Kitchen Culture

 

CHAPTER - 9

Kitchen Culture

Good kitchen habits … Cleaning up as you go … Restoring the kitchen after each use … Kitchen manners … Different sets of rags, cloths, and towels for different purposes … Hand-washing the dishes … Scraping and stacking … Disposing of oily and wet food remnants … Order in which dishes are washed … Removing burned-on material … Rinsing, draining … Hand-drying vs. air-drying … Odors adherent to dishes and pots … Using an automatic dishwasher … What cannot go in the machine … Cleaning kitchen appliances

The kitchen is the most complicated room in the house, with its powerful machines for cooling, heating, washing, grinding, and beating; its water supply and faucets, sinks and drains; its foodstuffs—hot, cold, wet, dry, sour, and sweet. These capacities make the kitchen feel alive and make it attractive to living things, not only ourselves but also various undesirable creatures, including furry, six-legged, odorous, and microscopic ones. To keep its systems operating at their best and to avoid sharing your kitchen with other forms of life, you have to tend it several times a day. If you don’t, it lets you know you have neglected it by malfunctioning in unpleasant ways. If you do, it hums, looks and smells inviting, and fulfills your contradictory wishes for things that are wet and dry, hot and cold, clean and messy. When you finally achieve a modus vivendi with your kitchen, you have been acculturated. You have learned a way of life.

Kitchen Habits

Some people may be strangers to the culture of the kitchen, unfamiliar with the rhythms of giving a kitchen daily care because they have had nothing to do with one until they find themselves in charge of one. For their sakes, I include the following basic information on living with and in a kitchen in a way that results in a center for the home that is fresh and sweet, orderly, safe, and functional.

Clean Up the Kitchen as You Cook. A good cook usually cleans and neatens while cooking, finding time to clean while food is stewing or simmering. He or she tries to wipe the counter down frequently and sanitize the chopping board between uses; clean up the peels or crumbs or spills; when possible, he or she washes, dries, and puts away (or puts in the dishwasher) dishes, pots, pans, and utensils that are finished with or puts them to soak so they will be easy to clean when the time comes. Not only does this make the final cleanup easier, the cooking itself is more pleasant. When you are cooking something complicated, there is nothing like being surrounded by towering heaps of food-encrusted bowls and pots to give you a panicky feeling. But, of course, a kitchen in use looks used. It is strewn with dishes that are out of place, sticky pots, heaps of chopped foods, piles of peels, dripping utensils, and other signs of healthy life.

Clean up kitchen spills, wherever they are, immediately—in the refrigerator or on the floor, stove, or countertop. Otherwise they are harder to clean up, can cause accidents, and can cause cross-contamination of foods. As part of this clean-as-you-go process, never leave foods out of the refrigerator for a minute longer than necessary. This will help reduce the chances both of spoilage and of accidental cross-contamination. See chapter 13, “Safe Food.” Before you sit down to a leisurely meal, put away all foods used in preparation so that nothing spoils. Then leave the rest of the last-minute mess until you have finished eating. You may wish to put away leftovers from dinner before enjoying dessert or coffee or tea so that you feel you can relax as long as you want.

After Each Use, Restore the Kitchen to Its Previous State of Order and Cleanliness. The after-meal cleanup consists of returning the kitchen to order. Your goal is to prevent spoilage and the growth of dangerous or unpleasant microorganisms, to prevent stale or rotten odors, to create clean-feeling and clean-looking surfaces throughout the kitchen, and to preserve neatness and orderliness. This means getting rid of all traces of cooking and eating. Do this soon after every meal or chaos will arrive with amazing speed. It is especially important that this be done before you go to sleep.

First, safely store away all foods.

Second, wash, dry, and put away all dishes, pots, pans, flatware, and utensils. See “Washing the Dishes,” below.

Third, do a general wipe-down. Sinks, drains, counters, table, and stovetops should be washed clear of any food or greasy film and debris, and should be wiped dry. Pot scratchers and similar cleaning materials should be thoroughly washed with hot, sudsy water until clear of food debris, then left to drain dry. Depending upon what you have been cooking, you may wish to soak these cleaning materials in a bleach solution for sanitizing. Be sure to sanitize chopping boards as necessary. (Chapter 13 explains how to sanitize in the kitchen.) Wipe fingerprints off doors and handles, and wipe chairs or stools clean, if necessary.

In the evening, take out the trash and clean up the trash can. Wash the trash can during weekly cleaning. Each night wipe it free of any spills or crumbs, dry it out, and line it with a fresh lining bag. Keeping trash as dry as possible is most important. Drain foods before putting them into the trash. If you are discarding spoiled or moldy food, secure it tightly in an opaque plastic bag and make sure that the trash can is tightly lidded. (This helps ensure that children and animals are not tempted to get into it.) Be aware of the recycling laws in your area. (See chapter 64, “Poisons, Hazardous Substances, and Proper Disposal of Hazardous Household Wastes.”) Cans and bottles should be rinsed out before recycling. Flatten cardboard cartons and crush boxes to compact them. Many districts require that you tie up old newspapers with string or twine for recycling.

Run hot water down the drain or pour baking soda or a bleach-and-water solution down the drain to freshen it up and forestall odors developing in the night. If cooking liquid from fish or cabbage or the liquid from a can of tuna or something else that produces strong odors has been poured down the drain, you must be sure to flush the drain out thoroughly or the kitchen will be malodorous in the morning. Put wiping cloths in the laundry (but first hang wet ones to dry), and hang out fresh towels and wiping materials. If you use a tablecloth, change it for the morning. The last step of the cleanup is sweeping the floor.

Finally, update your list of food or supplies that are low or exhausted, based on what you may just have used or noticed.

Good Kitchen Manners. Do not place food directly on any surface that you would not eat from. Generally speaking, foods should not be prepared directly on countertops or tabletops, as this creates hazardous opportunities for cross-contaminating foods with microorganisms. It is far safer to place food only on serving or cooking plates, dishes, pots, or pans, on chopping or preparing boards, or in drainers, colanders, and the like. Purses, briefcases, toys, and other objects that are often set on the floor or the ground should be kept off kitchen tables and counters. Pets, too, must be kept off tables and countertops.

The kitchen sink should be almost entirely reserved for chores connected with foods and things that touch food. This is because germs in the sink can easily contaminate foods. For the most part, the kitchen sink is not for washing your face or hands. So many homes lack a laundry tub these days that it is tempting to hand-wash laundry in the kitchen sink, but this is not a good idea either. If you have no laundry tub or sink, use a portable plastic tub and empty it into the toilet. My Italian grandmother was extremely rigid about this. You were permitted to do nothing in the kitchen sink but wash foods and dishes. No matter how many extra steps it cost you, you had to go up to the bathroom or down to the cellar to wash your hands. The dog’s dish had to be washed in the cellar, his water dish filled there. You could not empty a flower vase in the kitchen sink or even cut and arrange flowers there. My own procedure on washing my hands is to wash them outside the kitchen before I begin cooking. However, if my hands get floury, sticky, or wet with meat juices during the cooking, I wash them in the kitchen sink. Otherwise, I could hardly cook; I would be constantly running in and out of the kitchen. (I often wonder whether my grandmother managed to keep her hands cleaner when she cooked than I do.)

