Tips from The Kitchn

8 Kitchen Cleaning Habits You Need to Start Right Now, According to Pro Chefs

published Sep 17, 2022
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
Credit: Lauren Kolyn

Keeping your kitchen clean can feel like a lot to juggle — but the chores become even more pressing the longer you actually spend time cooking in the kitchen. That’s why an organized space is essential when you’re preparing food. One way to make the whole task feel less stressful? Implement the right cleaning routines and habits to begin with.

Chefs often manage kitchens much bigger than most of ours, so they have their routine down to a T. We asked them to share their best cleaning habits — and here’s what they had to say. 

1. Plan ahead.

“The easiest mess to clean up is the one you never make,” says seafood chef Barton Seaver of Rouxbe, an online culinary school. Seaver’s favorite hack involves fish. For example, you can prevent lingering odors when you’re cutting seafood by adding lemon juice and salt to your hands, cutting board, and knife handles.

But you can think ahead in other ways, too: Fill your sink with soapy water so you can tackle dishes as you go, or add baking soda to your kitchen trash bin before you throw away stinky food.

Credit: Suzy Karadsheh

2. Use as few containers and utensils as possible.

Another way to be strategic: Plan to use as few containers and utensils as possible so you have less washing to do after you cook. Trevor Stockton, executive chef at The Restaurant at RT Lodge in Maryville, TN, suggests finding a few go-to one-pot meals that require very few utensils and cookware to put together. One-pan dinners are a great option, too!

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn

3. Soak your dirty towels in borax.

Lisa Marie White, pastry chef and culinary director at Biscuit Love in Nashville, TN, swears by soaking dirty kitchen towels and aprons in water and borax to restore that bright, clean appearance. Just fill the sink, wear gloves, dump borax in, and let them soak!

Credit: Amelia Lawrence/Kitchn

4. Clean up before starting your next task.

Keeping your kitchen clean isn’t just about making cooking easier — it’s also important for food safety. Chef Tariq, who specializes in Middle Eastern cuisine, recommends cleaning as you go to ensure minimizing the risk of cross-contamination. “It’s also a good idea to use a professional sanitizer to sanitize your workspace before beginning any new cooking task,” he says.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

5. Color code during food prep.

One of the best ways to ensure food safety is to keep foods separate from one another before and during the preparation process.

Chef Tariq suggests using color-coded cutting boards and food storage containers. For example, using a green board for cutting veggies and a blue board for cutting raw meats. “This way raw foods can be prepared and stored away from each other,” he says. 

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman

6. Keep your appliances clean.

You probably know to thoroughly sanitize your counters and dishes after cooking, but you shouldn’t neglect your appliances, whether it’s your toaster, blender, or Instant Pot.

Chef Tariq cleans his appliances after every use for safety, wiping down the outside with sanitizer and washing all of the removable parts with soap and water. You’ll ensure your appliance is ready for the next use, along with keeping it in good condition and giving it a longer life.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

7. Rely on your pantry.

Standard disinfectants and cleaners can come in handy, but in a pinch, you can use items you already have in your pantry. 

Chef Camilla Marcus, founder of West~Bourne, says pro chefs often use natural cleaning products like vinegar and vodka in their kitchens to avoid unnecessary chemicals and the unnecessary purchase of additional packaged products. Hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, and essential oils can also help cut cleaning product costs and promote sustainability!

Credit: Leah Flores | Stocksy

8. Deep clean on a regular schedule.

While cleaning up as you go can save time, Chef Tariq recommends planning to deep clean every nook and cranny on a regular schedule.

Depending on how much you use your kitchen, this could be anywhere from every night to once a week. “Making sure grime and grease are contained will ensure a much more pleasurable, not to mention clean, cooking experience,” he says.

What cleaning habits did we miss? Tell us in the comments below.