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5 Smart Kitchen Cleaning Tips from High-School Food-Science Teachers

published Aug 27, 2022
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August is winding down, and that means it’s back-to-school season. While not all of us will be heading back to the classroom, there’s always something new to learn when it comes to cleaning the kitchen.

Whether it’s handling everyday chores like removing burnt-on food residue from pans or cleaning the fridge, we’re all about learning smart new tips and tricks to work more efficiently.

That’s why we asked David Wood, culinary arts teacher, and Felicia Benavides, kitchen specialist — who both teach students at La Quinta High School in La Quinta, California — to share their kitchen cleaning wisdom. Here are five lessons that make the grade!

Lesson 1: Use your dishwasher to clean greasy stove grates.

Cleaning your gas stove grates may often get put on the back burner, but a good clean every once in a while will make your stovetop look good as new. An easy way to tackle this task is to clean them in your dishwasher.

Wood and Benavides add that you can also clean the filter parts of a kitchen hood fan in the dishwasher, too. “If your stove parts don’t come clean in the dishwasher, soak them overnight in the sink with dishwasher detergent, then remove the residue,” they advise. 

Credit: Jacqueline Marque

Lesson 2: For especially stubborn food residue, soak overnight with dishwasher detergent.

A 15-minute soak with hot water and Dawn dish soap — followed by scrubbing with a sponge — should do the trick for most pans crusted with food. But if you’ve actually burnt food onto a pan, Wood and Benavides advise soaking it in the sink overnight with powdered or liquid dishwasher detergent and water.

“That seems to dissolve the impossible burnt-on stuff,” they say. If you do this, they recommend wearing latex gloves to protect your hands. It can be a strong cleaning solution, but that’s why it works on the worst pans, they explain.

Credit: New Africa/Shutterstock

Lesson 3: Make a plan for cleaning and sanitizing your fridge.

Be honest, when was the last time you cleaned your refrigerator? “It helps if you try to schedule a time to do it regularly, as often as you feel is necessary,” Wood and Benavides say.

“The CDC recommends washing the inside [of the fridge] and any removable shelves and drawers with hot soapy water,” they explain. “And then using a bleach solution of one tablespoon bleach to one gallon of water to sanitize the interior and the parts before putting it back together.”

Credit: Amelia Lawrence/Kitchn

Lesson 4: When you’re cooking, clean as you go.

While you’re waiting for water to boil, a cake to bake, or a sauce to simmer, Wood and Benavides recommend taking that time to wash and dry dishes so that you aren’t left with a full sink full at the very end.

The last thing you want to do after making and enjoying a delicious meal or dessert is to spend half an hour or more scrubbing, rinsing, and drying!

Credit: Joe Lingeman

Lesson 5: Aluminum foil is your friend.

Aluminum foil is a useful tool for minimizing cleanup, whether placed on a baking sheet or under things to catch drips. “Place aluminum foil under a grill or electric burners on the stovetop,” say Wood and Benavides.

“This way, you can just replace the foil, and you don’t need to scrub burnt food from those areas.”

Do you remember a helpful tip you learned from one of your food science teachers? Tell us in the comments below.