My Favorite Kitchen Tip, Ever

dirty dishes

This isn’t the most photogenic of posts, but one of the dirty secrets of writing cookbooks is the dishes. And this season, as the cavalcade of cooking tips comes tumbling forth in anticipation of all the holidays – and the cooking and baking that go along with them – this is the best tip I’ve ever been given.

Most of you probably know how many dishes to takes just to bake a simple cake: a stack bowls, a mixer and the whip, a gaggle of spatulas, and for my fellow Americans, a bunch of measuring cups and spoons. Now imagine if you made that same cake three times in a row, making a few other sets of dishes dirty. Then did it again.

In spite of that fact that I have a real dishwasher, I spend a few hours each and every day washing dishes. It’s funny because when friends call and ask me if I’m free for dinner, sometimes I have to decline because I have to work, and they don’t seem to understand that part of my “work” is washing and/or putting away dishes and pots and pans. It’s a cycle that’s part of my life and when I left the restaurant business, being able to hand off a bustub full of dirty dishes to someone else was something I missed a lot. (If you ask anyone who is the most important person in a restaurant kitchen, even more than the chef, it’s the dishwasher.)

tons of dishes to wash

The tip is one I learned from Marion Cunningham, who wrote a fair number of cookbooks herself, which I’ve adopted. Simply fill the sink with warm, soapy water, and as you finish with dishes, slide them into the water. Later, they’ll be easier to clean after a leisurely soaking, and you can usually just scrape or scrub them with a sponge and load ’em up in the dishwasher. Or finish washing by hand. And with any luck, you’ll get to accept more of those dinner invites than I do.

sinkful of dishes

Contrary to what some believe, dishwashers are not necessarily a luxury and using one requires less water than handwashing. There are various opinions about that, but for someone like me who works for themselves, it allows me to do other things rather than stand in front of the sink. So the whole issue for me, if you’ll excuse the pun, is a wash.


Now if someone could invent a device that prevents people from calling you the moment you start rolling out buttery pie pastry, or stick your hands in a batch of sticky cookie dough, that would be great.

All-Clad pans

A couple of other useful home cooking and baking tips I’ve culled from my experience:

Leave frequently used pots and pans on the stovetop. Putting them away and taking them out again, over and over, is a lot of wasted time and work.

chocolate cookies measuring cups and spoons

Keep graduated measuring cups and spoons in a bowl on the counter rather than in a drawer, where you have to fish them out every time you want to use them. And you don’t have to fuss with stacking them together all the time. Or switch to using a scale. And if you use a scale, be sure to always keep spare batteries on hand; there is nothing worse than your scale running out of power when you’re in the middle of a baking project.

-If you’re space-challenged, set up an ironing board to use as a temporary extra shelf.

ironing board

Never, ever run a cooking knife through the dishwasher. The high heat can ruin the blade, as can it being knocked around with other dishes and objects during the cycle. And there’s nothing less-enjoyable or dangerous than to try to cut something with a dull knife. If you don’t have them, the only three knives you truly need are a chef’s or Santoku knife, a paring knife, and a serrated bread knife.

Avoid swapping out ingredients. Recipe writers spend a long time developing recipes so they work with the ingredients presented. If you use other ingredients, your results won’t be the same and for all your hard work (and dishes you’ll be washing) you won’t be happy. Keep things on hand so you don’t run out, especially during the busy holiday season.

Buy in bulk, especially things like butter, sugar, flour, and chocolate. Even if you don’t have a lot of room, keeping the basics well-stocked in your pantry will save you a lot of time running back and forth to the grocery store. Butter stores well in the freezer and even though good chocolate is expensive, buying a 5- or 10-pound block reduces the price dramatically.

Use excellent chocolate for dipping, okay chocolate for baking. I love chocolate and when I eat it, I buy artisanal brands or the best I can get. For baking, when the chocolate is going to be melted, then mixed with flour, sugar, butter, and other ingredients, I use a medium-grade chocolate. It doesn’t matter which one I like, choose one that you like, and what’s available to you. Around the holidays some stores sell chocolate in bulk in anticipation of customers doing a lot o holiday baking. Buy it. (If stored in a cool, dark place, dark chocolate will keep for up to five years.)

Don’t toss that sponge. I’ve been using the same sponge since 1975 and it’s lived on three continents. (Just kidding.) But you can bleach a sponge and bring it back to life. (And yes, I am aware that bleach isn’t the most ecological item, but I live in France and if we don’t go through at least 2 liters a month, the locals start getting suspicious.) I put it in a bowl with a spoonful of bleach and add water so the sponge is saturated. Then let it sit. After about thirty minutes, I take it out carefully, and squeeze it clean under running water wearing my trusty rubber gloves.

-Speaking of which, wear rubber gloves for washing dishes. Your skin and hands will thank you after a few years of dishwashing. Invest in a good pair since the cheap ones break and tear easily, and need constant replacement.

Get an oven thermometer. Ovens are notoriously off temperature and I keep one in my oven all the time to make sure baking temperatures are on track.