Different Kinds of Rags, Cloths, and Towels. Use separate cloths, rags, and towels for different kitchen purposes. Dishcloths are used for dishes, sinks, counters, and tabletops. Rags are used to wash the floors and clean up spills. Hand towels are used for drying people’s hands. Dish towels are used for drying dishes. In addition, it is convenient to set aside some cloths, towels, or rags within each category to be used for very dirty jobs of that sort. For example, you can have some dishcloths that you use for very dirty pot-washing jobs or for mopping up nasty countertop spills; you can permit these to acquire stains. Give them vigorous laundering, but take no special measures if stains do not come out. Save other cloths or rags for lighter, cleaner jobs. Fine linen towels are reserved for chores that will not stain them—drying and polishing glasses, crystal, china, and silver.

Keep plenty of cloths and rags on hand for all your purposes. This is a most important point. If you have plenty of cloths, towels, and rags, you need never hesitate when you are working, washing down the counter or doing the dishes, to replace one if it becomes soiled or comes into contact with something that should not be spread around.

You can hang your kitchen rags, cloths, and towels to dry on a rack kept for that purpose, or you can hang them to dry on the side of a laundry basket. Launder your dish towels separately from rags you use for dirty jobs, such as floor-washing.

After any kitchen cleanup, remove the soiled linens and cloths and replace them with fresh ones.

For drying your hands in the kitchen, when you are cutting up raw chicken or meat or doing other chores that might leave pathogens on your hands, use paper towels rather than run the risk of leaving dangerous microorganisms on a hand towel that someone else will use before preparing the salad greens.

Dishwashing

Having grown up washing dishes, I am surprised to find that so many people have not been initiated into the mysteries of this ancient and ritual-laden art. My husband, an orderly, logical person who actually enjoys washing dishes, hadn’t a clue about ordinary dishwashing procedures when I married him. He stacked dirty dishes and pots on both sides of the sink; he put washed ones down among the unwashed, rinsed ones among the unrinsed. He did not set dishes to drain; to this day he tends to let water pool in them. He still follows no particular order of washing; a glass might be washed after a skillet and before a plate, then another glass, then the paring knives, then a cup. He is not bothered by food particles that are hard to see or those that are on the outside of a bowl or pot. He tends to walk away from the job midway and return a couple of hours later, seeing no reason not to break it up. To me, this all seems something like heresy or insanity or the end of civilization. Traditional dishwashing rules are so ingrained in me that I could far more easily walk off and leave all the dishes unwashed than bring myself to wash glasses after skillets or mix washed and unwashed items on one side of the sink.

About Hand-Washing Dishes. No matter how high-tech and efficient your dishwasher may be, you need to know how to wash dishes by hand. When you’re cooking and have soiled bowls, pots, or utensils that you need to use again immediately, you can’t wait to run the machine; you must also know how to handwash all the things that cannot go into the machine. When the dishwasher is broken or too full, you have to hand-wash everything. And sometimes you want to hand-wash things because they seem too few to run the machine for and you do not want them to sit in the machine until it fills. If you do it properly, handwashing produces safe and bright dishes.

Instructions appear below for washing by hand all the soiled dishes, glasses, flatware, serving dishes, pots, pans, and utensils created by an entire dinner. Most of the time, however, you have only a few things to wash by hand and the rest go in the dishwasher. Follow the same basic routine in either case.

However you wash the dishes, there are many good reasons for you to get them washed quickly. First, it’s just easier and more pleasant. The sooner you do them, the easier they are to get clean and the sooner your kitchen looks inviting again. Food-laden dishes attract pests, get smelly, and grow bacteria, sometimes dangerous ones. Moreover, accidents happen more easily when the dishes are left half done; leftover food particles spill or drip where they shouldn’t; dishes are left where they can be knocked over and broken; things that are needed are not ready for use. Use good hot water and detergent for washing, rinse thoroughly, and promptly put away clean, dry dishes. This is orderly, efficient, attractive, and the most effective way to keep your dishes free of microbial contamination.

Keeping Organized During and After the Meal: Avoid Delaying or Interrupting Eating. Although you try to wash as many things as you can while you are cooking, there are usually last-minute items that cannot be washed because dinner awaits you. If these look hard to clean, quickly scrape them off or pour off liquids or oils. Then fill them with plain hot water or, if they are greasy, hot sudsy water, and put them in the sink or on the stove over very low heat (the liquid should not boil) so they can soak while you are eating. Otherwise, food remnants will harden on them and make your washing job much harder. Be careful not to burn yourself on a hot pot; remember that if you put water into a hot cooking pan it may sizzle and splatter on you.

Sometimes you can begin the dinner cleanup and dishwasher loading in the interval between the main meal and coffee or dessert. Put the dinner plates, salad plates, and glasses in the dishwasher while the coffee drips or while people are chatting as they wait for dessert. But do only as much as you can without sacrificing a comfortable meal schedule.

Clearing, Collecting, and Preparing. When the meal is completely finished, your first priority is to put away foodstuffs quickly. After that is done, clear the table, stove, and counters completely, then carefully wash down and dry their top surfaces. When you are finished, none of your cooking, foodpreparing, or eating surfaces should be damp, tacky, oily, or crumb-ridden (except, perhaps, the area where you have dirty dishes stacked for washing).

Scraping and Stacking. To ready things for washing, scrape food off all dishes, pots, pans, and utensils and rinse them, loading into the dishwasher everything that belongs there and stacking the rest on the counter to one side of the sink. (Some people like to set a draining mat under the dirty dishes.) Use a wooden or rubber spatula for scraping; for hard-to-remove food, use pot scratchers appropriate to the material you are cleaning—nylon for nonstick pans and china, and metal for cast iron—and work under running water. Pour fats and oils (and food waste if you have no garbage disposal) into a food-waste receptacle, not into the sink. Some people like to wipe oils out of pots and pans with paper towels.

Stack the dirty dishes, like with like, near the sink in the order in which they will be washed: glasses; silver or flatware; plates, bowls, cups and saucers; serving dishes; mixing dishes and bowls; and pots, pans, skillets, casseroles, and cooking utensils. Tradition calls for stacking on the right side of your sink (which is usually the dishwasher side), but left-handers, iconoclasts, and those with dishwashers placed elsewhere may choose the left.

Now do some preliminary muscle work on heavily soiled items and those you left soaking during the meal because they were covered with hard-to-remove or burned-on food. Get the major soil off using pot scratchers, brushes, abrasives, or whatever is effective and safe for the material. Then stack these, too, still damp and probably still oily or imperfectly clean, in their proper washing order beside your sink.

