When I invite friends over for dinner, they always seem to make a beeline straight for the kitchen, which is the room most likely to be a chaotic mess. So even if I don't have time to make my hair presentable before the first knock at the door, I always take a little time to get the kitchen in good shape by following these 7 steps.
Before you start cooking:
Step 1. Empty the dishwasher and/or dish drainer.
This step is especially important if you have a dishwasher because it gives you a place to put the dirty dishes you generate as you cook. But even if you don't have a dishwasher, clearing the dish rack gives you space to put clean dishes — if you have time to quickly wash any after cooking — and automatically makes your kitchen look neater.
Step 2. Put away ingredients when you're done with them.
Even if you do nothing else, putting ingredients back in the refrigerator or pantry as you cook will make your kitchen look noticeably neater at the end of a big cooking session. It takes just a couple seconds, but makes a huge difference.
Throwing all your onion skins, carrot peels and other cooking scraps into a designated bowl or compost bucket makes it much easier to quickly clean up your prep space before guests arrive.
Step 4. Rinse any dishes or utensils you dirty and stack them neatly in the sink (or put them in the dishwasher).
Stacking even the dirtiest dishes in a neat pile will give the illusion of neatness and hiding them in the sink keeps them out of your guests' immediate sight. (It also helps keep counters clear.) If you have a dishwasher, fill it with dirty dishes while you cook.
Step 5. Rinse dirty pots and put them back on the stove with the lid on.
Rinsing dirty pots or filling them with warm water will make them easier to scrub later and slapping a lid on makes everything look a little neater. Unless you have a giant sink, placing them back on the stove is the best way to keep them out of the way and not cluttering the counter.
Step 6. Wipe down counters and the stove.
Even if the sink is full of dirty dishes and the stove is covered with crusty pots, having sparkling-clean countertops and a wiped-down stove will make your kitchen appear to be less of a disaster zone.
Step 7. If you have extra time, wash any dishes in the sink.
If you're really on top of things and find yourself with time to kill, wash as many dirty dishes as you can before guests arrive.
Do you have any other tips for quickly cleaning your kitchen before guests arrive?
(Image credits: Rachel Joy Photos)