Check before the indicated cooking time for doneness. Ovens may be the exact same temperature, but surprisingly, each can cook differently. Cooking times can also vary depending on the material of the baking pan or cooking dish, or perhaps if the item going into the oven is already warm or has been cooled down (as in custard mixes), so check for doneness before the time indicated. When I worked as a professional cook, I rarely used a timer. I found my instincts and senses could tell when something was done rather than slavishly counting seconds and minutes. Trust yourself in the kitchen. Chocolate cakes and other desserts are notoriously finicky, and usually benefit from underbaking rather than overbaking.

Keep an open garbage can handy, rather than one that you have to keep opening a door or lid to get to. Rachael Ray recommends keeping a bowl on the counter for the same purpose (and she even sells one), although I suspect she has more counter space than I do. And I am pretty sure you could get by with just a tall bowl that you already have on hand.

Buy extra spatulas, whisks, measuring cups and spoons, and an extra bowl and attachments for your stand mixer. Most of these things are inexpensive and last a long time. Having extras will reduce the amount of time you have to start and stop while in the middle of baking projects to clean up.

Read recipes through before making them. Although I’m working on doing this myself when making someone else’s recipe, when I write a recipe, I try to say in a recipe what size bowl to use, since it’s kind of annoying to put a few spoonfuls of something in a large bowl only to find out you’re adding it to something else.

Above all, stay calm and relax. There are some really serious problems out there. Having a cake come out goofy, burning a tray of cookies, dropping a bowl of custard mix, not getting everything to the table at the same time, isn’t the end of the world. When I’m having a bad day, or whatever, I’ll stop to think about how lucky I am to have electricity, heat in my apartment, a roof over my head, a comfortable bed to climb in to every night, friends and family to share good food with, and yes, even a sink to wash dishes in.

Happy Holidays!


Favorite Holiday Recipes

Pumpkin Ice Cream

Apricot, Almond and Lemon Bread


Spicy Glazed Nuts and Pretzel Mix

Belgian Hot Chocolate

Persimmon Bread


Vanilla Ice Cream

Glazed Citron

Chocolate-Cherry Fruitcake

Apple Spice Cake

Chocolate-Pecan Pie

Nonfat Gingersnaps

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Fruitcake Bars

chocolate cake non-fat gingersnaps
Wittamer's Belgian hot chocolate upside down cake
fruitcake bar chocolate pecan pie
pretzel nut mix cake


  • Ironing board scary, i can see it becoming another permanent fixture piled high with stuff I don’t know where to put! I am a very messy person and need help in organising my life! People think messy people like being messy, or are just lazy, but its not true, I struggle with it every day/

  • I can barely iron on my ironing board… so I don’t. But thank you for that last tip “above all, stay calm and relaxed” Regardless of the pile up of petty issues (the death by a 1,000 paper cuts school of life) I know in my heart that I’m the lucky one. But its always good to be reminded. With your gentle words I will now associate doing dishes with my good fortune… but probably not ironing.
    Happy Holidays

  • Absolutely agree with all your tips–especially the final one about being grateful everyday for those basic gifts of life! For cooking/baking, I love to buy E. Guittard 72% chocolate in an 11-lb. or 25-lb. box and store in the wine cellar–it comes in those little nickel-sized discs which save a LOT of chopping time. For timing of baked goods, I always set the timer for “half the time” — the first half, I turn the pans, and then each “half” after that, I check for doneness.

  • Great post. I use many of these tips already. My kitchen is small, with little counter space. Lets just say it is not the kitchen of my dreams. Thanks for the reminder to remember to be grateful for the good things in our life.

    I buy chocolate in bulk at the holidays as you suggest and also use what I consider to be a medium grade chocolate in baked goods when they will be mixed for cakes or cookies. Would love your insight on what constitutes a medium grade chocolate.

    Happy Thanksgiving…

  • It’s even easier to microwave your WET sponge for about 30 seconds to sanitize it. Just make sure it’s wet, or it will explode!

  • My number one kitchen tip is to invest in a set of super-cheap spoons and a tall mug (or other moderately tall container). Use them as dedicated tasting spoons and all-purpose kitchen tools.

    I always found myself running out of “good” spoons when making recipes, now I fly through these spoons like there’s no tomorrow. I bought a set of industrial/cafeteria spoons at a restaurant supply store (not the best quality, but good enough for this) and a cheap mug and was all set for maybe $10 USD tops.

  • Oh David! I can truly appreciate all your tips- especially the one about washing (sort of) as you go. Also, I agree 100% with you about investing in a kitchen scale. I use it every time I bake something. I look for recipes that give you measurements in both grams (much easier to measure out if you’re using scales) and volume- for example, 265 grams of flour and 2 teaspoons of vanilla- liquids are easier to measure out by volume. If the measurements are given in ounces I just convert them to grams. Using a scale has made all the difference in my baking.
    I love your blog and your books- you rock!

  • Happy Thanksgiving David!

