11 of Our Favorite Cookbook Authors Share Their Best Cleaning Secrets

updated Apr 22, 2021
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Credit: Joe Lingeman/Apartment Therapy

We look to cookbook authors for all sorts of inspiration — they’re pros at flavor combinations, cooking techniques, and creative ways to make a stale dinner routine feel a little more exciting. A good cookbook will give us plenty of aha moments that make us better cooks.

And that got us thinking: What advice about cleaning did these culinary legends have to offer? As any home cook will tell you, cleanup is at least half the job of cooking. So it stands to reason that the geniuses behind cookbooks would have more than a few tricks up their sleeves for getting their kitchens sparkling clean. With that in mind, we asked a few of our favorite cookbook authors for their tried-and-true cleaning secrets — the best tips they learned while growing up, or the smartest hacks they picked up along the way.

Here’s what everyone had to say.

1. Use coffee grounds to clean plates.

“In my family, we are a big fan of fried eggs with runny yolk for a weekend breakfast. But it often leaves an unpleasant smell on the plates. My mom has a special trick using coffee. She would spread used coffee grounds on the plates and scrub them with water. The coffee can work wonders to remove the egg odor.” — Anas Atassi, author of Sumac: Recipes and Stories from Syria

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Apartment Therapy

2. Freshen the garbage disposal with citrus.

“My mother Steffi put lemon and grapefruit rinds down the disposal for an amazing grapefruit aroma when disposing.” — Adeena Sussman, author of Sababa: Fresh, Sunny Flavors from My Israeli Kitchen

3. Try Dr. Bronner’s for, well, nearly anything.

“I grew up on a commune and what I remember is everything was cleaned with Dr. Bronner’s. That included the pots, pans, laundry, and humans. I always go with peppermint, because that is etched in my memory as a kid. Not sure I even know the other scents.” — Zoë Francois, author of Zoë Bakes Cakes: Everything You Need to Know to Make Your Favorite Layers, Bundts, Loaves, and More

4. Boil water to remove stuck-on food.

“When we use our big pots to make things like rice, there can sometimes be a stubborn crust that forms at the bottom that can be tough to remove. Just covering the base with water, placing it on the stove top, and letting it boil and then simmer for a little while, softens the hard residue making it a lot easier to clean.” — Durkahanai Ayubi, author of Parwana: Recipes and Stories from an Afghan Kitchen

Credit: Faith Durand

5. Reseason a wok by deep-frying something.

“If someone has a wok that they haven’t cooked from in a while and it has some buildup on it, here’s what they can do: Scrub off the surface buildup, dry with a towel, heat on the stove over medium-high heat for a minute or so to fully dry, and then deep-fry something. The pores will love the oil.” — Hsiao-Ching Chou, author of Chinese Soul Food: A Friendly Guide for Homemade Dumplings, Stir-Fries, Soups, and More

6. Or give your wok a facial.

“Lots of people have neglected their carbon steel or cast iron woks and discover it’s rusty or sticky. I recommend my wok facial: It cleans up your iron wok and restores the luster.” — Grace Young, author of Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge, The Ultimate Guide to Mastery, with Authentic Recipes and Stories

Credit: Joe Lingeman

7. Harness the power of lemons, baking soda, and baking powder.

“Basically it all comes down to lemons and baking soda! Lemons are good for everything — just to freshen everything up — and then baking soda is totally brilliant for cleaning saucepans and anything else stainless steel. Baking powder also takes away smells inside the fridge: My mum dissolves a tablespoon in a glass of water and then uses that to wipe down the inside of the fridge.” — Tara Wigley, co-author of Falastin: A Cookbook

8. Make your own household cleaner.

“When I was a kid, nothing smelled like clean the way Pine-Sol did. My mother used it religiously. But many years later, my sister Rebekah — who has taught me so much about trying to live an eco-conscious life — showed me how easy it was to make my own household cleaner with water, distilled vinegar and essential oils, and I’ve been doing it ever since. I love not having to buy new bottles all the time, of course — but also how clean it gets my kitchen counters. I also use a vinegar solution in various strengths to clean windows, bathroom tile and toilet, floors, and more. For some people, I’m sure, vinegar just smells like … vinegar, but for me it smells like a clean house.”— Joe Yonan, author of Cool Beans: The Ultimate Guide to Cooking with the World’s Most Versatile Plant-Based Protein

Credit: Sarah Crowley

9. And definitely save your citrus peels.

“My mother taught me to remove tea and coffee stains out of teacups by rubbing them with salt — it’s almost like a little scrub and it works so well! But my favourite all-purpose cleaner is a citrus-infused vinegar. It’s a great no-waste recipe: I put any used orange or lemon peels in a glass carafe and top with white vinegar to infuse for a couple of weeks, then you can strain it, dilute it with water, and put in a spray bottle. It’s a great cleaner for the stove, the fridge, wooden chopping boards, for example. I also use it undiluted with baking soda to clean the taps and sink and it works better than any bought product for shine.” — Emiko Davies, author of Florentine, The True Cuisine of Florence

10. Use vinegar as a cleaner.

“Something that I always like to keep on hand for both cooking and cleaning is white vinegar. I use it along with baking soda to clean a variety of items in my kitchen. I periodically boil vinegar in my tea kettle to get rid of the calcium and lime buildup, and this leaves my kettle looking like new! For pots and pans with burnt food on them, I add some vinegar and heat it up, and just before it comes to a boil, I add some baking soda to it. This causes a reaction that breaks away all the food that is stuck to the surface. I love the amount of cleaning time that this saves me!” — Mely Martínez, author of The Mexican Home Kitchen: Traditional Home-Style Recipes That Capture the Flavors and Memories of Mexico

Credit: Sarah Crowley

11. Put things on turntables.

“I don’t love cleaning, but I love organizing, and when I organize, I end up cleaning. One of the most helpful things I use in this process are small turntables, which I use in so many places in my kitchen. I use them in my refrigerator for jams and pickles and all of that kind-of stuff, and I use them in my cupboards for oils, vinegars, and all the random things I put in jars like popcorn kernels and nuts. My wife and I keep our vitamins and our dogs’ medication on one on a kitchen shelf. They make it so easy for you to see everything, not lose anything in the back of the cupboard or shelf, and just make your kitchen really work for you. I also love when you get one (or 10!), you basically force yourself to take things out and wipe down your bottles before you can use it.” — Julia Turshen, author of Simply Julia: 110 Easy Recipes for Healthy Comfort Food