I've heard of the Mise en Place principle in professional cooking which means literally "everything in it's place". Professional cooks applying this principle keeping their work area clean and organized. Translating this to home cooking, I'm thinking about how to make less mess resulting in less cleanup time and an overall cleaner kitchen.

What techniques and tips do you all use to be tidy cooks?


If you want one, simple technique -- put ingredients away as you use them.

When you start the recipe, take out all of the necessary ingredients, and put them on your counter (or somewhere nearby, if your kitchen is as tiny as the one in my first apartment). This gives you a chance to make sure that you're not missing anything critical.

As you use them, put them away ... this helps you keep track of what's already gone into the recipe, so you don't end up with twice as much salt (or none at all).

I find it's most useful with baking (eg, when you'd have a large container of flour or baking powder that you only need a portion of vs. other cooking where you'd just pull out those three carrots or two onions you needed from the beginning). It's also really useful when you have more than one person in the kitchen helping to cook a single dish (the most typical reason an ingredient gets doubled)

I actually don't like chopping everything in advance, as this means that I have to have place to put all of my prepared items (which means more bowls and dishes to clean afterwards). I do make the exception for stir-fry, but I use a few plates and keep things that cook in a similar time together on the same plate; I won't dump in the whole plate at the same time, but if a carrot ends up getting hidden under the stems of the bok choy, it's not as big a deal as if it went in with the greens of the bok choy.


My only other recommendation is in cutting board selection -- I really don't like the heavy, thick butcher block ones, because they're difficult to carry one handed. With a lighter board, I can pick the whole thing up, then use the back of my knife to push things into the pan, or into the trash as appropriate.

... and I guess one more recommendation, but this one's actually from America's Test Kitchen (I think it was in their Quick Tips book) -- when you're peeling carrots, potatoes or whatever ... put down a sheet of newspaper first, then after you're done, you can just fold it in on itself, and compost or trash as appropriate for your area.


Some tricks that I like:

  1. Have something to put trash in right near where I am doing prep. A plastic bag from the grocery, an empty box, or if nothing else, just a steel bowl that is easy to clean. All of the trash, trimmings, and so forth go right into the trash container as they are produced, and when I am all done, that is emptied or discarded into the larger trash.

  2. If you are a baker, switching to measuring by weight rather than by volume will substantially reduce the number of measuring cups, spoons, and so on you have to use and clean, which also helps keep things neat. Of course, its also easier, faster, and more accurate--what's not to like? :-)

  3. If you are cooking something that requires periodic mixing or stirring, having a plate or bowl to rest the stirring spoon on is convenient. I like to use one that was previously used in prep when I can, so there isn't another item to clean--otherwise a saucer will do just fine.

  4. Think about the order of preparation. Unlike a restaurant kitchen where they are optimizing time in prep or time on the line, not the number of pans or dishes used, at home we have to do our own dishes. You can often reduce the number of dishes or pans you need (and thus clutter and cleanup) simply by thinking about how things come together. For example, I like a two-bowl method to make muffins. I weight my dry ingredients into a bowl large enough to mix the whole batch, and measure the wet ingredients in a smaller bowl. The whole recipe can then be done with just two bowls (the smaller of which can rest the spoon or scoop...) . Similarly, with measuring spoons, if you measure dry ingredients before wet, you may only need one spoon instead of two. It just depends on what you are making.

I think you will get lots of answers, and lots of useful tips.

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