Eventually they had to call for help.

                                                                            1. My sister and I used to swear that our mother could dirty everything in the kitchen boiling water. Of course I clean up as I go. I don't want to enjoy my meal and then face all of the clean up when I'd like to relax.

                                                                              1. I've always done that. Our first house had a fairly tiny kitchen with limited counter space. I learned to cook that way during the 12 years we were there. When we moved to our current house in 1997, with more space and a capacious center island, I kept in the habit. It makes post-meal times about continuing to talk rather than cleaning up.

                                                                                1. I do the same thing, although I've found that this behavior seems to be uncommon.

                                                                                  1. Your behaviour is definitely not unusual or unique. I don't have a dishwasher and I don't have a ton of dishes so I'm constantly cleaning to re-use. Plus in the summer here in Bermuda, if I leave anything out too long, it attracts the ants hence the cleaning compulsion.

                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: bdachow

                                                                                      Often my DW is still full of clean dishes (admit it, we ALL hate emptying the DW, don't we ??) and so my sink and counterspace get backlogged with dirty dishes, prep bowls and utensils.

                                                                                      1. re: LotusRapper

                                                                                        Oh to have a DW....I can keep dreaming!

                                                                                    2. Neither my Mom nor my Mom in Love did it, but I somewhere learned to do it. What a difference it makes after the meal. I may have seen it on TV food shows or heard the expression Misa en place and transferred it over to cleanup. It also keeps counters & sinks uncluttered and able to be used easily.