  • You have broached a pet recipe peeve of mine: when a recipe gives time to make it, it never includes clean-up time. Washing the dishes, putting them away, getting the kitchen back in order — I consider all that part of making a dish, therefore part of the time it takes to make a recipe.

    I won’t name names, but a well-known blogger gave a recipe for a shrimp stir-fry that took only ten minutes. You were supposed to start with peeled shrimp (!), and of course, the magic kitchen fairy would clean up afterward, so that was’t part of the ten minutes. This blogger got a comment from me to the effect that her great recipe took me about an hour.

  • The ironing board is a great idea!
    And I’ll have to hone my psychic abilities so that I never call when you have your hands in dough. Either that or get myself a smart phone so I can text more easily. :)

  • Love this tips…..I’m still hesitating to use the dishwasher but then I found another use for it…to stack plates so I have more space in my kitchen cupboards for baking stuff! =)

  • There are three reasons I love this post even more than I normally would: One, all these tips are incredibly helpful. (My kitchen is space-challenged and I *never* would have thought of unfolding an ironing board!) Two, the cookies to the left of the measuring cups are my favorites, or I think they are– chocolate crinkle cookies? And lastly, you– a talented, successful, bonafide chef– have an oven as tiny as mine. Thanks for the validation.

    And Happy Thanksgiving!

  • David, love the books, the recipes, the blog and all the helpful tips. In addition to what you just said, I always start my cooking with a clean and empty dishwasher. When I am baking, chances are I will use a couple of times the same elements (mixer bowl, bain-marie, favorite whisk, etc.). What I do then is that, after finishing one recipe, I wash everything with soap and waster and rinse with almost scalding hot water (use the great gloves mentioned above!), then put what I just washed on the racks of the dishwasher to dry. It then takes less than 10 minutes to get everything washed, dried and ready to serve again. As a caterer and a cook, a dirty kitchen just incapacitates and freezes me and I can’t start finding my way around my pot and pans. Starting fresh just does it for me. I also have about 10 sets of tablespoons/teaspoons that I have collected over the years standing upright in an old-fashioned glass right next to the stove so they are always handy and ready for measuring.

  • David,
    I loved this post and ALL of them, but want to say thanks for all the good tips. Do you celebrate Thanksgiving in Paris? I know it’s an American holiday, but you are still an American.
    Happy Holidays to You!

  • I use the method Ms. Cunningham suggests, always — throughout the day, even when I’m not involved in a number of cooking project — but I put everything in a rectangular dishpan that sits in the sink, which I can remove when I need to use the whole sink for, e.g., washing big leafy vegetables. ;o)

  • In the UK most people used to have/still have washing up bowls which fit inside their sink. They come in square, rectangular and round sizes. Available in every ironmonger shop or department store. I find them very useful. They are easily cleaned by using bleach or detergent with hot water, and a quick scrub round with a plastic brush. You can always lift it out of the sink and place on draining board if you need the sink for something else, like rinsing vegetables. Not everyone has two sinks here, which seems to be more common in the US.

  • I employ the “clean as I go” strategy and greatly appreciate the results. My wife does not employ this approach and the kitchen looks like a junkyard covered in flour afterwards. That only makes clean-up harder because the counters are covered with stuff, so there’s nowhere to dry newly washed dishes. And the measuring spoon that was just dusted with flour and therefore could have been cleaned with a rinse of water is now buried under a pile of dishes. And the story goes on and on until cleaning becomes difficult, unproductive, daunting, etc.

    I will grant you that my approach is more suited for cooking, not baking, given that baking seems to require more measuring, more ingredients, and has less downtime between steps very often.

  • This is a fantastic post; I empathize with just about everything you’ve listed! Bleach in a food setting makes me nervous so I usually microwave a wet sponge for about 30 seconds or a minute to sanitize.

  • I would wash your dishes David.
    Anyplace. Anytime.

  • Once upon a time I had a kitchen with so much space and so many cupboards that I, with tons of kitchen things, could not fill them. Now I have a kitchen (“what kitchen–you don’t have a kitchen!” said a friend) in which I use a cutting board across the sink and an old tea cart for extra work space. The back stair steps are my pantry. But I’m still baking! I hadn’t thought of the ironing board. Thank you.

  • A correctly working worm bin doesn’t stink and will take care of all the kitchen scraps. The extra reward is worm castings to sidedress any growing flower or herb with.

    The smaller ones take up very little space.

  • When I was just a poor student in one room, I used my ironing board for everything: desk, coffee table, dining table, sewing centre (the spongy cover is perfect for pinning the pattern to the fabric), and extra counter space. I even did a bit of ironing on it. I stopped using sponges but now I might go back to them with so many suggestions for cleaning. Great tips and fascinating to see all the comments from everywhere.

  • Your blog is cool, i read it every month for long hours. I’ll get those gloves.

  • I love this post David, especially the last “tip”. Funny enough, at home our saying is: “It’s not the end of the world”, as a way to keep things in perspective and not sweat the little stuff. Happy Holidays to you too!

