Here’s how to keep your kitchen clean—even after a marathon cooking session.

By Isadora Baum
Updated: January 16, 2019
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While cooking at home is great for your health and wellbeing, it can leave quite the mess in the kitchen. And there’s nothing worse than spending hours prepping a meal, only to see a mountain of dishes in the sink and your countertops covered in miscellaneous ingredients. But, here's the thing: Cooking shouldn’t feel like more of a chore than it needs to be.

Instead of ditching the pots and pans and dialing takeout, look to these tips from dietitians that’ll make cleanup time a breeze. That way, you can get to work in the kitchen without worrying about a huge mess at the end.

Load Your Dishwasher as You Go

“Put things straight in the dishwasher, rather than the sink. Nothing stresses me out more than a sink full of dirty dishes,” says NYC-based Registered Dietitian, Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD, author of The No-Brainer Nutrition Guide For Every Runner.

“Instead of throwing everything in the sink, only to have to load the dishwasher later, just put all the dirty dishes directly into the dishwasher,” she says. It’ll save time and avoid extra mess. “Make sure the dishwasher isn’t full when you start the cooking process, so you have room for everything you plan to put in there,” she adds.

Put Food Back in the Fridge ASAP

“Put ingredients away while food cooks. If you’re making something in the oven or on the stovetop, chances are that you’ll have some idle time while the food cooks,” says Rizzo. Rather than scrolling on your phone, take this time to clean up ingredients and messy dishes. Your kitchen will be clear by the time your meal is done!

Buy Pre-Cut Ingredients

Buy pre-cut ingredients for certain foods that can help you limit a mess. “If you’re short on time or don’t want to clean up, buy pre-cut ingredients that don’t require dirtying a knife or cutting board. They can go from container to cooking vessel without dirtying anything else,” says Rizzo.

“I like pre-cut squash, so you don’t have to make a mess peeling it. Or pre-cut broccoli or cauliflower is also really helpful, especially if you want to make cauliflower rice,” she adds.

Use Parchment Paper

“Use parchment paper for anything you put in the oven, like a baking sheet or casserole dish,” says Rizzo. It doesn’t require any cooking spray, and the food won’t stick. You also won’t have to clean the pan. Just remove the parchment paper and throw it away, and you’re set.


Want more cleaning tips? Try these:

Start With a Clean Kitchen

“Before I begin cooking I make sure that there are no dishes in the sink or dishwasher and start with a spic and span kitchen. This way I am only cleaning my mess, and not a piled-up mess,” says Toby Amidor, MS, RD award-winning nutrition expert and Wall Street Journal best selling cookbook author. Believe it or not, it makes a huge difference in terms of what’s left at the end.

Try the Progressive Clean Up Method

“If I am cooking several dishes, I clean my work space after every dish—or if I am cooking multiple dishes at once, I take a clean up break to clean my area, the dishes, and the garbage before I continue,” says Amidor. This saves you time at the end and gives more counter space.

Prep Your Ingredients Before Cooking

It helps to organize your space and have what you need out before getting down to business. “Before I begin any recipe, I take out all the ingredients I need to make sure I have everything, plus it also helps minimize last-minute scrambling through my cabinets where I tend to make a huge mess,” says Amidor.

And prep your ingredients beforehand. “In culinary terms that's called a mise en place, where you chop, slice, dice, and measure ingredients before you begin. This way you're not rummaging through your spice rack or trying to find the right tool and making a huge mess,” she adds.

Tackle Spills Immediately

“I'm a messy cook, but when a big spill happens I clean it up as soon as possible to avoid it getting caked into the floor or my countertop,” says Amidor. That way you don’t need to worry about it later, which can also make it harder to clean up if it’s sticky or has spread.

Soak Pots ASAP

“Anytime I finish cooking and know I will need to soak a pan or pot, I wait until it cools and then immediately soak it in warm soapy water. This helps minimize my scrubbing to get out grease or any other dirt,” says Amidor. You’ll save yourself some added minutes by doing it right away rather than letting the debris pile up.

Use a “Scraps” Bucket

“If you’re doing a lot of chopping, place all the food scraps into one bucket rather than making a mess on the cutting board or counter,” says Rizzo. This keeps unnecessary food items in one place, so they can be composted or trashed in one easy step later on.