03 September 2012
Top tools for your first kitchen, Part 4: Cleanup
Finally, you have all the equipment to cook practically any meal you might want! Ah, that was delicious. But wait--what's that looming behind you? Oh no--sandwich crumbs, spatters of sauce, DISHES! What can we do?
Let's attack them.
Top tools for your first kitchen
PART FOUR: CLEANUP
Definitely get your hands on some good dishtowels. They are far more important for general kitchen happiness than you might think. Without a decent dishtowel, your counters will be wet, your dish rack always full, your stovetop crusted with filth, your hands more than likely burned, and your wallet out a recurring fee for new rolls of paper towels.
There is a huge range of dishtowels out there; you can spend as much as you want at Williams Sonoma, or go to the thrift store and find a package of five dishtowels for fifty cents. The most important criteria for me are absorbency, durability, and insulation. Absorbency is obvious: you need your dishtowels to dry dishes and wipe up spills. Durability means you can buy dishtowels once and keep them in the rotation for twenty years--obviously a good plan. And insulation means you can double them up and use them as potholders, which is key, especially if you are the sort of person who misplaces or burns through potholders. If you get great dishtowels that fulfill all these categories, you'll be able to use them for hundreds of different jobs. And when they get dirty, just chuck them in the wash. The end!
How many dishtowels should you have? Ten is a good round number. With a good stock of dishtowels, you have at least a week's worth of leeway between washes; you can just use the towels without worrying about whether you have another dry, clean one hanging out in the drawer. I think we actually have about twelve or fourteen, including both a stack of 15-year-old Meijer specials and eight nearly brand-new crisp blue and white striped towels.
Don't throw out old dishtowels. Reduce them to rag status if they're really awful, but you know there will always be some point at which you need a bunch of towels to throw over a massive spill. As long as they have some hope of absorbing that spill, keep them around.
You're going to have to wash your dishes, and you'll need tools to do it. My tool of choice is the long-handled scrub brush. Plastic bristles are easily washable, don't provide a very hospitable home for bacteria, and are safe for whatever kind of pan you happen to have; the long handle means your hands aren't being scalded in hot water all the time. Sounds like a win to me.
If you like other styles of dish brush, go for it. Plastic or metal scrubbies, steel wool, and delicate towels all have their dishwashing uses.
Personally, I dislike sponge-based dishwashing. Sponges get completely disgusting nearly overnight. However, if that's what you want to use to wash your dishes, go ahead and get a variety pack. Just remember to sterilize them regularly (either with a bleach solution or in the microwave) and switch them out when they need it.
Once you have your dishes sparkling clean, you're going to have to put them somewhere. No, not on the countertop! Get yourself a dish drainer and you'll be able to avoid an interminably wet counter.
Plastic-coated wire dish drainers are cheap and easy to find. Look for one with a drainer tray underneath--or, better yet, find one that fits either over or directly in your sink. Thrift stores frequently have a stash of older dish drainers piled haphazardly in their kitchen departments. As long as you can find one that isn't riddled with rust, you should be good to go. Take it home, clean it well, and start stacking up those newly shiny pots and pans.
Honorable mention: mop, bucket, massive jug of white vinegar, economy pack of baking soda, dish soap of your choice.
And if you have trouble actually buckling down and cleaning your kitchen, may I suggest a look at Unf%*k your Habitat?
Your basic kitchen toolset is complete. Hooray! Now get in there and start cooking all the deliciousnesses you desire.
The whole top tools for your first kitchen series:
- Part 1: Prep
- Part 2: Stovetop
- Part 3: Oven
- Part 4: Cleanup