Inspired by conversations on the FOOD52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun. Today: the definitive way to wash dishes.
Dishwashing is an art form in my family -- the standards and stakes are high. Put a dish away with a drop of grease or a sticky bit and you'll hear about it, sometimes for years. I will confess that despite the following detailed guide, I'm considered the worst dishwasher in my family.
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Step 1: You want clean dishes? You need three simple things: heat, elbow grease, and organization. First, rinse off all dishes, pots, silverware with extremely hot water. The heat helps melt off any cooking fats, sweeping them down the drain. Set them to the side of the sink. If anything needs to soak, fill it with water and save it for last.
Step 2. Sprinkle a little dish soap (I like Palmolive, which cuts grease better than any other commercial brand I've found) in the sink and using hot water and a dish cloth, wipe out and rinse the sink. You won't get clean dishes if your sink is oily.
Step 3. Fill the sink with hot -- hot! -- soapy water. Scrub the dishes on all sides -- lots of people only scrub the tops, forgetting that the plate/dish/pot was set on top of another dirty plate/dish/pot. Use that elbow grease! Rinse with very hot water and set in a dish drainer in a position that will allow the water to stream off of it. If the water gets at all cloudy, empty the sink and start over. Dirty dishes will not get clean in dirty water.
Step 4. Dry the dishes with a thin cotton dish towel. Clean your dish drainer and dry it so it doesn't get funky (some dish drainers are worse than the dishes).
Step 5. Clean around the sink, wiping the faucet and back splash, then wash out the sink; rinse and firmly wring out the dish cloth and hang it in on a rod so it will dry. Never leave sponges or dishcloths in the sink. Who wants to have wring out a cold, wet dishcloth before using it -- gross!
Appendix: Sponges are generally a no-no; think of all the vile stuff that gets caught inside of them. Dishcloths can be washed (daily, if you live with my mom). Hand towels and dish towels should live separately. Never use gloves -- if you do, you can't feel the dishes and sense residual grease; also get in there, and embrace your work! If you want to scrub a pot, one of those scrub brushes is not going to cut it; Chore Boys are your friend.
Editors' Note: This was reprinted, verbatim, from a staff email on 6/18/2012.
Before starting Food52 with Merrill, I was a food writer and editor at the New York Times. I've written several books, including "Cooking for Mr. Latte" and "The Essential New York Times Cookbook." I played myself in "Julie & Julia" -- hope you didn't blink, or you may have missed the scene! I live in Brooklyn with my husband, Tad, and twins, Walker and Addison.