Setup: Rack, Mat, and Dishpan. On a clean countertop to the left of the sink, or opposite the side where you have set the dirty dishes, set a clean dish-draining rack on a draining mat, with the edge of the latter placed so that it drains into the sink. If you do not have a rack and mat, or you have only a few dishes, you can lay a clean, thick dish towel to catch drips. Or, if you have an empty and clean dishwasher, set the dishes to drain in there. But remember that if you use both racks, the top one will drip onto the bottom, so use just one rack or plan on less air-drying and more towel-drying.

Set up a place to rinse the dishes. Usually the other section of your double sink is best. If you do not have a double sink, place a rubber or plastic dishpan on one side of the sink and rinse on the other. (And by all means have a double or triple sink if you possibly can. It is among the most important of all kitchen conveniences.) If you do not use a dishpan, put in a protective rubber mat or line the sink with a towel to wash delicate glass and china.

DISPOSING OF OILY AND WET FOOD REMNANTS

Do not pour oils, fats, or liquids containing food remnants directly down the drain, and do not let crumbs or food particles wash down. (Small amounts of fats and oils can usually be sent through the garbage disposal with plenty of cold water. But check the manufacturer’s instructions.) If you are emptying food liquids into the sink, be sure to use a drain filter or strainer basket or pour them into your garbage disposal. Otherwise you will eventually get clogged drains. Do not expect to see blockage tomorrow. It may take a year or even several for a block to develop, but it is a memorable and expensive event when it finally happens. Moreover, you may develop odorous and germ-filled drains in the short term, and this can make a kitchen really unpleasant, not to mention less safe. To deodorize drains, see chapter 42, “Pipes and Drains.”

Those with garbage disposals, of course, will use the disposals for all their grindable wastes. People without garbage disposals can keep an old lidded can or container to receive food waste. Like most people in New York City, I do not have a garbage disposal (disposals were not legal here until recently), so I keep a small waste container lined with a leakproof plastic bag on the countertop beside the sink for fats, oils, scrapings, leftovers past their prime, dripping plastic from meat wrappings, paper towels used in food preparation and cleanup, and the contents of my sink drain basket. You’ll find that the paper part of the waste absorbs liquids. Those with disposals can use a container of this kind for the portion of their food waste that cannot go into the disposal. When your mini-waste collector is filled, fasten the bag tightly and put it in your garbage can. When you are at home, you might fill it and change the liner two or more times each day, depending on what sort of day it is. The receptacle must be washed, relined, and left clean, dry, and empty each evening as part of your final cleanup.

CLEANING OFF BURNED OR BAKED-ON MATERIAL

To get off hard-to-remove, burned, or baked-on food debris, first remove all that you can with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula. Then try scrubbing with an abrasive pad, pot scratcher, or brush that is safe for your pot or pan. Do not use a harsh abrasive material on any surfaces that would be scratched or damaged. On nonstick enameled ware, anodized aluminum, ceramic, and glassware, nylon or plastic scrubbing pads are required. Other pots and pans can usually take metal scouring pads and steel-wool soaped scouring pads or other soaped scouring pads. Coarse metal scouring pads, when you can use them, are what work best for hard crusts. When you use an abrasive scrubbing pad, you can sprinkle some scouring powder on materials that will not be harmed. (There are specially formulated ones for stainless steel, copper, and other metals.) Check whether the scouring powder contains bleach and whether the bleach is safe for the material. On anything not made of aluminum, a little baking soda may help; on aluminum, try cream of tartar.

When these methods fail, try soaking (or more soaking). After scraping off all the soil that you can, soak the article in plain hot water or a detergent-and-hot-water solution; you can leave really hard problems soaking overnight. Alternatively, fill the pot or pan with a solution of detergent and water, and let the pot simmer on the stove until the material loosens. For especially hard jobs, try soaking in a solution of automatic dishwashing detergent and water according to the directions on page 114 below.

Caution: Do not soak good knives or any utensils that are made, wholly or in part, of wood, bone, ivory, or cast iron.

Collect your dishcloths, sponges, pot scratchers, bottle brushes, and other preferred utensils. These should all be absolutely fresh and clean.

Fill your dishpan or sink no more than two-thirds full with water as hot as your hands can bear. This will be hotter than your bath water. It should be a bit uncomfortable to leave your hands in it for a sustained period. Wearing lined plastic gloves is better for your skin and enables you to use even hotter water. If the water begins to cool, run in a little more hot water.

Add dishwashing liquid at any time before you begin washing, enough to make the water feel slightly slippery and look moderately sudsy. You have enough if your dishes do not feel oily after washing and readily come clean. You have too much if they take forever to rinse. Pay attention to whether you have a “regular” or a concentrated “ultra” formula, or you can end up with gallons of suds.

Washing the Dishes. Begin with perfectly clean, hot, sudsy water. Wash the dishes that are least soiled first and progress to those that are most soiled, as this entails the fewest changes of water. As noted above, you usually begin with glass and silver or flatware, which need very hot water so that they dry quickly without streaks or spots. Real silver tarnishes, too, especially if you let salt or salty food stand on it, so you want to do it promptly.

Do not put oily or dirty items in with relatively clean ones such as water glasses. You will simply make the cleaner items dirtier and have to change the water sooner. Drain the dishpan or sink and get fresh water and detergent if the water becomes oily, if it is not sudsy enough, if it is too dirty with food waste, or if it is too cool.

To reduce the chances of breakage, wash like with like: glasses and plates are more likely to be broken by a heavy pot than by other glasses and plates. Do not overcrowd the dishpan or sink. When you are washing delicate or valuable pieces, do one at a time. (On washing fine china and crystal, see chapter 44, “China and Crystal.”) If two glasses get stuck one inside the other, do not try to force them apart or they may break and cut you. Fill the inside glass with cold water (to make it contract), and stand the outer one in warm water for a couple of moments (to make it expand). Then gently part them.

Scrub the immersed items with a clean brush, dishcloth, dishmop or whatever other utensil is suitable for the item, removing all food remnants and oils, until it is absolutely clean. Bottle brushes are indispensable for bottles and vases that you cannot easily get your hand or a dishcloth into. Use a circular motion and gentle pressure on easy-to-remove dirt. Hard-to-remove soil often responds to a brisk back-and-forth motion, applied with much force. When your cleaning tool or cloth is dirty, get a fresh one. I prefer a cotton dishcloth with a waffle weave or some similar thick-and-thin weave. Its bumpy surface provides gentle rubbing power; you can scrunch it up to fit in tight places; you can rinse it clean easily; and you can feel food bumps through its thin places with your fingers and use your fingers and nails through it to rub bumps off. You can’t do any of that with a brush or sponge. And a waffle weave is highly absorbent; it holds plenty of water. In the end, you have to use your hands to tell you if the dishes are clean; your eyes will not always find the residues or oiliness that your fingertips can.

As soon as your water feels oily or unclean or lacks suds, pour it out and run another tub or sinkful. Proceed in this fashion until all the items are washed.

Wash the dishes promptly; don’t let them sit for long periods in dishwater that is growing tepid. Don’t wash dishes in their soaking liquids. Pour this off and wash them in fresh hot, sudsy water.