  • As a cook, I have never had a dishwasher in my house. I’m so jealous. I will be 40 soon enough, and I have told my French husband that if I don’t have a real oven, not a portable oven, and a dishwasher in our house by the that precious date, I will have considered my life a loss. As that me and my only other rurally situated American friend are the only people in France who don’t iron sheets. I don’t own an ironing board sufficient in size to deal with all the dishes. I have a lot of rags, all other suggestions are well taken and in practice. Love your posts as usual.

    • I didn’t know it was possible to live in France and not iron your sheets! ; )

      I send my to the cleaners to do because 1) They’re vintage linen and pretty thick, and pretty difficult to iron, and 2) I have no place to hang them to dry – and cleaning them professionally costs about €3 each, which in the grand scheme of things, isn’t all that much. (Although I suppose if I have a family of four and all those sheets…)

  • wonderful tips! i especially love the ironing board suggestion because my kitchen is literally a tiny alley in my apartment and i have no counter space! thank you!

  • I don’t have a dishwasher. The most important thing when washing dishes is my CD-player: I use to listen to audiobooks while doing the washing up, so it is not so boring.

  • Great tips David! I love cooking for my family and have lots of baking projects. I also accumulate a lot of dishes. If only we had one of those dishwashers at home just like the restaurant and a load of dishes only takes 1 minute to wash…

    I was wondering if you plan on doing a post of “behind the scenes of a blogger.” What your typical day is like. I’m fascinated. Who eats the test cakes you made three times? lol

    Keep up the great work.

  • Keep graduated measuring cups and spoons in a bowl on the counter rather than in a drawer, where you have to fish them out every time you want to use them.

    Yes! One of my favourite discoveries is a magnetic measuring spoon (teaspoon at one end, tablspoon at the other) I keep on the fridge. For fancy stuff that needs 1/4 teaspoons etc I get my full set out of the cupboard, but for daily use this is incredibly convenient (and doesn’t take up counter space). Mine is by JosephJoseph.

  • I just want to say “Thanks for the tips”…Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

  • Excellent post! My housemate introduced me to the habit of soaking dishes in warm soapy water, makes life easier! Also I made the mistake of using high quality raw chocolate in a grain-free cake, then I used a decent organic 70% chocolate with the same recipe and the latter worked much better (and was much cheaper!).

  • Thanks for making my day David! I literally just sat down from making three pumpkin pies (and the stream of associated dishes). It’s good to see that someone else is using their ironing board and having to remind themselves it’s not the end of the world when the pastry doesn’t come out flaky enough! -an American in Scotland

  • Really really helpful tips thankyou. But I could never leave the pots on the stove or the measuring spoons out. I’m too freakishly neat. And keeping dark chocolate for up to 5 years? I can barely sustain one day before someone finds my stash!

  • “(I always thought people had kids so they’d have someone to do the dishes for them!)”

    I was shocked when a friend – who really couldn’t afford it – ordered a new dishwasher because hers had broken. We are good enough friends that I asked, “Can’t your kids do the dishes?”

    She told me it would take too much time to teach her 7th and 5th graders how to do it.

    That’s when I shut up and decided not to mention that I was doing dishes, babysitting and cleaning the bathroom by 7th grade. Of course, I was raised by an evil stepmother.

    • One can get a dishwasher for not a lot of money and most use a lot less water than if you were washing the dishes by hand. They do use some electricity, but it is a product of convenience…like a clothes washer, and I’m not sure too many people would do their laundry in the bathtub just to save a few bucks!

  • My mom taught me to start every recipe with a sink of soapy water, and any time you have to wait on the recipe, wash up what is dirty so far and put away everything you’ve finished with so far. She taught me, us, this as part of teaching us to cook, but the principle applies to every task. Clean as you go, don’t leave cleaning as a seperate task to be done after. Of course there will be final cleaning, but that’s not the same as facing the entire task!

    After 20 years of marriage my husband still hasn’t taken this lesson in. When he takes a turn at cooking,I go to the kitchen after to take my turn at cleaning and there sits the bag of carrots, from which he took two, and a pile of peels, and the cutting board and knife, multiply that times each ingredient and add it to my leaving him practically nothing to do except wash the actual serving dish and dinner plates and it equals, well, 20 years of marriage.

  • What a useful post – I’m keeping this one handy. Your comment about always being rung in the middle of something reminds me of my Granny teaching me to bake bread and her ability to knead dough one-handed to keep one hand free to answer the phone as “one should always be prepared”.

  • Can I add a tip to your tip? I also bleach my sponges – but I fill my white sink with a few inches of water and bleach, and let the sponges soak in the sink. It’s a 2fer – clean sink and clean sponge.

    Before I empty out the bleach water, I take a fork and use it to swish the sponge around the sides of the sink as well (a 3fer?).

    And I’m pretty sure 30 minutes is way longer than you need to kill those germs. I only soak for a few minutes.


