After cooking rice or steaming vegetables the inside of the lid used to cover the pot has water droplets on it - is it just water or do elements of the food make the lid "dirty" and require washing?

Edit: I should have mentioned the assumption that the food has not made contact with the lid and that if the lid is removed after cooking and placed on the counter, the next day it has no visible residue on it.

  • 13
    I feel like this question was posted by my kids, trying to get out of washing an extra dish.
    – miken32
    May 30, 2021 at 18:28
  • Easy test: do you smell something during cooking? If yes, that means some volatile compounds have been removed from the food and transported by the steam, and are very likely to be deposited (in trace amount) on the lid. My guess is that for both, you can smell something while it's cooking.
    – Najkin
    May 31, 2021 at 9:12

3 Answers 3


Most likely yes, it has stuff besides water. Although I wouldn't lay my hand in the fire that it has it every single time.

The first scenario is the bubbling from starchy water, as Chris H already explained. This is not ruled out by "the assumption that the food has not made contact with the lid", since here it is the cooking water that makes contact with the lid, not the food pieces, and while it doesn't happen every time, you cannot tell that it hasn't happened when you lift the lid.

The second scenario is the steamed vegetables. The first suspect would be matter on the vegetable skins. Even if you are very thorough in washing, you probably won't remove all traces of whatever clings to them, be it dirt or the vegetables' own waxes. But even without this stuff on the outside, plant matter is perfectly distillable, that's how we get essential oils and many alcoholic beverages. Even if you steam whole vegetables with intact skin, the cooking process itself is sufficient to damage the cell walls and stuff starts coming in contact with the steaming water. Some of it is part of the water that condenses and drops down to the bottom (have you ever noticed that the water is green after steaming spinach or broccoli?) and some of it is dissolved into the water that becomes steam and starts clinging to the lid.

Even if you cannot see any residue visually (which is a rare case), there is probably stuff deposited there that is not water.


Starchy foods, like rice, tend to bubble and splash. They will get starch on the inside of the lid. If you don't let it dry out, you might decide a quick rinse is sufficient, but if it dries it will probably need a proper wash to remove the starch.

Steaming is more interesting. There shouldn't be any splashing above the level of the food, so it should just be clean water on there. I'd rinse it before drying and putting away.

That's a minimum; I would just put mine in the dishwasher; there's often a space when it's otherwise full that wouldn't be much use for something really dirty.

  • 4
    If I forget to drop my clear glass lid in water & instead let it dry out, it's covered in pale white-ish residue. I'd definitely clean it specifically, even after steaming.
    – Tetsujin
    May 28, 2021 at 14:22
  • @Tetsujin if washing up by hand, I'd rinse it in the water I need to run before the hot comes through (it's a long pipe). In practice it just goes in the dishwasher.
    – Chris H
    May 28, 2021 at 14:29
  • 1
    Most of mine get washed by hand - often the next day ;) Rice & veg lids definitely aren't 'clean' though after use, even if it was just a steamer.
    – Tetsujin
    May 28, 2021 at 14:32
  • Thanks for your answer. I should have added the assumption that the food itself has not made direct contact with the lid. If I remove them after using and simply place them on the counter, the next morning there is no residue on them, leading me to believe it was simply water.
    – MarcGuay
    May 28, 2021 at 16:49
  • Also: foods cooked in oil, or an oil/water mixture, tend to throw droplets of oil onto the lid.
    – FuzzyChef
    May 28, 2021 at 17:56

Yes. My rice cooker has an internal removable plate located in the flip-up lid. It always ends up with something slimy on it, detectable by touch. I definitely would not put the cooker back in the cabinet without washing the plate (same story with the little moisture trap on the back). Also there is some kind of flexible gasket inside the top lid that accumulates moisture; I wash this as well, but it already feels a bit slimy so I'm not sure it actually has additional deposits. Although given that the above-mentioned plate is immediately adjacent it seems like a reasonable guess.

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