If you're anything like me, cooking is a time for unfettered artistic expression. This means covering as much of the room as possible with sauce stains, encrusted pots, spoons, trays, chopping boards and every knife in the draw, all to produce a single, slightly sorry looking plate of grub. Proudly, you will display you handiwork to anyone who'll listen, before happily retiring to the sofa, leaving disgruntled housemates, partners and family members to deal with the industrial clean up operation.
There can be little doubt that tidying up is everyone's least favourite part of cooking. It is, however, a necessary evil. All great art requires sacrifice. Fortunately, we can now reveal a few of the ingenious methods that professional chefs use to make the whole experience slightly easier to stomach.
1. Investing in a garbage bowl
While not necessarily a specific "hack", getting into the habit of using a garbage bowl will revolutionize your clean up. Instead of walking over to the trash every time you peel a solitary onion, having a bowl, bag or other receptacle into which you can chuck stuff will not only speed up your prep, but also mean that there are less errant trimmings scattered about the kitchen.
2. Scorched pots and soap
While the idiom "a watched pot never boils" may prove occasionally helpful, it seems equally valid to say that "an ignored pot will always burn, leaving horrible, impossible to remove, crusty black stuff stuck to the bottom". Fortunately, pros have a tip for frantically scrubbing amateur cooks everywhere. Half fill the afflicted container with water, add a touch of soap and bring to a rolling boil to remove the offending crispy gunk. Great news for tired pot washers.
3. Lemon on a stovetop
If, like me, you believe that oil and butter make everything better, every whole cooking exercise can become very greasy very quickly. Fortunately, excess grease has a natural remedy. Placing a halved lemon between the folds of a washcloth face down chews through grease without the need for industrial quantities of bleach.
4. Boiling water and sugary bits
Much as burnt pot bottoms can be cleansed with soapy water, a similar technique can be applied to crystallized sugar. Simply adding a squeeze of lemon to boiling will dissolve anything even vaguely sugary, from honey, to jam and even marshmallow, saving sticky fingers.
5. Salting up oil spills
Oil can be among the most pernicious of stains to remove. Since water does little to help, you need to be prepared to think outside the box. Fortunately, all you need to take care of the problem is a little table salt: sprinkling on the affected area causes the oil to stick to the salt, making it a simple task to sweep up the offending residue. If only BP had got the memo in the Gulf of Mexico.
No matter how messy your creative cooking process may be, you now unfortunately have no excuse for not leaving the kitchen spick and span. Follow these hacks to guarantee a sparkling work surface and happy housemates.