    • For some reason, so matter how careful I am, a spot of bleach seems to go astray. So I am very (very) careful when I use it. Sloshing it around the sink is indeed a great way to sanitize things..although I’d make sure I was wearing something white first! : )

  • Good tips, David. Happy Thanksgiving! I’ll try your chocolate pecan pie recipe for dessert this year. Thanks

  • I must add that when handwashing, always start with the big items and work your way to the small items. Utensils last. Keep a soapy mug of water and throw the utensils in it as you dirty them.

    The most beautiful French chef in Montreal told me this, as I scrubbed his browned (never burnt) pans.

  • Love all of it–except maybe the sponges. I’d rather change dishcloths whenever I think they’re disgusting or once a day, whichever comes sooner.

    Julia Child was once asked what she would recommend to make people better cooks. She said her best advice would be to read the whole recipe before starting to cook a dish. I cannot tell you how many times I have wished I had followed that advice.

    The problem with relying on the kids to do dishes–and I did at one time–is that just when they are trained and useful they move out. Alas. As I was stowing groceries for Thanksgiving, I was remembering fondly when my youngest used to carry in groceries and put them all away.

  • At first I just liked seeing your dirty dishes! But the tips are genius! I am actually looking forward to bleaching my kitchen sponge!

  • I do the same, and like to call it the Wash As You Go system, aka The Virgo Kitchen That Just Plain Makes Good Sense. Friends are shocked and amazed when we make and eat and enjoy a wonderful meal and there aren’t dishes and junk stacked to the rafters at the end.

    • I do like the wash the big stuff and anything else before sitting down to eat, but during the cooking/baking part, I’ve learned it’s harder to stop and clean all the time – so I prefer to just let things pile up, then have a go at them all at once.

  • Thanks for sharing! I feel wiser now.

  • David, Love these tips. Thank you. I use the microwave for the sponges and bleach for all the surfaces.
    What are you doing for Thanksgiving in Paris? Hope you enjoy.

  • This is just the best. After spending my entire working life in restaurants and catering…pots and pans are just….well a total drag. Thanks for the uplifiting and positive advice.

  • Want to make your dishwasher more efficient? Here’s a tip from a washer repairman: if your washer is connected to the same hot water source as your kitchen faucet, run the hot water fuacet until the water is at maximum temperature, turn the washer on, and let the hot water continue to run until the washer starts to fill with water, That way, your machine will run on hot, instead of cold or tepid water for the important pre-rinse stage of its cycle.

  • I used the ironing board tip tonight, after baking some cupcakes and needing a place to put the cooling racks. Why did I never think of this before?! It was also the perfect height for when it was time to pipe on the frosting.

  • Excellent advice. Mom taught me to get out all ingredients and measuring devices etc. out before assembly; put away things as you use them. It is easier to organize and clean up goes quickly. .It also helps avoid those times when you start baking/cooking something and realizing you don’t have a key ingredient.
    Clorox CleanUp does a great job helping to sanitize counters and soak sponges after use. I’m too OCD to leave pots or measuring tools out on the counter. The knife block by the stove is testing my neatness limits.

  • Thank you for the tips.
    I am making your Apple-Frangipane Galette for Thanksgiving.

  • Great advice, David, especially the last tip to stay calm and be thankful for what you do have. It took a near life shattering experience for that bit of advice to give me some perspective about what is really important. Lesson learned.
    I’m not always so organized or as neat as I could/should be and sometimes when I get inspired to make something, I just dive right in..dishes in the sink and worse. But it eventually gets cleaned up and I swear that I’ll do better..and I do for a while, until the next inspiration sends me zooming into the kitchen without a second look. Drives my husband crazy :)

  • Great tips. We’re in the midst of a kitchen renovation (which I pray will indeed be finished before I cook turkey for 12 on Saturday), and I’ve been without a kitchen sink (but with a dishwasher) for 4 days and counting. I think I’ll be able to really appreciate being able to do dishes once the installation is complete!
    I often run my sponges through the dishwasher (my German mother-in-law uses the washing machine), but the bleach idea is appealing as well.

  • Oh my goodness. I cater from home and I think you have just changed my life with the tip for dishes.

  • “The only three knives you truly need are a chef’s or Santoku knife, a paring knife & a serrated bread knife.” Ditto chef!

    Another tip I can offer is always to separate greasy dishes from those you measure things like flours, sugars, syrups, fruits etc. I also clean as I go to keep my zen, and my baked goods in similar mood.

  • I’ve personally never had trouble cleaning up after cooking/baking. I find it therapeutic sometimes. My problem lies with cleaning up the rest of the house. I often get intimidated by all the time, effort, and supplies it takes to keep the rest of the house clean.

  • A very relevant post at the craziest time of the year, when tempers seem to sizzle and fray! Plenty of useful tips to help the kitchen run more smoothly. Love the last para. Fits very well with my latest blog on the Vinnies Christmas Appeal.

  • Yes, clean as you go along… ala Jacques Pepin’

  • Hi David,

    Thank you for all these tips. As a “beginner” baker these are definitely useful! A lot of these things I already do thankfully, I’m such a neatfreak but the bleaching the sponge is a new one! Can’t wait to try it out!

