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This California Chef Is Saving Water by Washing Dishes with Air

This California Chef Is Saving Water by Washing Dishes with Air

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It sounds like a joke, but chef Cox’s innovation could save Californian restaurants a lot of water.

With the major drought still wreaking havoc in California, people are starting to come up with more and more ways to save water, from the (possibly unhygienic) method of skipping showers to boycotting Nestlé and refusing to buy water bottles. One chef has come up with a pretty creative solution to restaurants’ dishwashing dilemma. Restaurants use a ton of water every night washing customers’ dishes, but chef John Cox of the restaurant Sierra Mar in the Big Sur area of California uses air compression to thoroughly clear dishes before placing them into the dishwasher: much less water needed, according to San Francisco’s local CBS syndicate.

“It all started as an idea to clean the kitchen at night by bringing in a small air compressor and using it to spray out ovens, corners, and other places we were typically using a hose for,” Cox, whose restaurant typically uses 3,500 gallons of water daily, told CBS. “I was looking for a place to put this compressor and it ended up in a little area below the dish station. And that’s kind of when the idea clicked.”

Chef Cox’s air compression method has resulted in an 80 percent water usage reduction. If just one restaurant uses this method, he writes in an Instagram post, they could save 250 gallons per day. If every restaurant in California switched to his method, the entire industry could save up to 10 billion gallons per year, he estimates.

The 9 Best Dish Drying Racks of 2021

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Whether you don’t have a dishwasher or you just prefer to wash certain kitchen items by hand, you'll need a dish drying rack. There are a lot of different kinds of dish racks out there with different features to suit all kinds of needs. Some home cooks need extra space, while others need something that works with little to no counter space at all. Our experts recommend basic designs that won't rust or wear with time. Look for one with a silverware holder for added convenience.

Here, the best dish drying racks for every household.

8 Mistakes You're Making Every Time You Wash Dishes

No matter how clean you are, your kitchen is likely dirtier than your bathroom, according to the National Science Foundation. Gross! Your potentially germ-laden sponge is just one part of the problem. Here are 8 of the most common dishwashing mistakes, which can spread germs, damage dishes, and create a whole lot of waste.

(Make 2017 YOUR year by taking charge of your health and jump-starting your weight loss with the Prevention calendar and health planner!)

This story was originally published by our partners at

If your sink looks like a luxurious bubble bath when you're doing the dishes, you're almost certainly using too much soap. It just doesn't take many suds to get your dishes clean, especially in the dishwasher. Start with the least amount of detergent recommended by the dishwasher manufacturer and slowly add more until dishes reliably come out clean. Too much detergent can leave a residue behind, which makes your dishes look cloudy and also ends up in your mouth&mdashyuck!

What's in your soap matters, too. Avoid soaps or detergents with bleach, triclosan, or other harsh antiseptics because they help create drug-resistant superbugs. Simple soap and hot water is enough to sanitize your dishes, especially in the dishwasher. Make sure to avoid borax, which can disrupt hormones, and 1,4-dioxane, which is a suspected carcinogen according to the Environmental Working Group.

When it comes to saving water, there's just no competition between handwashing and a dishwasher. An Enery Star dishwasher uses as little as 3 gallons of water, while handwashing can use up to 27 gallons of water per load.

If you're filling up your dishwasher and running a load, skip the pre-rinse and just scrape food off your plates. However, if you're slowly filling the dishwasher over a couple of days, it's best to pre-rinse your dishes. Reuse leftover pasta water, water from handwashing dishes, or the water you save while waiting for your shower to heat up to rinse without adding to water usage.

But not everything can go in the dishwasher and not everyone has one. To cut water usage when handwashing dishes, install a low-flow faucet or an aerator. Turn off the faucet off while you're washing, and fill a small bowl or basin to wash with instead of rinsing each item individually.

Chances are you have a germ bomb sitting right next to your sink. Sponges can contain thousands of bacteria like E. coli and Salmonella per inch&mdashthose crevices that work so well for removing stuck food also make sponges a lovely home for germs.

Ditch your brightly hued plastic sponge and opt for a dishrag made of natural fibers instead. Dishrags can harbor just as much bacteria as a sponge, but with proper care and cleaning they're a much cleaner alternative. Hang the rag up away from the sink to dry it out completely between uses, and swap it out for a clean one daily. Wash dishcloths with your laundry and toss them in the dryer or hang them in the sun to dry and remove bacteria. (Check out these 7 laundry room secrets to save you time and money.)

