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All questions

Is there a strategy for washing mountains of dishes?

Contribute to our new Holiday iPad app. What are your tips for holiday entertaining clean-up?

This is from your friendly editors at Food52.

asked almost 3 years ago
23 answers 836 views
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sdebrango

Suzanne is a trusted source on General Cooking.

added almost 3 years ago

By the time Everyone is ready to sit down to dinner I have probably run the dishwasher 3 or more times but invariably there is always a mountain of dishes. I make sure that before dinner my dishwasher is empty and my dish drainer also. As I clear the plates I rinse and place directly into the dishwasher. It only takes a minute or two while everyone is talking and drinking and by the end of the meal I may have a hill rather than a mountain of dirty dishes.

Dscn2212
boulangere

Cynthia is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

added almost 3 years ago

I agree with sdebrango about being sure everything that can be washed up and put away before sitting down should be. Also, be sure you have an empty trash can before starting the serious clean-up. A rubber spatula makes a great plate-scraper - one or two passes, an rinse, then into the dishwasher.

Sharonhead
added almost 3 years ago

As a working personal chef, cleaning up as I go is essential. If I wait until the end I'm in big trouble. Also, if your recipe says to use another bowl or piece of equipment, make sure it is absolutely necessary; so not using as many things will help. Also, keep your spray cleaner handy and spray your knives and small tools and wash and rinse them quickly. I also keep a bowl of soapy water in the sink and wash quickly as I go. The food is not dry and hardened at this point and you can either leave it to drip dry or dry it quickly and put it away. So essentially, start cleaning up as soon as you start cooking.

If you are having guests, invite one of them to come early and help you! Many of my friends are fascinated by my cooking and want to see some of my final preparation so they will come and help me. Take advantage of it and nothing has to be perfect. I've had guests arrive w/ huge messes but it never changed how delicious the food was; so be ok w/ it! Have fun yourself! :)

Default-small
added almost 3 years ago

Never be afraid to ask for an assistant! As someone without a dishwasher, bu regularly does large meals, I wash up between courses- invariably you're in the kitchen getting the last bits sorted for the next course, it's easy to take the time to dump everything into a bowl of hot soapy water, wash and get them on the drainer, if you've got someone that can quickly dry and put away, then the drainer's clear for the next lot... Most f te time people don't realise I've even doing it, till at he en of the meal someone offers to help, and I tell them there's no need! As for the order of asking things up, as taught in te brownies, cleanest first- glassware, crockery, cutlery, then saucepans then finally any greasy roasting tins etc.

Buddhacat
SKK
added almost 3 years ago

My secret is having my sister in the kitchen and she washes while I cook. When she cooks, I do the same for her. And if it isn't a family affair, I pick a kitchen partner who enjoys chatting and cleaning.

Default-small
added almost 3 years ago

Never be afraid to ask for an assistant! As someone without a dishwasher, bu regularly does large meals, I wash up between courses- invariably you're in the kitchen getting the last bits sorted for the next course, it's easy to take the time to dump everything into a bowl of hot soapy water, wash and get them on the drainer, if you've got someone that can quickly dry and put away, then the drainer's clear for the next lot... Most f te time people don't realise I've even doing it, till at he en of the meal someone offers to help, and I tell them there's no need! As for the order of asking things up, as taught in te brownies, cleanest first- glassware, crockery, cutlery, then saucepans then finally any greasy roasting tins etc.

Farmer's_market
added almost 3 years ago

This is why you have kids, right? When they were growing up, I'd have them collect dirty glasses and such and run the dishwasher a couple of times during the party. Also, for the rare really big parties (like 50+) I'd rent glasses/plates (who has that many?) Surprisingly inexpensive, and they pick them up the next morning, dirty in the racks. It's a glorious moment.

New_years_kitchen_hlc_only
AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

added almost 3 years ago

I can't add much to the excellent suggestions here already, except perhaps always to use a dishpan in your sink, full of hot soapy water, which you dump and replenish as necessary. (And do this during prep/before the meal, as well as after.) After glasses are washed, silverware soaks in the bottom. And have plenty of clean dishtowels handy for drying. As others have said, get yourself a partner to dry while you wash. Many people enjoy drying dishes, by the way; washing/drying is one activity that is conducive to good conversation. ;o)

Buddhacat
SKK
added almost 3 years ago

So true, AJ - have had wonderful conversations while washing/drying from the time I was a child. It is an intimate, fun time. Thanks for reminding!

Pamelalee
added almost 3 years ago

So many great ideas have already been mentioned! I agree with washing up between courses. One other tip: for holidays my dish drainer does not hold everything that needs to be hand washed. So if I don't have a dish-drying buddy, I place a cookie sheet/ plastic tray lined with a towel next to the drainer to accomodate the extra dishes.

Me
added almost 3 years ago

All great answers! One thing I have done to cut down on the number of dishes to be washed to is to biodegradable/organic single-use bamboo plates for hors d'oeuvres and desserts.