To remove coffee and tea stains on china, plastic, and glassware, soak the items for five to ten minutes in a solution of one tablespoon regular chlorine bleach to a gallon of water (or slightly less than one teaspoon per quart). Then rinse and dry.

Note that those who insist that hand dishwashing is unsanitary would be right if it were done with lukewarm water filled with oils and debris and if dishes were left to sit for long periods, allowing microorganisms to breed in the wet, food-rich environment. But good hand dishwashers in fact always use only fresh hot, sudsy water for washing and rinse the dishes thoroughly with very hot water.

Rinsing. As you wash each item, set it in the other sink, or at the other side of the dishpan, or on a clean mat or towel if it is delicate, until you have a half dozen or so pieces collected. Now (and before the suds dry on the dishes) rinse them very thoroughly with running tap water as hot as you can safely use. This prevents dullness, streaks, spots, and a soapy taste in your food when you use the dishes later. If your tap water is not very hot, you might even first rinse them under the tap, then pour heated water (170-180°F would be good) over them. If you make it hotter, you have to start worrying about things cracking from the heat.

Hot rinse water works best not only to rinse off suds but to kill microorganisms, prevent spotting, and speed drying. A hot glass or plate will air-dry, if you drain it properly, almost immediately. A hot, dry dish will quickly show a drastically reduced bacterial count.

If water is not plentiful, you can rinse by repeated dipping in a tub of hot water. But you’ll have to change the water when it collects a little soap.

Draining. Set items properly in the draining rack so that water does not pool in them. If you are draining on a towel laid on the counter, set bowls, cups, and glasses so that they tilt slightly. You can do this by making a slight fold in the towel or by setting something relatively flat at its edge, such as a clean plastic cutting board. If you set them down flat, moisture is trapped under them; they do not dry, and they provide an environment in which bacteria can grow. If cups or bowls hold water in their bases while draining, be sure that you empty them out or pat the water out with a towel.

If your draining rack fills up, you might stop and empty out all the pieces that are dry before continuing with your washing.

Is Hand-Drying or Air-Drying More Sanitary? Some kitchen safety experts nowadays discourage the hand-drying of dishes, pointing out that air-drying is far more sanitary. In principle, this advice is good; in practice, more needs to be said. The main reason for the safety experts’ advice to let dishes air-dry is the widespread habit of drying them with towels that are not fresh. Studies have shown that used and damp towels become home to many bacteria—from hands, dishes, countertops, and so on. Using a bacteria-laden towel to wipe dry your dishes spreads bacteria all over them. You can towel-dry perfectly safely if you use clean towels. When you want to towel-dry, begin with a perfectly clean, fresh towel—not one that you used and hung to dry this morning or one that you dried your hands on—and change to a new towel when the one you are using becomes damp or soiled. If you are drying an enormous load of dishes, you might go through half a dozen or more, so stock plenty in your drawer. They are cheap, easy to launder, and long lasting. Use paper towels for cast iron if you are worried about rust marks on your towels. Use different towels for drying dishes, hands, and countertops and other surfaces. A towel should never be used on the floor.

How to Dry the Dishes by Hand. If you have drained dishes properly, you will need to do nothing more than pat out drops collected in bases—so the water does not fall on dry dishes—before turning them over and putting them away. Usually you’ll need to towel-polish spots off the glasses and silverware, just as your grandmother did, even if you do let them air-dry. Stainless steel and aluminum pots and pans may also look streaked or spotted unless you give them a brisk rubbing with a towel. You must be sure to hand-dry cast-iron pots and pans so that they do not rust. After I hand-dry my cast-iron pots, I set them over a hot burner for a few seconds to drive off the last drops of moisture. Be careful not to burn your hand when you remove them from the heat!

It is best to dry glass, crystal, and fine china with linen towels, which are lint-free and highly absorbent. Those called “glass towels” are especially good, but high-quality good cotton towels are also nonlinting.

Rub with a circular motion to remove excess moisture until things feel dry to the touch and show no streaks, spots, or lint. To dry the inside of a glass, wrap two or three fingers in a dish towel, insert them in the glass and rub all around. Or you can stuff some of the towel in and turn it all around. But beware of putting in your whole fist or cramming in the towel tightly; the glass might break. There is a characteristic curved-line scar that results from this mistake.

Putting the Dishes Away. Air-drying is definitely not easier and more sanitary if it means you are tempted to leave your dishes standing in the drying rack day in and day out, as if it were a convenient storage spot for fresh cups and glasses. Not only is this unsightly, but it exposes the washed things to splashes, dust, sneezes, breaks, and the unforeseen conduct of children and others. Put the dishes away as soon as they are dry. If you have used good hot rinse water, that will take only a couple of minutes. You need to be particularly careful to put dishes away promptly if your drying area is adjacent the stove and work areas of your kitchen, where splatters and spills can easily happen.

Air-drying will also fail to accomplish its purposes if you set dishes so they cannot drain properly or if they are designed in such a way that they cannot. Standing water is ideal for bacteria to grow in.

Finally. When you are finished washing the dishes, clean the dishpan with dishwashing liquid or a scouring powder. Then rinse it thoroughly, dry it, and put it away. Empty, wash, dry, and reline your food-waste receptacle, if you keep one. Next, wash or scour the sink and adjacent countertops with an appropriate cleaner; then rinse and wipe them dry. Be sure to empty the sink’s drain basket of any food particles that have gathered there, and clean it and the drain carefully. This is a prime site for germs to grow. You may, now and then, wish to sanitize the drain at this point or when you close up your house for the evening before bed. (See page 175.) Last, either wash out your sponges or dishcloths thoroughly, ending with a soak in a sanitizing solution as described in chapter 13, “Safe Food,” or put them, along with used towels, in the laundry when they are dry. (Let them dry somewhere in your laundry area. If you dry them in the kitchen, someone will be tempted to use them.) In my grandmothers’ day, people would have boiled, bleached, or sunned them to be sure they had been rendered sanitary.

Washing the Dishes in an Automatic Dishwasher. Follow the instructions in the instruction booklet. Learn the characteristics and functions of each cycle of your machine, and use the appropriate cycle to get good results and save energy when possible.

A few basic rules apply to most automatic dishwashers:

Let the water spray do its work. Look inside to learn where the water spray comes out. Turn the soiled sides of items toward the water, and do not set tall items where they will block the spray. Never let spoons and forks nest, as this prevents water from getting in between. Instead, insert them alternately turned up and turned down. Overloading will prevent the spray from reaching many of the dishes.

Do not load glasses or dishes so that they touch; be especially careful with thin glass and china and stemmed glasses. They might jostle one another and break or get scratched. Aluminum pieces can leave black or gray marks on dishes. (Use Bon Ami or another mild scouring powder to remove them.) Load articles in such a way that they drain and dry, with bottoms up.

