Too Many Cooks: Coming Clean

December 11, 2015

Kohler's Reset accessories inspired us to poll our staff on one of the things we're (apparently most) meticulous about: How we wash the dishes.

There are some things we get a little, ahem, particular about, especially the ingredients or routines that make us feel soothed and certain. And for the Food52 team, a crew of avid cooks, dishwashing must (must! must!) be done to our specifications. But that doesn't mean that those specifications don't differ. There are as many dishwashing strategies as there are Food52-ers. And we'll all put them back in the sink and wash them again if they're not done this way:

Megan: I am such a stickler about dishes! I hand-wash each one under super-hot water (still waiting for someone to invent heat-proof dishwashing gloves) with probably-too-much soap and a good amount of scrubbing. I love it if I'm not in a hurry; I hate it if I am in a hurry and/or there is plastic containers involved. And I hate soaking things.

Kaitlin: I try to wash most of my dishes immediately, but I have a generous soaking policy with pots (yes, that roasting pan really does need a relaxing 72 hour trip to soak in the bubbles and unwind). I can't stand a sink full of dishes, but don't mind a precarious stack next to it. I like to be able to fill up a glass of water without risking having my glass (or sleeve!) touch the top of a crusty plate. This is an issue, because my boyfriend (who I've lived with for years), always stacks them in the sink. He deep-cleans the entire kitchen on a regular basis, so I grimace and don't complain.

Jojo: Doing the dishes is a big part of my life... I'm very passionate about dishwashing.

I've never had a dishwasher in any of my apartments, so I've been hand-washing everything for many years. And I. Love. It. I find doing the dishes very therapeutic and relaxing; it's always my chore of choice. I'm also pretty neurotic about the way the dishes are done. My friends and former roommates are very aware that if they try to do the dishes in my home, I will a) stop them, and b) take all of their "clean" dishes and toss them back into the sink to be redone (by me). Schedule-wise, I typically wash as I go. I'll never start a kitchen endeavor without a totally empty sink, even if it's just my morning coffee.

In terms of post-wash, I leave the dishes out on a two-story drying rack, which is larger than any of the ones I've seen on the market (was a gift from a former roommate). It's a spacious duplex for dishes. AND... I'll stop there, before this gets any weirder. #TransparencyIsACompanyValue

Leandra: I've currently been letting a few dishes soak for three days. I'm out of town and my husband arrives back in town tonight. You do the sink math.

Bridget: I don't understand the people still filling the container with soap water. In 2 minutes that water is like the Gowanus Canal.

Merrill: I feel you, Bridget. Blech.

Amanda H.: Not if you rinse your dishes and wipe out your sink before you fill it with hot soapy water.

Bridget: I need the Homer Simpson in the bushes gif.

Lauren L.: I believe you are in one of two dishwasher-loading camps. You either layer, mix, and fill (possibly overfill), or you are the one who (strangely) takes dishes out and rearranges them. In my household we have one of each and balance each other out.

Lindsay-Jean: I agree with Lauren's theory on dishwasher loading camps. I am a rearranger.

Alexis: I have a legitimate (medically-proven) allergy to washing dishes. If I do them for too long, my feet turn bright red and start to itch like crazy. Weird? Yes. Convenient? Also, yes.

Haley P.: I like to clean as I go while I'm cooking and then stack the dinnerware alongside the sink and wash all of it by type (i.e. plates all at once, then silverware, then glasses) so that everything stacks easily in the drying rack, and I can get more dishes washed before having to hand dry and clear the rack for more. Also, I'm a strong believer in either leaving dishes until guests are gone or asking them to help out. I find asking guests to relax while I'm working doesn't leave anyone feeling chill.

Photo by Mark Weinberg

Jeremy: I credit the complimentary nature of my wife Tiffany and I’s sink usage to supporting a happy marriage.

Tiffany hates things being left in the sink for any period of time, so she will wash things and sit them on the drying rack very quickly—while I wouldn’t mind if they sat there for a little while. However, she is perfectly happy letting things sit on the drying rack for days before they are put away. This doesn’t work for me. I am a “straightener." If something has been washed, it must be dried immediately and put in its proper home. So this has created a virtuous circle:

  • Jeremy will happily place something in the sink without thinking.
  • This triggers Tiffany to get it washed.
  • Tiffany will place the item in the drying rack and be done.
  • This triggers Jeremy to dry and put things away.
  • Success!

Are you a stacker? A soaker? A dishwasher-overfiller? Share your own dishwashing tenets in the comments.

We've paired up with Kohler to share ideas for what to have on hand to throw dinner parties—and how to wipe up after them—during the holiday season. Follow along with our inspiration here.

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • henandchicks
  • Fredrik Backman
    Fredrik Backman
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  • laurenlocally
Writing and cooking in Brooklyn.


henandchicks February 25, 2016
Where we live the heath dept regulates the wash, rinse, and sanitize water temps, amt, etc, so I don't have choices there. But one of my employees (valued, loved employee!) has a method for dishes that involves NEVER putting anything with mayo in the wash water, and various other rules that I will never, ever break. Our other dishwasher has pretty severe special needs, and washes not just by type of item- glasses, flatwear, etc- but by color and size, all of which is fine by me.My dishes are clean, they are happy. People who are 'funny' about how the dishes get washed are not people to cross!
Fredrik B. December 12, 2015
My flatmate can't stand not tidying up, so when I've cooked the food and finished setting up the table, he'll start doing the dishes. Which is really frustrating, because after 2 hours in the kitchen I'm starving. I have to literally drag him to the table just so our food won't grow cold.
amazinc December 11, 2015
Dishwashing! What a chore! I will cook 'til the cows come home and I usually wash the cookware as I go. After the dinner, with 8 or so guests, I quote my darling mother-in-law saying " Let's us get the plates rinsed. They'll still be here in the morning." I can usually wait until the morning, but sometimes I put a book on CD in the player and listen as I wash and dry and put away. Glassware first, then plates, then flatware, then any pans left from cooking and the serving dishes. Each load gets its own sink of new soap and water. I have a large dishwasher but usually have more dishes than it will hold, particularly glassware...drinks before dinner, wine with, after dinner drinks and coffee, so most glassware get washed by hand...sometimes after guests have left; sometimes "in the morning".
laurenlocally January 5, 2016
My husband and I have recently transitioned from the "dishes in the am" camp, to the music/glass of wine/load once guests leave one and I am loving the time it gives us to chat!