Img_1965
added almost 3 years ago

Washing as you go is essential, but there will always be things left at the end. Usually I then team up with my family - someone at the sink rinsing and putting things in the DW, washing big pots, while everyone else puts away leftovers, wipes down counters, and assembles the dishes. Loud music and everyone dancing is also essential.

186003_1004761561_1198459_n
added almost 3 years ago

My friend, Morgan, is one of 9 children. Her advice to me is to NOT stack dishes because you end up with dishes that are dirty on both sides. Scrape and rinse as you bring the dirty plates from the table and then wash.

Debbykalk-photo
added almost 3 years ago

When there's a big crowd, no dishwasher holds it all. So, you have to work in batches. Like any project, it all goes so much quicker if you organize it. Rinse and stack plates of the same size. Fill a bowl with hot soapy water and put all silverware and utensils in it. Arrange glassware in rows and rinse pots and pans and stack on the counter. Then, tackle each category of dishes one at a time. You get into a rhythm that makes it go faster, with less chance of breakage.

Dsc00859_2
added almost 3 years ago

I usually serve a first course of fish or salad. When those plates are collected, they go in the sink and I wash them along with their utensils, because my first-course plates are also my dessert plates, and they will be mostly dry by that time. After the main course I usually try to wash those dishes as well, just to have them out of the way. Dessert dishes get washed after the guests depart. I do have a dishwasher but as we are kosher, and it is dedicated my "milk" dishes, my dishes used for meat-based meals need to be hand-washed. Dawn dish soap comes in handy, as it cuts grease well.

Wineglasses get washed last because I need to pay attention to them, as I've learned over time :)

Anita_date
Anitalectric

Anita is a vegan pastry chef & founder of Electric Blue Baking Co. in Brooklyn.

added almost 3 years ago

I have two plastic bus bins (the type restaurants use to gather dirty dishes) and they are essential. You can sub any large rectangular plastic bins or maybe even stuff like a large roasting pan! I gather all the dishes and sort them--glasses together, plates together, flatware together, plastic/tupperware together--all in one bin. The other bin is empty.

Soap the sponge, and then dump all of one group into the sink--so just glasses for example. Go to town soaping all the glasses and then chuck them in the empty bin. Do the same with all the groups, then rinse out/wash the now empty bin that was for dirty dishes.

Rinse off the dishes by group in the same way- this will go super-fast! Then transfer all to the now empty bin.

This method cuts down on time by a lot! Instead of washing and rinsing each dish individually you'll be working like a restaurant dishwasher and moving so much faster.

At the end, you can spread them to dry on a table covered with bath towels, or just let them sit in the bin to air/drip dry if you are too tired.

Junechamp
ChefJune

June is a trusted source on General Cooking.

added almost 3 years ago

Growing up, Mom never hesitated to hire someone to serve seconds and wash the dishes. I'm so glad she did, because it gave me "permission" to do the same. Altho I didn't do that early on in my independent living. However, when I had my catering company, I became accustomed to having a dishwasher (among others) to accomplish those things, and today, if there are more than 8 at any event in my house, I hire a helper, if there's no one available who will volunteer.

I do the prep ahead of time, so there's a minimum of dishes on the "day of" and I make sure the dishwasher is empty before the "witching hour."

186003_1004761561_1198459_n
added almost 3 years ago

I totally agree with hiring someone to serve and do the clean.p! Whenever I have a large dinner party or lunch, I hire a server and cleaner upper(s) which lets me enjoy the meal and pay attention to my guests or clients. My friends and I all use the same pool of helpers and they know our kitchens like their own an entertaining is stress free.

Ozoz_profile
added almost 3 years ago

It depends.

Handwash - my strategy is sort/wipe, wash, rinse starting with cutlery, then plates/bowls/dishes and ending with cups,mugs and glasses

Dishwasher - my strategy is wipe, then sort into the dishwasher. Larger items get hand-washed so the dishwasher space can be maximised

Dscn3372
added almost 3 years ago

Lots of great ideas here, but one thing I always do is leave the dessert/coffee dishes till the morning. By the time the kettle boils and my tea steeps, or by the time coffee is ready, I can have a sink full washed and in the drainer, then sit down to enjoy it, probably with a slice of leftover dessert.
I have no aversion to waking up to a sink full of dishes--morning is my favourite time to do them.

Img_7818
added almost 3 years ago

I agree with suggestions above to clean as you go, have an empty dishwasher when your guests arrive, and enlist help if you feel comfortable doing so. I have never done this -- and it kind of makes me laugh -- but I once heard someone suggest buying a big plastic storage bin for entertaining emergencies. If you don't have time to do all of your dishes, or don't want to interrupt the flow of the party, then put your dirty dishes in it and put it out of sight (garage, basement). Deal with it after your guests leave or the next day!