Silver should not go in the dishwasher, but if you do put it in, place it so that it does not touch other metals, particularly stainless steel, as this may result in permanent marking or pitting of the silver. Load sharp things with their points down for safety. Don’t crowd the silver; water flow to each piece will be impeded, and it won’t come clean.

ADHERENT ODORS AND FLAVORS

• Some odors and flavors will cling to dishes and cutlery despite washing in hot, sudsy water and thorough rinsing, and, sometimes, even despite a rugged washing in the automatic dishwasher. Wooden utensils and bowls, nonstainless knives, cast-iron pots and skillets, aluminum pots and pans, and old or porous ceramics are especially vulnerable to such problems. But even ordinary china and flatware will take an odor sometimes. Chopped garlic and onion, fish of all types, and curries are among the foods most likely to cause the problem. Some helpful preventive and curative measures are as follows:

• Rinse dishes and utensils completely free of all food that may leave odors as quickly after using as possible. Be especially careful to rinse them thoroughly before putting them in the dishwasher or into a dishpan with other dishes.

• Rub lemon slices over cast-iron or rust-prone pieces that have taken an odor or flavor. Then immediately rinse, wash in hot, sudsy water, and dry thoroughly.

• Soak them (briefly, if they are rust-prone or wooden) in a solution of hot, sudsy water plus a little baking soda. Then rinse thoroughly.

• Soak them (briefly, if they are rust-prone or wooden) in a solution of hot, sudsy water plus a little chlorine bleach. Then rinse thoroughly.

KEEP APPLIANCE MANUALS

Be sure to read thoroughly and retain the instruction and use and care booklets for your automatic dishwasher and all other home appliances. Browse through them now and then to refresh your memory about the correct use of your appliances. Note cleaning, maintenance, and safety instructions, too.

Ordinarily, china, glass, stainless steel, plastic kitchenware, and—depending on how you feel about it—aluminum (see discussion below) are dishwasher-safe. But check manufacturer’s instructions.

Do not put in the dishwasher:

Delicate china, especially antiques, handpainted items, and pieces with gold or silver trim. Dulling and cracking are dangers; decorations and paint can chip, fade, or come right off. The heat, force of the water spray, strength of the detergent, and friction are all potential causes of damage.

Crystal. It scratches, dulls, and breaks.

Decorated glasses. The decorations wear off.

Milk glass. It may yellow.

Cast iron and tin. They rust.

Pewter. It may pit, tarnish, or discolor.

Silver. It will scratch, tarnish, or be marked or discolored; some pieces may undergo structural damage. Patinas or finishes may be ruined.

Gold. It discolors.

Sharp knives. Keen edges will dull (or can cut someone emptying the dishwasher).

Glued-on handles (hollow ones) will loosen. Wooden handles will eventually crack, warp, roughen, and be ruined.

Bone or ivory. Handles on utensils or flatware ware made of such materials will be harmed by the wetness, heat, and detergent inside the dishwasher.

Wood. It roughens, warps, and eventually cracks.

Certain plastics. Check manufacturer’s instructions for each kind. Disposable types melt.

Aluminum, unanodized, depending on your wishes. On the subject of aluminum the Soap and Detergent Association says: “Plain aluminum will darken when exposed to water, some foods, detergents, and alkaline cleaners such as ammonia or a heated solution of baking soda and water. The degree of discoloration depends partly on the length of contact and metal (some alloys are more resistant). Aluminum can be washed in the dishwasher if the discoloration or the necessity of additional cleaning with steel wool or an acid cleaner is not objectionable.”1

Some anodized aluminum pots and pans. Check manufacturer’s instructions. Anodized aluminum tends to discolor in the dishwasher. According to the Soap and Detergent Association, aluminum “with a colored or metallic copper or gold look, usually on the lids of pans and molds,” also has an anodized coating that is not dishwasher-safe.

Many other nonstick pots and pans. Check manufacturer’s instructions.

The upper level of the dishwasher is generally designed to receive glassware and other delicate items, and you are supposed to keep these out of the lower rack, but this isn’t always the case. When you see advice or instructions on the labels of dishes or plasticware about what should go in the upper rack, you are usually being told whether or not something should be kept farther from the heating element in your machine; in many (but not all) machines, placing heat-vulnerable items in the lower rack would put them too close to the heating element.

The modern rule is that you do not rinse your dishes before placing them in the dishwasher; you just scrape off bones and food and let the dishwasher do the rest. But you must remove baked-on debris or hardened foods before placing dishes in the dishwasher. Nonetheless, I still rinse most of my dishes before I put them in. One reason is to ensure that they will come out of the dishwasher completely clean and free of food odors. Another is that rinsing helps to reduce the premature aging that automatic dishwashers inflict on dishes, glassware, and eating utensils. The extra friction caused by food particles flying around in the dishwasher causes quicker dulling and scratching. Rinsing also results in fewer instances of soil getting baked on by the machine in its drying cycle.

Hard-to-remove soil should be scrubbed with a brush or appropriate scratcher, or softened by soaking and then scrubbed, before automatic dishwashing. Try soaking the item in hot water or, with really hard-to-clean pots and pans, fill them with water and let simmer on the stove; if the pans are greasy, use dishwashing soap and hot water. (Never, however, put dishes in the machine coated with regular hand-dishwashing soap. This can cause too many suds.) For very hard-to-remove soil, such as baked-on foods, manufacturers of automatic dishwasher detergent recommend soaking in a solution of one tablespoon of dishwasher detergent per quart of hot water. Do not do this with silver or other materials that might be injured. Make sure the dishwasher detergent is dissolved before putting things in, or you may get marking or pitting.

Use automatic dishwasher detergent and no other kind. It is specially formulated to make low suds, and it’s strong. It does not matter whether you use gel or granules or liquid—just so long as you use one designed for a dishwasher. The wrong kind of detergent can cause serious inconvenience. My neighbor, having just had a baby, hired someone inexperienced to come in to help with housecleaning. This helper put hand-dishwashing liquid in the machine and then had to spend more than an hour clearing out the enormous volume of suds that was produced. When my neighbor called the manufacturer for help, she was told that there was nothing that could be done but to keep bailing suds until they were gone.

Put the detergent into the dishwasher’s detergent dispenser, not on the dishes or flatware, where it may cause marks or pitting. Make sure the dispenser is dry or the detergent will cake.

If you are getting spots on your glassware, try using a rinse agent (solid or liquid). You are especially likely to benefit from one if you are using an energy-saving cycle or not using your drying cycle.

To remove coffee or tea stains on china, plastic, and glassware, mix one-eighth cup regular chlorine bleach with one cup water and pour the mixture into the bottom of the dishwasher before starting the wash cycle. But do not use bleach if you have loaded anything made of aluminum, nonstainless steel, or silver in the machine, as they may be discolored.

