Preparing for Thanksgiving is by no means a one-day affair. If you're hosting, you've been getting your house and kitchen ready, and spent days making lists, shopping, and cooking. Once the feasting is over, the last thing you want to do is spend hours cleaning up — and you shouldn't have to! Here's our fail-proof, get-it-done method for getting your kitchen back in shape so you can relax.
First, Your New Motto:
Four Words: Clean as You Go
This should be a standard working-in-the-kitchen habit, but when you're making large portions of multiple dishes, the principle will save you from epic messes and keep your kitchen running smoothly even as you're still cooking.
Clean up small messes as you go. Put a paper towel under the teaspoon you're using to measure vanilla, and wipe spills from counters right away with the rag you have at arms length. Also clean cooking utensils as you're done with them. I like to fill one side of my sink with hot soapy water and toss used tools in there until I'm done cooking.
If you've split your preparations into a few days' time, cleaning as you go is especially manageable. The goal is a clean kitchen at the end of each preparatory task.
Get a Helper, if You Need to
Solicit the help of a friend or family member who can wash dishes while you're cooking. This will save you time and energy, and you'll be giving someone who wants to help the opportunity to be useful and keep you company while you're working.
When it comes time to clean after your meal, let everyone who wants to lend a helping hand. But don't be afraid to communicate how you want things done: If your china doesn't go in the dish washer, let your helpers know how to handle it or give them another task.
The After-Thanksgiving Plan
1. Clear the table
First things first: Clear the table thoroughly. This is an easy way to have others pitch in. Try to have a close family member or someone familiar with your household involved so they can immediately put away things like salt and pepper shakers, etc. in the right places. Have helpers scrape any uneaten food from the plates into the garbage can and toss any paper napkins as well. Make sure the table is all the way cleared, to the point that it can be wiped. Now you've got one all-clean space and you can turn your attention to the kitchen itself.
2. Put away leftovers
Besides the food safety reasons for not leaving food out for too long, getting the leftovers put away first thing allows you to move on to the next step of sorting the types of dishes you will need to wash.
3. Soak pots and pans
Inevitably, there will be some cooking items that you weren't able to "clean as you went." Soak difficult-to-clean pots, pans, and any empty serving dishes that are aren't being used to store leftovers. Depending on your kitchen's layout, consider setting these soaking dishes on the stove top while you address everything else.
4. Hand wash and load the dishwasher
While heavily soiled dishes are soaking, tackle the rest of the pile. You're going to batch process so everything goes as quickly as possible. Again, this is a great job for helpers. Wash items that need to be hand washed, if there are any. Finally, you'll be left with dishes that, since they're already clear of food bits, simply need to be loaded into the dishwasher. Load them.
5. Wash the big stuff
Only one big washing task is left in your almost-clean kitchen. While you might be tempted to stop here, remember that cleanliness begets cleanliness and it'll be easier to encourage yourself and others to maintain a clean kitchen if it's clean in the first place. However, definitely don't be afraid to delegate! Since all the other dishes and food are put away, you'll have plenty of room to scrub the roasting pan, etc. and when you're done with these, you are just about couch ready.
6. Give the kitchen a quick clean
Ride the momentum of whipping a kitchen into shape and give your counters, the outside of your fridge, and your sink a quick clean. Your floors could also probably use a cursory clean-up. Don't deep clean by any means, but getting your kitchen in tip-top working order will prevent a messy kitchen from overshadowing your post-meal glow.