Would you wash your dishes in your toilet? If you're not cleaning your sink, you might actually be doing worse than that. The kitchen sink usually contains 100,000 times the germs as the bathroom or toilet according to the National Health Service. Sanitize your sink or dish tub daily with vinegar and baking soda or vinegar and salt (try these 9 simple DIY green cleaning recipes).

Your dishwasher might not be a whole lot cleaner. The heat and moisture create a perfect environment for mold and bacteria to grow. If your dishwasher has a smell, it's past needing to be cleaned. Occasionally run your dishwasher empty with a cup of vinegar and a cup of baking soda, and don't forget to clean out the trap regularly. (And while you're at it, take a look at these 7 other cleaning mistakes you've been making your whole life.)

Sure, it's easy to dump dinner scraps and cooking bits into the garbage disposal, but disposals use about 9 gallons of water a day. And removing scraps at the wastewater treatment plant is also energy intensive. A better choice? Compost your food scraps instead (here's how to compost indoors). If you don't have compost, research has shown that sending food scraps to the landfill is still a better option than the garbage disposal.

From putting the wrong things in the dishwasher to using harsh cleansers on pots and pans, what you're washing matters.

Avoid soap on your cast iron pan and instead use a stiff scrub brush with plain water. Don't forget to completely dry your cast iron pan on the stove and season it with a high-heat oil while it's hot. (Here's how to make sure your cast iron pan lasts forever.)

Never, ever put wooden items in the dishwasher. Whether it's spoons, cutting boards, or handles, the extreme moisture and heat in the dishwasher can cause the wood to swell and crack. Hand wash them instead and avoid soaking them.

Aside from butter knives and other dull knives with solid handles, keep knives out of the dishwasher. Hand washing them keeps them sharp and avoids damaging their handles and seams.

While it's tempting to throw messy pots and pans in the dishwasher, hand washing is a better option since detergents can remove finishes and the jostling can cause scratches or nicks. Nonstick and copper pans should especially be kept out of the dishwasher.

If you've ever had an argument about how to load the dishwasher, you know it can be a contentious issue. There really is a right&mdashand wrong&mdashway to do it. An overstuffed dishwasher leads to dirty dishes and soap residue. Items need space for the water to move through freely.

Place bowls on the top rack of the dishwasher and face them toward the water sprayer&mdashthat means the bowls in the back should face out, and the ones in the front face in. If you can't see the inside of a bowl or plate from below, there isn't enough room for them to be properly cleaned.

Your dishwasher manual provides diagrams for the most efficient ways to load your washer. Trust the manual! The manufacturers have tested it out and specifically designed the dishwasher to perform best when loaded according to their instructions.

Proper kitchen cleanliness and dish sanitation is important to prevent the spread of harmful bacteria. Use hot water&mdashhot enough to need gloves&mdashto wash your dishes. Run the tap before turning on the dishwasher or filling the sink to get the hottest water. (You can use the running water to pre-rinse for the dishwasher or to water plants). Wash anything that touched raw meat last to prevent cross contamination.

Ditch the dirty towels. If it has dried your hands or the counter, it shouldn't go on the dishes. Grab a new towel, or better yet, use a drying rack that lifts the dishes off the counter and allows for proper airflow. Be careful of dish mats&mdashthey can trap heat and moisture inside of dishes and encourage bacteria and mold growth.

Don't just wipe cutting boards or knives. The average cutting board can have 200% more fecal bacteria on it than a toilet seat according to the National Health Service. The CDC recommends cleaning your boards and knives with hot, soapy water after each use. You can also use lemon and salt to deeply clean your wood cutting boards. When done cleaning, allow them to air dry and be careful not to let them sit in any puddles.

2. Cook Smart

Instead of firing up the full-size oven for cooking small dishes, switch to a toaster oven, small convection oven, microwave, or slow cooker to use 30% less energy, according to the Progress Energy Company, a North Carolina-based energy company.

Progress Energy estimates that microwave ovens use around 50% less energy than conventional ovens. (For heating large meals, however, the stove is usually more efficient.) In the summer, using a microwave brings less heat into the kitchen, which can mean you need less air-conditioning


When you do use the stove top, think about exactly what food you'll be cooking, use the smallest pot or pan to do the job, and match the pan size to the burner size.