Use hot water. Even if your dishwasher heats its water, as many modern models do, it heats it hotter if water enters your machine already somewhat hot. Mine, for example, should be given water no cooler than 120°F in order for it to give its best performance. (Remember this if you rely on your dishwasher for sanitizing. See chapter 13, “Safe Food,” pages 176-77.) Hot water cleans bet rinses better, kills more germs, and aids drying without spots. The Soap and Detergent Association recommends that your dishwasher water reach at least 130°F for effective washing, and advises that if your dishwasher does not heat water, your water heater should be set at 140°F to ensure the correct washing temperature. (But see chapter 65, “Additional Safety Measures for Children,” page 753, on safe and desirable tapwater temperatures.)

While the dishwasher is running, complete all the steps listed under “Finally,” above, in the discussion of hand-washing dishes.

When the dishwasher has finished running, your dishes will stay safe and clean until you use or unload them. But it is best to unload them as soon as they are dry, so that no one accidentally starts mixing dirty dishes with the clean ones. Also, once you begin unloading, finish. A half-empty dishwasher is far more likely to be mistaken for one containing dirty dishes.

Sanitizing Dishes. Ordinary dishwashing, especially in the dishwasher, kills many germs. But you might want to take extra steps to kill any pathogens on dishes, pots, pans, or utensils if someone in the household is seriously ill or is immunocompromised either by disease or by medical treatment. See chapter 13, “Safe Food,” pages 172-74.

Cleaning Kitchen Appliances

Clean all your kitchen appliances in the manner prescribed in the instruction booklet supplied by the manufacturer. Unplug all electric appliances before cleaning them. Never immerse electrical appliances in water even when they are unplugged. Your care booklet will inform you of other safety concerns and of any potentially damaging cleaning materials and methods that you should avoid.

Refrigerators. Cleaning your refrigerator often and carefully is one of the most important jobs in your home. Because fresh foods are stored there, there is always the possibility that germs from spills, molds, old foods, or soil will contaminate the new ones. Moreover, refrigerator odors can easily develop. These are unpleasant in themselves, and they can taint the flavor of milk and other susceptible foods so much as to make them inedible. Refrigerator odors can also make your entire kitchen smell bad.

Every other day or so, check the contents of the refrigerator to be sure that everything is fresh. Throw away immediately anything that is growing spotty, moldy, smelly, slimy, or soft. Pick through bags of fruit or vegetables and make sure each piece is sound; one rotten piece will cause the rest to rot. Even if leftovers look and smell all right, throw them out if you know that they are more than two or three days old, or sooner if you are sure that no one will eat them. Check milk for freshness dates and cheeses for molds. Rotate foods so that the oldest are kept in front, to be used first.

Washing out the refrigerator is part of your weekly cleaning routine. As part of this cleaning, make a survey of your freezer and throw out anything that is past its prime. Note which items are coming to the end of their storage lives so that you can plan to use them in the near future. Try to time your weekly marketing to fall after your weekly cleaning so that you have a fresh, spacious place to receive the new food. This will save much waste. It will also help you shop better because you will be more aware of what you need and what you do not need.

How to Wash the Refrigerator. Try to wash the refrigerator before you market so that it is relatively empty and you do not have to cause fresh meats or other highly perishable foods to get warm.

First, remove as many drawers and shelves as possible, setting foods such as fruits and vegetables that are not highly perishable temporarily on the countertop. Crowd highly perishable foods together as best you can on one or two shelves that you leave in the refrigerator. Wash the drawers and shelves you have removed, using hot, sudsy water, rinse them well, and let them drain. Wipe one shelf dry and replace it in the refrigerator. Move the highly perishable items to this shelf, and now remove and wash the shelf they had been standing on.

Now, unplug the refrigerator. Do not alter the temperature control dial when cleaning. Manufacturers warn that you must unplug the refrigerator for washing. Alternatively, you can flip the circuit breaker that controls the refrigerator. In any event, you must be careful to avoid washing or splashing lights, switches, and control dials.

Before replacing the rest of the shelves and drawers, wash the interior walls and all other surfaces of the refrigerator. Work quickly. Use a pot or bucket of warm, sudsy water. (Beware of using hot water on cold glass shelves; they might crack.) Baking soda in the water softens it and adds some deodorizing power; use about four tablespoons per quart. Any mild detergent will do, including hand-dishwashing liquid, so long as it has no strong odor. You might use one of the perfume-free ones if you find that detergent odors cling in the refrigerator. Some manufacturers recommend that you use a baking-soda-and-water solution only, with no detergent, but I find that this does not work as well.

If you have mold in your refrigerator, add chlorine bleach to your detergent-and-water solution. Chlorine bleach will kill the mold and also act as an effective deodorizer. It helps clean too, but don’t use too much bleach or you will get bleach smells in your refrigerator. (On how much chlorine bleach to use, see chapter 30, “Peaceful Coexistence with Microbes,” page 433.)

Start from the top and go to the bottom to avoid dripping on cleaned areas. If food is stuck on, first try wetting the spot and letting it stand for a few minutes. Or try soaking a clean cloth in soapy water and setting the cloth to stand on the area. If the food will not come off after soaking, try a nylon-mesh pad such as those that are recommended for use with nonstick cookware. Be sure to get into cracks, corners, and seams. Mold and bits of rotting food that stick in these out-of-the-way places are often the cause of refrigerator odors. If necessary, dig at them with something that poses no danger of scratches or punctures (a chopstick or toothpick, for example) to remove hardened gunk; it either is mold or will provide a home for molds and other contaminants. Above all, your job is to keep mold out of the refrigerator.

Wash the gaskets too. If mold has grown on the gaskets, wash them with a bleach-and-detergent solution. (See directions on page 433 for making the solution.) Scrub stubborn spots with a nylon-mesh pad. When you have finished washing, wipe all surfaces thoroughly with fresh warm water to rinse them. Then wipe them dry.

Be sure to plug the refrigerator back in or turn the electricity back on when you are done.

How to Wash the Freezer. You need not wash the freezer every week, but clean it as soon as you notice that crumbs or spills are present. The technique is the same. Unplug the refrigerator or flip the circuit breaker. Work very quickly. Remove all the items and place them in the refrigerator or a large ice chest while you clean. Or, if you can, move them to one side of the freezer while you clean the other. Remove shelves for washing, and wash the sides and the bottom as you did when cleaning the refrigerator.

During your weekly cleaning, make a survey of your freezer’s contents. Throw out anything that is too old to eat. Ice cubes, too, get old and pick up freezer odors; discard them when they are no longer fresh.

How to Defrost a Manual-Defrost Refrigerator. Do not wait to defrost until you have glaciers in your freezer compartment. Waiting too long makes this job much harder and more time-consuming when you get to it and causes the refrigerator to run less efficiently in the meantime. When a modest amount of ice accumulates in the freezer, choose a day when both the freezer and your refrigerator are as close to empty as you can get them. To begin, either switch off the electricity to the refrigerator or unplug it. Remove everything from the freezer. (Set food in an ice chest, if you have one, or on the back porch if it is below freezing outdoors. Otherwise, consider waiting a couple of days until you use things up.) Set a pan of hot water in the freezer. When the water has cooled, check to see if the ice has softened enough to pull out with your hands. Repeat as necessary. Wear gloves to remove the ice if the cold bothers you too much, or use a rubber spatula to dislodge it. Use no sharp implements or ice picks! These can puncture the lining of the freezer, causing it to malfunction. Empty the drip tray under the freezer as soon as it has filled with water from the melted ice. When the freezer is ice-free, wash the freezer and the drip tray, rinse them, and dry them, exactly as you do the rest of the refrigerator. Replace the drip tray. Plug the refrigerator back in, or turn the electricity back on.