  • I gave myself a 9 out of 10 — the only one of your tips that I don’t use is the ironing board trick. But then I used to be a professional cook…..

    You’re so right about the dishwasher being the most important crew member. But what I never understood is when the dishwasher was sick, the whole staff used to fight about who was going to wash the dishes! (I was the boss, so I usually won.)

  • Hi Davic,
    OK, I’ve always known we were somehow related!!!! Or, “great minds think alike”…take your pick. The article was fantastic, it was as if my very words were being used! Marion
    and I must of been on the same page as well.

    OH how I miss my shop dishwash person, could not have functioned without them…until I had to close my business….then the same system, giant sink full of boiling water to prep for dishwasher. On a dishwasher note, I also use mine to hang drying dishes on when not having enough to run the machine.

    I have a huge IKEA stainless steel rolling rack in my small kitchen. On this rack I have just about everything I need with hooks holding all the cups and other weird implements of the baking industry. On the bottom shelf I keep yeast, sugar, flour, and other baking ingredients.

    Your advice to the novice cook is FANTASTIC, keep it up and hopefully the world will go
    back to home made cookies instead of the nintendo or whatever.

  • Thanks for your tips. Happy Thanksgiving David!

  • Love these tips. Especially the one about buying extra whisks, measuring spoons etc. My best ‘dishes’ tip comes from my dad, a great home cook. Growing up, my parents did not have a dishwasher (me and my brother did the dishes), but no matter what my parents cooked, there were never that many dishes…that is because whenever there was a bit of a window when cooking (just put stuff in the oven, stuff bubbling on the stove, waiting for dough to rise etc.), my dad would take that minute or two to do a dish or two. His kitchen was always organized, no matter how many dishes and courses he was making and there was never a pile of dishes.
    I have a dishwasher now, and do use it occasionally, but no matter how big a dinner party I throw, my kitchen is always organized..thanks to my dad’s tip.

  • In culinary school we were taught to “CLEAN AS YOU GO”. This is a practice that I use to this day, whether testing recipes for a book, cooking for my husband and myself or cooking for a crowd. That way when it is time yo sit down to eat, the kitchen is clean! Love all your other tips, David. Happy Holidays

  • I don’t have a dishwasher, and like you, I spend hours washing dishes. Small price to pay for wonderful eats!

  • Thanks David, brilliant post as usual! Last night, just as I was weighing out the lard for my Thanksgiving pie crust, the batteries on my scale went out and I didn’t have spares. That’s the last time that will happen!

  • Probably not everyone is into making an ironing board cover. I made one with a Tropical print. Makes ironing much nicer, except when I have to iron a black and white check! It would also fit well into my kitchen. I keep measuring sets on both sides of my kitchen (I am truly lucky to have a newly remodeled, old house kitchen) and Marian Cunningham is my hero. I have cooked and baked my way through her recipes and advice for years. I have kept all the S.F. Chronicle articles she wrote, tucked into my copy of “The Supper Book”, a charming and very useful book.

    Thanks for your column, Happy Thanksgiving, let us know how it was in Paris.

  • Thank you for these tips. David. I already do the dishpan with warm, sudsy water as I go, but when baking, a lot of things get dirty fast!! I need to gety another set of measuring spoons, and would love to find a magnetic strip that I can place on my kitchen wall, where I can hang all those measuring cups/spoons. Any suggestions?

    Thanks again and Happy Thanksgiving!

  • i am totally impressed about your sponge story. and i love love love the eco friendly tips scattered on your blog (like the fact that plastic wrap can be reused)!

    two more ideas:
    it is more comfortable to work with a low garbage bowl or with a plate while peeling fruits.

    there are kitchen scales working with solar energy. you still need little batteries but they will last forever (at least in germany these scales are very common)

    best regards from berlin!

  • Great tips! My favorite is “Avoid swapping out ingredients”… the very first time I made your Mexican chocolate ice cream, it was the best thing thing ever! The second time I made it, I was out of chili powder and so I used cayenne. It was like frozen lava and sadly I threw it out.

  • Excellent post, David – loved the last point – can I be so bold as to say I’m
    grateful for you being on the planet- your generosity as a writer and chef and your wit.
    I always cook/bake with something on the counter to throw my trash in and ALWAYS read a recipe through before starting.
    Thank you for mentioning Marion Cunnigham – I treasure her Breakfast Book. I never hear her mentioned anywhere and so I thank you for the glimpse into her life.
    I’m a late bloomer to the food blog world -thank you for the unbelievable article you wrote some time back as a summary to the boot camp. I began my baby blog 2 weeks ago -hats off to David for being one of my mentors… unawares.

  • You’re awesome David. Thanks for the wonderful post and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

  • Thank you SO MUCH for the BEST kitchen tip ever! I tried this today while baking for the big day tomorrow and it worked just great. Happy Thanksgiving and I still love your food blog. You’re the best! All of your kitchen hints are so good.

