Clean as you go; a note for cooks (especially husbands)

Physicists tell us that disorder is constantly increasing in the universe – except for in perfectly ideal processes in which the amount of disorder can remain unchanged. I doubt the physicists were thinking of my house when they came up with this idea, but if someone isn’t actively putting order to the house, it just gets dirtier. This is especially true of the kitchen.

Dads and husbands, as you take over the kitchen for MVA (mother’s valentine’s and anniversary) days, let me share with you a cautionary tale and some tips on how to avoid a common pitfall of many a MVA chef. (Then check out my tutorial on crème brûlée for an elegant MVA dessert!)

I knew a guy who thought he was awesome because he could cook. He would craft fancy dishes for his wife and brag to his friends about how good the food was. (I overheard because he was a “loudtalker”) What irked me the most about his bragging was that he was also loud about the fact that he made a big mess cooking all this fancy stuff and he and his wife had a deal that whoever cooks didn’t have to do the dishes. What kind of guy cooks a fancy meal for his wife and then makes her clean up a huge mess? Don’t be that guy. I can get behind the sentiment of sharing work in the kitchen with your spouse and kids, but on special occasions, don’t saddle your wife with the clean-up!


OK, so now that we’re clear and understand that we men are responsible for both dinner and cleanup on MVA days, let me share with you some tips on how I reduce (or maintain) disorder in my kitchen to make the final clean up easier.

  • Coming into a dirty kitchen starts you off with more than desirable amounts of disorder – and it can be a challenge to clean as you go when the sink is full – when this happens, I will often start cooking by cleaning out the sink. This sets me up to clean as I work.
  • Working in the fast food restaurant business (and being responsible to close up shop) I learned it was easier to clean messes as I made them than to stack the dishes to the ceiling. At home, I like to do the same. It’s common for cooks to multi task and work on either a 2nd dish or food prep as a 1st dish is cooking. I find that there is typically time to turn to the sink and clean up my knives, cutting board and other food prep tools while waiting for the food to cook. Have a hand-towel handy because you will be washing your hands a lot as you bounce between tasks.
  • Dishes aren’t the only thing that gets messy when you cook – the principle of “clean as you go” is applicable to your entire work area and all the ingredients you pull out of the cupboards. As you find a minute, use it to put something away or tidy up a work area.
  • It’s better to serve food hot than have a clean kitchen and sometimes a larger meal or a meal with many dishes, will prevent me from cleaning dishes before the food is done. When this happens, I like to either rinse or soak the dishes I didn’t get to as preparation for washing them later. (things like pots, pans and knives I wash by hand, so soaking is a real time saver!)
  • Another trick is picking 1-dish meals. I like chili, tacos, jambalaya, casserole’s, dishes that have the protein, carbohydrates, fruits and/or vegetables all in one dish. Not only do I genuinely like these simple meals, they give plenty of time to clean as they cook. (This may not be the best route on a MVA meal, but for more general cooking around the home, it’s a big time saver!)
  • Pots and pans clutter my sink quickly, so if I need one, I will wash a dirty one and then when I’m done with it, if I put it back dirty, my mess has not increased in size (a physically ideal process!). If I wash it quickly before the food sticks, then disorder is reduced!



It should be mentioned that physicists say it is impossible to reduce disorder in the universe; decreasing it one place simply increases it another. So as you unnaturally set your house in order, be mindful that somewhere else you are making the universe more chaotic 🙂 Maybe it would be more considerate to our fellow universe dwellers to just let the mess sit…


Do you have any tips that help you keep a clean kitchen (or shop) as you work? Please share if you do, because I’m sure 99% of us really don’t like the cleanup part that comes after the creative part of making!


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