The art of keeping a clean kitchen

It's that time of the year when people across the country find themselves wrestling with raw turkeys in the kitchen. Now is a great time to brush up on how to clean up, for many of us, myself included, are messier in the kitchen than others. Cleaning as-you-go is best. Let's start with china and other fine things.

Any fine china manufactured after 1985 has been coated with an extremely fine plastic layer which makes it dishwasher safe. But following manufacturer's instructions is always wise with fine silver, stemware, china and glassware. Crystal cannot tolerate the heat of a dishwasher and will crack so wash it by hand. Also, know that knives can be damaged by harsh chemicals in the dishwasher; the preference is to hand wash good knives.

Some of the best cleaners are the simplest, least costly, easiest to use and aren't too hard on Mother Earth when used sparingly. Liquid dish detergents clean by removing surface food and breaking down grease. Many stains on cloth can be removed with dish liquid by first wetting the spot completely with cold water and then applying a liberal amount of liquid detergent directly to the stain.

Allow the article to sit for at least an hour. Repeat this process for especially heavy stains, and then wash the item in warm or cold water. Hot water will only serve to cook the stain into the fabric.

Sodium bicarbonate, or baking soda, is a favorite for removing stains on aluminum and other metal surfaces. Its gentle abrasive quality makes it perfect for eradicating heavy tea and coffee stains inside mugs and for scouring sinks. A simple paste of baking soda and water can be used to wipe the surface of appliances, refrigerator interiors, kitchen walls and nylon cutting boards without causing scratches and abrasions. Be sure to follow all applications with a good rinse.

Bleach, when used sparingly, is a great household sanitizer. The rule of thumb is, If you can smell the bleach you're probably using too much.

To sanitize dishcloths, work surfaces, cutting boards or any contaminated item (such as countertop where you plumped down your thawed turkey) use one cap full (about one tablespoon) of bleach to one gallon of hot water. Make a new solution as soon as the water becomes cool or cloudy.

Try using the bleach solution after thoroughly washing and rinsing items with detergent and hot water. This sanitizing solution doesn't contain enough bleach to be toxic to humans, but it will effectively kill germs. A word of caution, avoid strong bleach solutions directly on metal surfaces such as pots and pans as it will discolor them.

Cutting boards, countertops and knives used to prepare meats, fish and seafood - especially chicken and other fowl - should be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized before being used again to prevent cross-contamination. The safest policy is to reserve a cutting board for cooked foods and one for raw meats. A non-porous cutting board (plastic, glass, or marble) is the best for meat preparation. Wooden cutting boards should also be thoroughly washed and sanitized following manufacturer's directions.

Dishcloths, sponges, plastic scrub pads and kitchen brushes should be immersed often in sanitizing solution because they easily harbor germs. The popular practice of running sponges through a dishwasher cycle doesn't sanitize them because sponges are dense and the dishwasher doesn't reach a high enough temperature to kill all the bacteria off.

The last word on cleaning comes from a Swedish friend of my husband's. Working his way through college he cooked at a Swedish fast-food joint. Cleaning the grills, pots and pans was a chore. His trick was to pour about a quarter cup of water into the pot or pan with burned food stuck to the surface and place it on the stove over low to medium heat. When the water began to bubble the Swedish student gently scraped the stuck on food with a spoon. Little bits of food worked themselves loose and soon the pot or pan was clean. This method really works and eliminates strenuous scrubbing!

Georgia Lord Wantanabe may be reached via

.[[In-content Ad]]