  • David, thanks for the great post! I noticed you have one of the nice older cookie scoops that I can’t find anymore. (The one with the spring in the top) I wanted to purchase a spare recently, and they just don’t make ’em like they used to. So, if you can still find that particular model, -buy more now! Also, I’ve almost purchased an extra stainless mixing bowl for my mixer a couple of times now, and they’re so expensive ($45) that I’ve chickened out both times. Thank you for the great tips, and have a happy Thanksgiving!

  • David I am glad I am not the only one to put spatulas and whisks in the dishwasher–my mother thinks putting them in the washer is a heinous crime.

    • Really? I always put those things in the dishwasher. All my spatulas are heat-proof silicone and my whisks are professional-grade (because the cheap ones don’t last..)

  • I’ve always had to deal with tiny Manhattan kitchens, so I’m sure we share a lot of space saving tricks. I have frosted cakes on ironing boards (and that’s a half-size ironing board) and use pretty much every piece of furniture that’s above dog reach to cool cookie sheets. I’ve even worked on the floor (no, the dough, batter or whatever isn’t on the floor, just the bowls and cookie sheets). My number one baking achievement, in terms of limited space and equipment, though, is making 7 batches of buttercream with a hand mixer for a four tier wedding cake. And I’d rather not do it again. Good heavens, I hope I get a stand mixer someday…

  • No room for a dishwasher here.
    We had one when I was growing up, but I don’t think that it saved much, if any, time.
    If dishes are rinsed well, and pots and pans that need soaking are soaked well,
    I can’t see any advantage to having a dishwasher.
    I remember loading and unloading was no less a pain than washing by hand.
    As far as the water use goes, we’re billed in cubic yard increments….if hand washing uses a little more water…it’s not noticeable.


  • It doesn’t matter that you’re someone famous like David Lebovitz or a simple home baker like myself …. Once the baking goes on, our sink-full of dirty dishes and cluttered counters look exactly the same! All for the enjoyment of making something special!
    Thank you for always making my night time reading so delightful!

  • Happy Thanksgiving David. Are you having a feast in Paris with friends this year? Thank you for your many recipes, food tips, glimpse into French life and just plain fun of hanging out with you online….

    • In Paris, Thanksgiving is often celebrated on Friday because if it’s Thursday, people have to work the next day. So often we celebrate the day after!

  • I didn’t have time to read all the comments through, so maybe someone already mentioned that, but regarding the sponge – you can keep it clean and hygienic by throwing it into the dishwasher together with the dishes. And avoid the bleach :)

  • YES! Huzzah for dishwashers, human or otherwise. I worked for a cooperative restaurant several years back and I recall long discussions about paying the dishwasher as much as the chefs and other staff. As it was a post 60‘s social experiment, I was for a flat payroll, and no–I was not the dishwasher. It’s amazing what motivated people can do in a kitchen when they feel ownership.

    BTW, I generally agree with your every pronouncement, but sponges? I put them in the same category as Petri dishes. Give me a towel, any day.

  • Hi David,
    I have just come back from a delicious lunch at Café du Grütli, Heike and Willi send their love, they are both charming. I will soon go back for a fondue. I finished my afternoon visiting Blondel…do I need to say more…
    I love reading your blog and every week I am looking forward to receiving a new one!

  • I often suffer from lack of space in my apartment just outside Boston-the ironing board is something I’ve taken away from your post-thank you so much! I love how you write and your dedication to your profession and your blog. Happy Thanksgiving!!!!

  • FIrst of all, I LOVE YOUR PHOTOS~! My apartment’s kitchen is very small and somehow it’s reassuring to see that even DAVID LEBOVITZ has insane pile-ups of everything but the kitchen sink. Reading your tips was interesting and fun, and I already do many of them, which made me feel pretty good (following in the footsteps of DAVID LEBOVITZ). But the ironing board tip made me guffaw because the narrow space between one side of my kitchen and the other side (a skinny rectangle) would exactly accommodate an ironing board. With no space left over. So I would have to jump up on the counter, give up cooking, and crouch there growling and chewing bones.

  • David,

    what I love most about this post is the philosophy : in two words COMMON SENSE (en français “le bon sens”) too rare in this world. And the conclusion is even better. You are a good person.



  • I missed this,Happy Thanksgiving..and thank you!

  • and, the last tip, as Nigel Slater would say: pour yourself a drink before you start cooking :)))

  • Lovely post. I bookmarked it to come back to.

    Thanks for the tips!

  • Seeing as I’m a little late to the party (commenter#197- I’ve been in a tryptophan/sugar induced food coma for the past two days) I know that microwaving sponges must have been mentioned as a quick sanitizing sponge agent.

    I do not know why I don’t think to fill up the sink with hot sudsy water, so I must confess to lacking some common sense. But that is why this is such a great post! Thanks for all the little helpful nuggets, particularly useful since baking (and ensuing cleanup chaos) is kicking into high gear.