And you know how when you boil pasta, you can see the steam coming up from the pot? That means heat is escaping. Cooking without lids can use up to three times more energy, according to the Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative. So keep a lid on it as a bonus, your food will be ready more quickly.

There are also a couple of foods that can finish cooking by themselves. For example, bring a saucepan of water and ears of corn to a rolling boil (with the lid on). After one minute, turn off the stove and let the corn continue cooking in the hot water for about 10 minutes.

You can do the same for a casserole with a cheese topping. Instead of pulling it out of the oven, sprinkling with cheese and then baking for 10 more minutes, just turn off the oven, sprinkle the cheese over the top, and place it back in the still-warm oven for 10 minutes.

Speaking of the oven, you really don't need to preheat it if you're broiling or roasting, or if you're baking something for a long time, according to the Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative. When you do need to preheat, try to minimize the time. If you know it takes 10 minutes to preheat your oven to 350 degrees, turn the oven on just 10 minutes before your dish will be ready to bake.

Washing Dishes Is a Really Great Stress Reliever, Science Says

Washing dishes can significantly lower your stress level—if you do it mindfully, according to this study.

In the study, researchers at Florida State University had 51 students wash dishes. Before they started, half of the students read a short mindfulness dishwashing passage and the other half read a short descriptive dishwashing passage. The descriptive passage was straightforward, but the mindful passage focused on being present mentally for the task. Here’s an excerpt:

Struggling to cook healthy? We'll help you prep.

While washing the dishes, one should only be washing the dishes. This means that while washing the dishes one should be completely aware of the fact that one is washing the dishes. At first glance, that might seem a little silly. Why put so much stress on a simple thing? But that’s precisely the point. The fact that I am standing there and washing is a wondrous reality. I’m being completely myself, following my breath, conscious of my presence, and conscious of my thoughts and actions. There’s no way I can be tossed around mindlessly like a bottle slapped here and there on the waves.

“I was particularly interested in how the mundane activities in life could be used to promote a mindful state and, thus, increase overall sense of well-being,” said study author Adam Hanley, a doctoral candidate in FSU College of Education’s Counseling/School Psychology program, in a statement.

The researchers found that people who washed dishes mindfully (they focused on smelling the soap, feeling the water temperature and touching the dishes) upped their feelings of inspiration by 25 percentਊnd lowered their nervousness levels by 27 percent. The group that didn’t wash the dishes mindfully did not gain any benefits from the task.

More on keeping your kitchen clean: 

“It appears that an everyday activity approached with intentionality and awareness may enhance the state of mindfulness,” the study authors conclude.

The study size was very small with only 51 students, so it would need to be replicated, but the researchers suggest that mindfulness could be achieved in a variety of common activities, and possibly reduce stress and improve psychological well-being.

How to Reduce Water Consumption in the Kitchen

As two of our locations are in California, we’re well aware of the state’s severe drought, the “worst dry spell in 1,200 years,” as The Guardian puts it. However, climate scientists at Columbia University and elsewhere say this drying trend isn’t restricted to the Golden State. Many predict decades-long mega droughts across the Southwest and Great Plains. Indeed, recent NASA research forecasts worldwide water shortages.

The space agency reports that a third of the world’s biggest aquifers are now unsustainable because more water is being removed from them (for human consumption) than added to them (by natural precipitation). As water becomes increasingly scarce, formerly fertile land is morphing into desert, farmers are avoiding water-hungry crops, political conflict is increasing as countries fight to protect their citizens’ access to water, and food prices are rising.

In the face of this water crisis, some communities are taking steps to preserve the primary ingredient of ecological and human sustainability, fresh water, by imposing restrictions on water use or offering incentives for reducing water usage. This is an important step, but it is not just up to local governments to make sure water consumption is limited individuals can make a big difference as well. By seeking ways to reduce water usage, we can actively work to conserve water in our daily activities.

