When I spent some time with chef and cookbook author Barton Seaver for a kitchen tour, we chatted as I photographed his kitchen, and I peppered him with questions on cooking tips and secrets, particularly for anything we home cooks could learn from the professionals. His one big tip? Always have a bar mop towel nearby when you cook.
Bar mop towels are white, super-absorbent terry cloth hand towels. "Everybody's got one [in restaurants]. I bought them at Sam's Club, or Costco, or something. I got 25 or so for $10," Barton tells me. "The key to towels — and this is a restaurant thing — you get one per night," he says. "You learn to remember where you put it, and you learn to put it where you need it." Admittedly, this can get a little frustrating ("It's, like, why is my towel by the eucaplytus?!") but gradually it becomes a habit as you become more aware of yourself in the kitchen.
You can and should use your one towel for everything. "It's grabbing hot handles, it's pulling stuff from the oven, it's chopping a pear [and wiping off the scraps], it's wiping up oil spills [on the stove], it's polishing plates," Barton says. "But always the towel is somewhere where my left hand can grab it."
Yes, you will get stains on it. But if it's clean, it'll still last you a long time. Barton bought 25 towels two years ago, and still has 20 left. "In terms of just finding a place for everything — that idea of mise en place, that you can't succeed until everything is in its place — [the bar towel] has a place in the flow of the kitchen."
Do you keep a stack of bar mop towels in your kitchen?
(Images: Cambria Bold)