Other Important Refrigerator-Cleaning Jobs. Some refrigerators have drip pans at their bases or under their freezer compartments. If your refrigerator has a drip pan anywhere, it is most important that it be emptied and sanitized frequently—especially the drip pans at the bottom of the refrigerator. Molds and other microorganisms grow in drip pans. Every week, as part of your weekly cleaning routine, pull it out, empty it, wash it thoroughly with a hot, soapy solution, and rinse it. Then sanitize it with a bleach solution, letting it stand for a few minutes. (See page 175.) Drain it and let it air-dry briefly before putting it back in its place.

Your refrigerator’s condenser may need vacuuming every three to six months, or more often if there has been some dust-producing condition in your home, such as renovations or the presence of pets. See your manual on where to find the condenser and how to vacuum it. Twice my refrigerator has stopped cooling in the middle of a heat wave as a result of dust accumulating on the condenser.

Wash down the refrigerator’s exterior with a solution of mild detergent and water or baking soda and water. Vacuum the grille; occasionally remove it, vacuum off dust, and scrub it with a brush and soapy water. Wipe it dry and replace it.

Modern refrigerators often have special features such as icemakers and drink dispensers. These may require special care. For safe and sanitary use of these and other special features, consult your manual.

Garbage Disposals. Follow the manufacturer’s recommended procedures. Garbage-disposal units are self-cleaning for the most part. There are commercially prepared aids for degreasing, deodorizing, and cleaning the disposal—for example, a disk in paper that you drop in with running water while operating the disposal. Or grind small bones or fruit pits, using plenty of water, or ice in the disposal. Hard materials such as these help scour the mechanism. (But avoid putting in fibrous materials such as cornhusks, artichokes, and rhubarb; they can block or damage the disposal.) Or you can run lemon peels, or a solution of baking soda and water, through the disposal to clear odors. Always use plenty of running water.

DEODORIZING THE REFRIGERATOR

You can prevent refrigerator odors by regularly throwing out rotten and moldy foods; washing the refrigerator thoroughly every week with sudsy wash water to which you add some baking soda or a little chlorine bleach; putting odorous foods into airtight containers or wrapping them carefully with plastic wrap. If, despite your careful wrapping and tight containers, refrigerator odors from fresh stored foods arise, you can counter them by setting an open box of baking soda in the refrigerator. Or you can spread baking soda or activated charcoal on a shallow pan or tray to get more surface exposed to the air.

Stoves and Ovens. Consult your manufacturer’s instruction manual for care and cleaning instructions. Some stoves have metal trim that will be ruined by ammonia, cleaning substances that contain ammonia, and other strongly alkaline cleaning substances. (After thoroughly ruining the shiny trim on a brandnew stove, I learned this lesson well.) Most modern stove manufacturers also recommend against the use of any strong abrasives, gritty powdered cleansers, steel wool, or—in the case of self-cleaning ovens—commercial oven cleaners. Oven cleaners will harm many external stove surfaces as well as self-cleaning ovens, so beware.

Keep stoves clean while cooking by using moderate temperatures when frying or boiling. Hard boiling and frying cause splatters. Lay a splatter guard over skillets. Put a cookie sheet under pies and other dishes in the oven to catch drips that bubble over. Do not overfill oven dishes; use generous roasting pans. Once spills and splatters happen, clean them up as soon as possible, preferably while you are still cooking if you can do so safely; the heat of the stove will bake them on and make them harder to remove.

During your weekly cleaning, take the burner pans and burner grates off gas stoves. On electric stoves with removable heating elements, remove the heating elements; then remove the reflector bowls beneath them. Soak burner pans, grates, and reflector bowls (not the heating elements from electric stoves) in a solution of dishwashing liquid and hot water. Simply wipe off the electric stove heating elements, when they are cool, with a well-wrung cloth dampened with hot, soapy water. (These are usually not heavily soiled because their heat burns off spills while you are cooking.) Then wipe them dry.

While the burners and grates are soaking, wash the stovetop with a solution of mild detergent and hot water. To remove stubborn food particles from the stove exterior, first dampen them and let them stand until they soften, or leave a cloth soaked in hot, soapy water sitting on the stubborn soil. If they still will not come off and if your manual does not recommend against doing so, try using a nylon-mesh cleaning pad of the sort recommended for nonstick pans. You can try to do the same, or try a mild abrasive cleanser, with your burners and grates if soaking does not soften the food enough to allow removal. But even a mild cleanser may scratch them, in which case you must decide whether you most abhor scratches or stuck-on food.

Wash the oven door and accessible sides of the stove in the same fashion. However, if your stove has an electronic control panel, you should not use plastic scratching pads or abrasives of any sort on this, for it may scratch. If food gets stuck there that you cannot wipe off, dampen a cloth with hot, sudsy water and hold it against the hardened food until it softens.

During daily cleanups, it is usually sufficient to wipe the burners and baskets in place when you clean the stovetop. Be careful not to try to clean a hot burner.

Be sure to wipe the walls and countertops near the stove with hot, sudsy water, for food often splatters in these areas.

Some people still have old-fashioned or antique stoves with porcelain enamel finishes. When I was a child, we had one that my Italian grandmother had acquired new, which had long since been relegated to the cellar. There was a fine crazing (a network of fine cracks) over its surface, caused by a well-meaning guest who had tried to wipe the then-new stove, while it was still hot, with a cloth dipped in cold water. This was a tragedy that my grandmother mourned for thirty years or so. Be careful to avoid putting anything cold on the porcelain surface when it is hot or you, too, will get crazing. Let the porcelain cool first. In fact, avoid touching the porcelain with anything that is of a very different temperature. The other major caution to observe with these stoves is to clean up food spills, especially acidic ones, as soon as possible, or they will cause permanent stains. Avoid cleaning them with abrasives. Even gentle abrasives will scratch and wear away the surface.

How to Clean the Oven. Clean self-cleaning ovens in accordance with the instructions in your manual and in no other way. If you use regular oven cleaners inside such ovens, you may destroy their self-cleaning surfaces. It can take two to four hours for the self-cleaning process to finish, and it may produce a lot of heat in the meantime, so plan ahead. You will probably wish to be out of the kitchen. You must not try to clean grates, burners, or broiling pans in the self-cleaning oven. They, and it, are not made for this.

