How to be a Tidy Cook in the Kitchen …

How to be a Tidy Cook in the Kitchen 001


I do agree, cooking can be a very messy event! And when I hear people say “I hate cooking!” what they often mean is they hate the mess and cleaning that comes with cooking. But to be honest, cooking and cleaning go hand in hand. So here are some of the things I do to help keep my kitchen clean when I’m baking or preparing dinner.


  • Start with a clean kitchen. Nothing makes a kitchen messier than a kitchen that’s already a disaster before I even start, so I like to start with clean benches. I take a few minutes to put things away and wipe down the benches.


  • Clean hands. So important before you handle or prepare food to give your hands a quick wash. I keep a soap dispenser beside the sink and a hand towel on a rack over the cupboard door.


  • Empty the dishwasher. I try to start with an empty dishwasher and a clean sink. I unpack the dishwasher, if needed, before I start cooking and then I can load used pots, pans, dishes, bowls, utensils, etc. as I go.


  • Keep it simple. I try to cook simple but tasty meals. If the meal is easy, then cleaning up will be a cinch! That’s one of the reasons I love my slow cooker so much, just chop everything up, throw it into the one pot and then walk away!


  • Divide up the work. On days when I’m not working, I like to do some of my preparation as early as possible in the day. Things like peeling and chopping vegetables can be done in the morning and things like marinating meat can even be done the night before. Splitting up the meal preparation into smaller tasks means I can be better organised and minimize the mess.


  • Have a good supply of clean sponges and tea towels. I always start with a good supply of sponges and dry, clean tea towels. This makes it easier for me to clean things and put them straight away. I tidy up spills straight away and wipe the benches repeatedly.


  • Be prepared. I like to read my recipe from start to finish. Once I’ve done this, I preheat the oven and then take out everything I need. I grab my ingredients from the fridge and pantry as well as any pots, pans, dishes, mixing bowls, measuring cups, cutting boards, etc. Having everything in front of me guarantees I spend the least amount of time cooking because I’m not be searching for items or using and dirtying unsatisfactory equipment.


  • Fill the sink. I like to fill the sink with hot, soapy water so that I can quickly wash as I go any items that don’t go in the dishwasher. It’s also a good idea to wash cutting boards a number of times to keep them super clean. I have a separate cutting board for cutting raw meat so as not to cross-contaminate fruit, vegetables and other items.


  • Prepare ingredients. I measure out all the dry ingredients I will use such as flour, sugar, coconut, baking soda, spices, etc. and then return all packets to the pantry/cupboard. Then I measure out all the wet/cold ingredients like milk, water, butter, eggs, etc. and return all those packets to the fridge. Before returning items to the pantry, cupboards or fridge I like to give them a quick wipe with a damp sponge to keep them clean. Before moving on, I re-wipe all my work areas.


  • Don’t create extra work. I like to line baking trays with baking paper and roasting trays with alfoil. This saves me from hours of soaking and scrubbing to get off baked on oil and food … simply throw out the baking paper and alfoil when you’re finished cooking.


  • Stay on top of the rubbish. When preparing food or baking I like to start with an empty rubbish bin. It’s surprising just how much rubbish can accumulate when preparing a meal. I like to dispose of vegetable peelings, egg shells and used packaging as I cook, so having an empty bin helps. Also, I tend to peel items straight into the sink as I’m lucky enough to have a garbage disposal.


  • Load the dishwasher. I like to rinse items and load the dishwasher as I go rather than stacking used items on the benches and in the sink. Anything that’s going into the dishwasher, I like to rinse straight away to prevent food from sticking. This saves me time and means the dishwasher will produce cleaner dishes. It really is so quick and makes cleaning up afterwards less of a chore.


  • One Last Bench Clean. Once my baking/cooking is in the oven or on the cooktop I like to give the benches one final wipe down. I also like to keep a small plate or bowl beside the stove so that I have somewhere to place my stirring spoon. This prevents food drops from getting on the benches and hardening into a lumpy mess. I load any final items in the dishwasher and quickly dry any items I may have hand washed.


  • Soak the dishes and pots. Once the meal is cooked and served, I soak any dishes/pots so that they are ready to be cleaned after the family has eaten. It only takes a few seconds to rinse a pot or fill it with water to prevent food residue from hardening and sticking to the sides.


  • Wear an apron. I don’t but if you find that you splash things around when cooking, wearing an apron will protect your clothes from stains and spills.


I find I enjoy my time in the kitchen so much more if I clean as I go … it feels like less of a burden if I’m not confronted by chaos at the end of my cooking. I was so lucky that Mum helped me to develop many if these habits while she was teaching me how to cook. Sadly, my kids haven’t adopted all the tips above yet but let’s just say that’s a work in progress.


So tell me, do you tend to be a clean cook or a messy cook?


  1. I think I do most of these but I don’t wear an apron unless I’m cooking something where I’ve got a dress that can’t be dirtied with what I’m cooking. I’m not sure why as I have lots of aprons, I just don’t use them ?

    • I don’t think many people wear aprons these days. I rarely do even though I have them in the drawer … just habit I guess!

  2. I always like to start with everything in order and that includes a clean kitchen, an empty dishwasher and an empty rubbish bin. I have also started wearing an apron because they’re so good at protecting my clothes xx

    • Sounds like you’re very well organised, Charlie … a few good habits in the kitchen certainly saves me time and makes cooking a lot easier!

  3. I love these tips and yep I am fastidiously neat when I cook because I like order. lol xx

  4. This post seriously makes my heart sing Sandie. I may be anal retentive lol but I cannot cook in a messy kitchen. I just cant! xx

    • I’m a bit the same, Sonia … when the kitchen starts to get messy, I can almost feel my stress levels rising! It’s such a habit for me to clean as I go (thanks to Mum)!