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I recently discovered the trick of roasting vegetables on a piece of parchment paper in a pan, rather than directly in the pan, which saves a lot of time and effort during cleanup. What other easy 'preventative cleanliness' or 'defensive cooking' tips do people have?

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7 Answers 7

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I'm the one who does the dishes in our house and foil and cooking spray are my friends.

If you're microwaving something likely to splatter but doesn't need to be covered, cover loosely with a paper towel. It won't really act like a cover and when liquid and fat pop, it'll stick to and get absorbed by the paper towel better than if you use something plastic.

If you're doing something involved with raw meat, use 2 people. Designate 1 as the one handling meat and the other who never touches the raw meat and does everything else (eg: getting out utensils, opening cans cupboards and ovens, handling plastic bags to store un-used portions of the meat). You save a lot of hand-washing time this way.

This one isn't technically preventative, but I think it follows the spirit of the question: once something messy is cool enough to accept water without warping it, do so and let it sit that way the whole time you're having dinner. Especially effective with anything starchy. Similarly, if you have anything with hot water in it that will need to be cleaned later, dump the water out before dinner and let it cool off while you eat. Water holds it's temperature incredibly well and will keep your pot hot as long as it's in there.

Important note for foil: if you're using it preventatively, don't get lazy -- do it right. Otherwise stuff leaks under the foil, the foil gets stuck to the pan, and it's just as difficult to get the little pieces of soldered foil off as if it'd never been used in the first place.

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Very true regarding the last statement, no one wants to chisel foil off of a baking pan. –  Jenn Sep 7 '10 at 12:27
+1 for "soldered foil". Such a, um, picturesque description. –  Marti Oct 21 '10 at 20:14

I'm a big fan of crock pot liners -- plastic bags that you use inside a crock pot insert to make cleanup easier.

And a trick I learned right here: even if you don't plan to make a sauce, deglaze a pan with water to make cleaning it easier -- makes a huge difference!

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+1 - I deglazed my first pan last weekend and it worked really well! (I used guinness, because it was a beef and guinness casserole I was making, and I added the deglazed liquid to the casserole). –  Vicky Oct 1 '10 at 11:45

When making something in the food processor like hummus or mixing a batter, I will coat the bowl with nonstick cooking spray. It makes it easier to get food out and leaves less mess behind. You'll still have to clean, but not as much. Same trick works for measuring cups and spoons (measuring honey, for example), or when using a knife on garlic or dried fruits.

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It's not as useful for everyday cooking, but if you're cooking over coals (eg, a campfire, grill/barbeque), you'll end up with a soot-covered pot which takes forever to scrub off.

So long as you're not using a cast iron pot, take some dish soap, and rub a layer on the pot before you put it on the fire. Afterwards, you just need to rinse off the soap, no major scrubbing required.

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This applies to all outdoor cooking, even over a camp stove or the burner on the side of your gas grill. Outdoor conditions mean that at some point, those burners will give off smoke. –  Marti Oct 21 '10 at 20:17

Try cooking many things in aluminum foil. Fish, pork tenderloin, veggies, potatoes, etc. can all be done over the bbq or in the oven. Easy clean up and wonderful flavours while keeping the juices inside.

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Use dishwasher-safe tools.

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Buy top quality non-stick pans and blow the cost. Watch all the worst offenders (scrambled egg, porridge etc) slide off the pan sides at the end of the night and wonder why you ever bothered with cheap pans.

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