To clean non-self-cleaning ovens, buy a commercial oven cleaner and read the instructions and cautions carefully. These usually contain lye, although you can get noncaustic ones. Be careful to avoid breathing the fumes of lye-based oven cleaners. Consumer Reports’ How to Clean Practically Anything recommends that you wear goggles and a paper dust mask for this procedure. Use rubber gloves, wear long sleeves, and exercise every caution to avoid letting the cleaner touch your skin. Ventilate well! Do not try to do this on a day when you must keep the windows shut. You may breathe in fewer fumes if you do not use the aerosol type of cleaner.

Before you begin, spread newspaper on the floor under the oven door to collect drips. (The cleaner may ooze out the cracks around the door.) Wearing rubber gloves, apply the cleaner all over the oven in the manner directed on the label, including the inside of the door, and close the door tightly. Wait for the recommended period—usually two or three hours or overnight. Then, again wearing the rubber gloves, wipe off the cleaner with paper towels or disposable rags; dispose of these in a container you have at hand. Rinse the oven carefully, using a cloth dipped in plain warm water, until the cleaner is entirely removed. If there are any remaining spots of soil, they will probably come off now if you rub them with a nylon-mesh pad.

You can usually clean the broiling pan as you would any other soiled pan, and it is usually dishwasher-safe—if you can fit it in the dishwasher. I once moved into a new home and found in the non-self-cleaning stove a broiling pan that was black with years of neglect. In this situation, I coated the broiling pan with oven cleaner when I cleaned the oven, and it came brightly clean. Make sure to rinse the broiling pan extremely thoroughly afterward if you do the same.

How to Clean Cooktop Griddles. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions. A cooktop griddle is usually removable. You simply take it off when cool, wash it in hot, sudsy water, and rinse it. If there is burned-on dirt, soak the griddle or work on it with a nylon-mesh pad. Check the manufacturer’s instructions as to stronger abrasives.

Radiant-Element Stoves and Cooktops. Manufacturers prescribe specialized cleaning routines for these, and you must follow the manuals carefully. Manufacturers may also provide cleaning liquids.

Microwaves. Wash after each use that creates steam or food spatters or spills, and during each weekly kitchen cleaning. Use warm, sudsy water (any mild detergent will do); then rinse and dry. Never use commercial oven cleaners in a microwave oven! Be sure to wash top, bottom, and sides, window and door, inside and outside, because food can splatter. Also be sure to clean the door seals and seams. This ensures that food sticking there does not prevent the door from sealing properly when you close it. Wipe the oven dry. To get off food that is sticking, wet the area with your detergent solution and let it stand for a moment. If it still will not come off, use a nylon-mesh pad designed for nonstick cookware. Ordinarily, the exterior will wipe clean with a soft cloth dipped in a solution of water and mild detergent. Treat the control panel with great care; use no abrasives or strong cleaners.

Many microwaves and convection ovens come with accessory racks, pans, and other inserts made of a variety of materials. Some may be metals that can take the strongest types of abrasives; others may be more delicate. Your manual will give you advice on care.

Some models have a removable grease filter on the ceiling. To clean this, remove it according to instructions, soak and agitate it in hot, soapy water (no ammonia if it is aluminum), rinse it, and shake out the excess moisture. Then replace the filter.

Can Openers. Remember not to immerse the electrical element of an electric can opener! Unplug it before cleaning. Some models have a detachable cutting element. You can take it off and immerse it or put it in the dishwasher. Others you must wipe, in place, with a cloth soaked in warm, soapy water, after unplugging the machine. All can openers, electric and manual, should be washed with soap and water after each use, by the way, as they can be a source of cross-contamination of foods. Food from inside cans gets on the cutting edge. If left there, microorganisms may grow and contaminate the food from the next can you open. If you are having trouble getting food debris out of the crevices, try a clean toothbrush.

Toaster Ovens. Check your instruction manual before proceeding. Unplug your toaster and wipe it inside and out with a solution of mild detergent and hot water. Rinse with a cloth dipped in plain warm water, and wipe dry. Take out the shelves and, if the manufacturing instructions permit, soak them and scrub them with abrasives or scouring pads, or whatever else is necessary, to get off any burned-on food. During your weekly cleaning, do not forget the crumb tray. Take out the crumb tray, empty it of crumbs, and thoroughly wash it, rinse it, and wipe it dry. The instructions on cleaning my crumb tray would permit the use of any sort of abrasive to remove burned-on food.

Waffle Irons. Practically all waffle irons on the market are nonstick. But most waffle irons today come without a detachable grid. Unfortunately, waffle irons without detachable grids are so hard to clean that it is enough to make you give up making waffles.

Detachable grid type. To wash a waffle iron with a detachable nonstick grid, first unplug it and detach the grid. Put it to soak while you clean the base. Wipe the base inside and out with a cloth dipped in sudsy, warm water and wrung out. Then rinse it by wiping it with a cloth dipped in plain warm water and wrung out. Finally wipe it dry. By this time any baked-on batter on the grid, which you have left soaking, will have softened, and you can clean it as you would any nonstick surface. Use a nylon-mesh pad or a brush that is not too scratchy.

Nondetachable grid type. To wash a waffle iron that lacks a detachable grid, first unplug it. Clean the exterior and other areas in the same manner as described above for irons with removable grids. Scrub the grid with a brush dipped in sudsy, warm water and shaken free of excess water, making sure that you clean each tunnel of the grid. Be sure that your brush is not so stiff that it will scratch a nonstick surface.

If you have let the adherent waffle batter grow hard, take a cloth, soak it in hot, sudsy water, then wring it out just enough to stop it from dripping and lay it on the grid until the crumbs soften. Don’t let drips go in seams where they might get to the wiring. Once you have gotten off all the food particles, using a soft brush or well-wrung cloth—a thin old dishcloth is best—and a solution of water with not too much detergent (or you will have a miserable time rinsing it off), scrub the grids. The trick is to do this without dripping water into the electrical elements. When you finish this, rinse them thoroughly with a cloth dipped in warm, clear water (again being careful about dripping), or your next batch of waffles may taste soapy. Then wipe them dry. Run your finger down the grids and make sure you feel no trace of oiliness. If you do, again apply slightly soapy water, rinse, and dry.

Baked-Enamel Exteriors of Major Appliances. Some major appliances have baked-enamel exteriors; these scratch easily. This surface is commonly used on washers and dryers. Avoid all abrasives. A cloth dampened with a mild detergent-and-water solution is all you will need.

Miscellaneous Appliance Advice. Wash food processors, blenders, choppers, juicers, and similar machines immediately after using them. (A friend’s pasta-machine instructions, however, recommend you wait until the pasta dries so that it can easily be brushed off.) Read instruction books carefully for safety advice. Always be sure all appliances are unplugged first. Never immerse any portions that contain electrical wiring. Usually you can hand-wash or put in the dishwasher all the nonelectrical parts. As for the electrical parts—bases and so forth—you simply wipe the exterior with a cloth that has been dipped in warm, sudsy water, then well wrung. If these appliances stand on your countertop, put covers over them so they do not get dirty and dusty standing out. Or store them in cabinets or “appliance garages.” Usually such small appliances require little or no maintenance.






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