  • Hi David,

    I havent read through all of the comments so maybe someone else mentioned this trusty tip…
    Living in Paris with a small kitchen, I always “wash as I go”. I highly reccommend finding time during a recipe to just wash the bowl or utensil right after it was used. Sometimes its out of necessity as I dont have enough bowls so i’ll have to re-use one for the next step.
    I find it nice that as I slide my cake into the oven, I turn around and the only thing staring at me in my sink is the batter-licked spoon :)

    – shannon

  • I loved this post. On days that I do the video shoots, I am shooting 7 recipes, and the amount of dishes feels like triple. It really makes me want to cry. I loved your tip about the ironing board, finally a use for it. Thank you for sharing what makes your life easier in the kitchen.

    • The whole “clean as you go” works well in restaurants, as well as when you don’t have a lot of cooking equipment (which is why I stock up on extra utensils) – but I just find it hard to stop all the time to wash dishes, then I get distracted from my baking and work. So I’ve adopted this method.

  • “wear rubber gloves for washing dishes” — great advice. Here are two additional reasons that gloves are great for dish washing: 1) you can use much hotter water, resulting in cleaner and more sanitary dishes (excellent for mild germ-phobes like myself), 2) they protect your hands from accidental cuts. Who hasn’t put a knife or other object with a sharp edge (one of my worst dish washing cuts was from a sharp edge on a Chinese vegetable turner) into the dish pan and forgotten about it, then rediscovered it when reaching for something in the dish pan? Gloves will prevent cuts in those (mostly avoidable) situations.

    Another water saving tip: when the water in the dish washing bucket is “done”, pour it into any of the pots or pans that need some soaking time, which will let the stuck-on material soften before it is their turn to be washed.

  • About 10 years ago when I moved into my very own house I put up pegboard for saute pans, measuring cups, openers, measuring spoons, etc. Best thing I ever did. Little did I know that Julia Child had done the same thing. Very happy to be following in her footsteps. Also I put a rack on the “inside” of the door leading to basement which happens to be near stove. It is where I store spices, grains, and other small packaged goods.

  • Great post! I don’t have a dishwasher at home, so everything gets washed by hand. Music and wine help pass that time, and I’ve finally started to find it relaxing!

  • David,

    I love your last tip. Happy Thanksgiving–where ever you happen to be!


    P.S. Oh and I have a tip–mis en place makes baking more enjoyable.

  • Great post and comments. I’ve been using the soaking the dishes trick for years and find it especially helpful when we have guests over because as the table is cleared for the next course everything that’s dirty just goes into the soaking water – makes clean up so much easier.

    Years ago I observed that my stepmother threw the kitchen sponge in the dishwasher; it made sense to me so my kitchen sponge gets cleaned along with the dishes every time I run the dishwasher.

    Happy Holidays!

  • I agree with many of your kitchen tips above. I leave my most used pots and pans directly on the stovetop. Rather than bleaching my sponge, I like to throw it in the dishwasher once I’m done rinsing dishes for the evening. The next morning, I have a nice clean-smelling sponge!

  • These tips of yours. My wife should read this. this is a great entry that she can apply in our kitchen. Our Kitchen is kinda messy. Happy Thanks giving.

  • Great tips and I have one for you. I keep a rolling bin in pantry that holds plastic containers of flour, sugar, conf. sugar which are stacked, and then my vanilla, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. It’s been the life saver. I keep the dutch oven on top of stove, the measuring spoons triple of everything out in a big cute cup. Best tip: I keep 7 cast iron skillets hanging on a rack around the island at waist level. No digging around for heavy pans. My favorite dish washer is still my husband, whom I often leave the mess to in trade for good food, but that doesn’t always work and it’s refreshing to know that someone else is doing tons of dishes, to be a food writer. So not glamorous, but rewarding just the same. Oh,you can put sponge in microwave for two minutes which kills bacteria. We only use sponges, no icky rags. Now if only I could discipline myself to read the recipe through. I’m bad with that.

  • Great tips, David! Thanks for reminding me of all the shortcuts I can employ in my tiny kitchen!

  • I do an extension of the garbage bowl on the counter; after I’ve collected any “wet” garbage in the bowl, I transfer it into a used plastic bag (but clean on the outside) that I’d throw out anyway and FREEZE (or refrigerate) it until collection day. That way there is no smelly, rotting garbage sitting in the kitchen or outside to attract bugs or animals. This is especially helpful in the summer. I realize that this may not be an option if you have a tiny refrigerator or freezer, but in in my small American kitchen with the big cooling unit, it works very well.

    As for the post, they’re good, common sense tips that any cook/baker should use to make life easier. But always, always, the last is the most important…and so easy to forget. Best to take a minute every day time to remember the blessings/advantages/good luck – whatever you want to call it – in our lives.

  • My favorite banana bread recipe uses every bowl in the kitchen, so I have to store up some cleaning fortitude for the project. Having a set of clean everything for egg whites really clutters the process. I bought/tried one of those fat Japanese knives. It felt bulky like the fat German knives. I bought a skinny French knife in the 1960’s and guard it with my life even though it looks terrible. Love that old high carbon steel Sabatier. But I never use rubber gloves. Chipped china and glassware seems to be the natural course of events with rubber gloves. And I don’t cook/clean for a living :-).