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Too Many Cooks: What are Your KItchen Tics?

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You'll be hearing from the staff at FOOD52 every week in Too Many Cooks, our group column in which we pool our answers to questions about food, cooking, life, and more.


If you spend enough time in the kitchen with someone who's serious about cooking, you're bound to start noticing the little things they do that seem so unusual to you, but so natural to them. We call them "kitchen tics" -- if you've ever developed a personal system for how you peel carrots, or oiled your cast iron pans so obsessively that your roommates are scared to so much as look at them, you know what I mean.

This week, we share our kitchen tics. And for a treat, some of our significant others share what they see as our tics, as well.

What are the weird things that you do in the kitchen? (Of course, they're not weird when you do them!)

My OCD-rific technique for washing dishes: rinse all pots, pans, dishes. Clean out sink so there's no leftover grease. Fill sink with hot -- like super hot -- soapy water. Wash with a dish cloth, dunking each piece in the water so the heat will remove any oils you miss with the cloth. Rinse with super hot water. Repeat. Wash out and rinse sink when all the dishes are done.

Kinda nutty about linens. They have to be washed in cold water. Stretched by hand. Air dried. Then ironed using a water sprayer to steam out any creases. (Which is why I cast mean looks at any of our dinner guests who make a mess of their linen napkin.)

I will stop now.

...And Tad's take on Amanda:
Well, clearly, cooking toast in the oven (takes half an hour, leaves crumbs everywhere) (Has she used the new toaster much?). Her distaste for oven mitts. Her chef-like droit de seigneur about using every single bowl in the drawer to make, say, wilted kale, on the theory that the dishwasher will take care of it all...and her clean countertops obsession, too.

I have to rinse my fingers after every egg I crack and after every pinch of salt I take from the container. Can't stand the feeling of sticky egg whites or desert-like salt on my fingers for more than a few seconds.

Me, at my craziest: When I'm looking for a kitchen tool (and having a hard time finding it), I semi-consciously make the motion of the thing (i.e. tongs-ing, whisking, peeling) until I find it. I have also literally pulled my boyfriend's bacon out of a hot pan to cut it in half, because I think it cooks more evenly that way. I'm working on that one.

...And Mike's take on Kristen:
My "complaint" about Kristen, which by all standards is not a real problem, is that she maintains one of the most insane cooking schedules I could possibly imagine.  I cannot tell you how many times I've heard "oooh i gotta start this chicken", "I need to try the dough again," or "our dinner is aaaaaalmost ready..." well past 1:00 AM.

I stack my eggshells, I sort things by size (like basil leaves), I find it VERY satisfying to peel citrus like in the photo (no breaking the peel!). Oh god, if I keep going I might embarrass myself.

...And Michael's take on Kristy:
It's not really my place to pass any judgement on Kristy's fairly insane kitchen OCD. That being said, all I have to do is ASK before I do absolutely anything in the kitchen and then I'm good because, honestly, I have no idea what I'm doing (and she knows this).

I hand wash the knives (Chef's knives and paring knives -- not tableware) and despite the risk of slicing a finger, insist on putting them cutting edge UP in the drying rack so they won't be dulled against the metal of the rack. Sarah doesn't like this, but begrudgingly complies.

Nozlee: I get really preoccupied with getting every. last. bit. of batter, soup, or puree out of a bowl, food processor, or saucepan with a spatula -- if the vessel doesn't look practically clean, I'm not done. I'm also a big stickler about raw meat -- anything it touches gets washed, including the inside of the sink after I wash the meat-y cutting board! I hoard peelings, ends, and scraps like I'm Tamar Adler, but I'm not half as beautifully lyrical about it when I make a frittata out of beet stems, broccoli stalks, and old pasta. And there's nothing like the feeling of total kitchen serenity I get when every single dish is not just clean, but in its proper place -- to the extent that I've been late for appointments because I'm hand-drying the breakfast dishes, or harried Jarrett to finish his coffee so I can wash the mug.

....And Jarrett's take on Nozlee:
Handwashing every single dish or utensil as she uses it, even if it means dinner is served a little cold. Related: finding elaborate methods to minimize use of dishes and utensils for maximum efficiency. Also, challenging herself "for fun" to use up all the ingredients in the refrigerator down to the condiments in the fridge door before going grocery shopping.

Amanda Li:
The biggest tic for me is my obsession with my knives. Magnetic strips are awesome. Knife blocks make me sad. I wash and towel dry my knives after cooking. Wet knives bad. Knives in the dish rack is a no-no. Then I order them on the strip by size -- even my paring knives. (PS I'm not a serial killer).

Anytime I see that someone has filled the sink (without a garbage disposal) with vegetable peels or other such food debris, it sets off a tiny kitchen panic attack. I always peel fruits and vegetables directly into the garbage. The sink is for dishes, and the garbage is for garbage.

I have separate sets of towels for drying dishes and drying hands, I also have a designated cutting board for raw meat, I hate using sponges, and I sharpen my knives daily.

My biggest kitchen tic: a dirty / messy kitchen. I always clean up as I go, so that everything remains clean and orderly, something I learned when I worked at Lacroix, back in high school.

Tags: too many cooks, in the kitchen, food52 staff, kitchen tics

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