Here are a few things you can do to help minimize water usage in the kitchen:

Water-Saving Cooking Techniques:

  • Install a low-flow faucet. While traditional faucets use 5 gallons of water per minute, low-flow faucets release just 1.5 gallons of water per minute.
  • Wash produce in a large container. Use a vegetable brush to scrub away dirt so you don’t let the faucet run while cleaning your food.
  • Defrost frozen foods in the refrigerator. That way, you avoid the water-hogging defrost technique of running water over frozen foods.
  • Limit water used for boiling foods. Use just enough H20 to submerge the food you are cooking. Once your food is done, reserve the water for nourishing your garden!
  • Steam vegetables over boiling food. With the right cookware, you can steam and boil simultaneously, minimizing water and fuel usage.
  • Minimize garbage disposal use.You can’t run a disposal without allowing plenty of water to flow down the drain. Instead, consider composting your food scraps or putting them in the yard-waste bin.

Water-Friendly Dishwashing

  • Upgrade to Energy Star appliances. According to the EPA, dishwashers built prior to 1994 waste more than 10 gallons of water every cycle. By upgrading to an Energy Star dishwasher, you can immediately wash dishes with 15% greater water efficiency.
  • Purchase a dishwasher. A single load of hand-washed dishes can require up to 20 gallons of water while an energy-efficient dishwasher needs just 4.5 gallons to run. It may be expensive but could be worth it in the long run.
  • Save water when washing dishes by hand. You don’t need to let the water run constantly when you wash and rinse. Fill a tub for washing (the water doesn’t have to be piping hot), and rinse many dishes at the same time.

Water-Preserving Consumption

  • Keep filtered water in the refrigerator. If you like it cold, don’t let the water run until it suits your taste keep a pitcher-full in the fridge so you always have cold water at your fingertips.
  • Pick filtered tap water over bottled water. Did you know it takes 1.5 gallons of water to manufacture a single plastic bottle? Opting for a glass of filtered tap water is a better way to go.

There is no getting around the fact that water is imperative to life on earth. Over the next twenty years, climate change will continue to melt glaciers, shrink aquifers, and challenge farmers. If our world is to experience a paradigm shift toward sustainability, individuals and communities must pay attention to how water is protected, distributed, and consumed. We can each do our part to reduce water usage in every room of the home, including the kitchen. Beyond direct consumption, we can also reduce our “water footprint” by choosing foods that require less water in production. For instance, it takes 24 gallons of water to produce one bunch of grapes, over five hundred gallons of water to produce a pound of chicken, and 1,847 gallons for a pound of beef. By limiting how much water we use personally, and by opting for crops that require less water, each of us can do our part to mitigate the water crisis.

The Sneaky Way I Learned to Love Washing Dishes

This is how I finally found solace in an activity I dreaded.

Elisabeth Hyde is the author of six acclaimed novels, including the family drama, Go Ask Fannie ($19,, most recently. She lives in Boulder with her husband.

My friend Artie washes his dishes by hand. Oh, he has a dishwasher, but he uses it simply to dry the dishes he’s already washed. Artie’s a physician who works in public health I say this just so you know that he’s a busy guy directing lots of people and could easily make use of time-saving devices like dishwashers. He and his wife Patty also raised two daughters, so it isn’t like there haven’t been lots of dishes to wash over the years.

But Artie’s also a river rat. And boy does he know how to wash dishes on the river. I’ve done a number of canoe trips with him on the Green River in Utah, where the water runs brown with silt and you feel like you’ll never get the dishes clean. But at the start of every trip, he gives a little demo of his system once again. “There are 4 buckets,” he tells us, peering out from under his Outback hat. 𠇏irst one’s a cold rinse, second comes a hot soapy wash, third is a hot rinse, and finally there’s a cold sanitizer.” You air dry the dishes, and you’re good to go. The dishes are hygienically clean, even if they might dry with a dusting of silt, and you’ve used 4, maybe 5 gallons of water for a dozen campers.

Sometimes friends, puzzled by his choice at home, remind him that a modern dishwasher supposedly uses less water� gallons on average—than the typical hand-washer. But they don’t know Artie, who can do it with only 3. Besides, for Artie it’s not just about saving water it’s an act of meditation. Warm sudsy water, the circular motions of a good sponge, a well-designed dish drainer, a pitcher of boiling water. Maybe there’s some good music or maybe he’s just alone with his thoughts, back on the river in his mind. For Artie, washing dishes is largely about the process, the result being the satisfaction of knowing you’ve done one thing right, and well, and with mindful attention to the beauty of each dish and the function that it has served to nourish the body and soul.

The Buddhists know this well. “I enjoy taking my time with each dish, being fully aware of the dish, the water, and each movement of my hands,” writes philosopher Thich Nhat Hanh. “The dishes themselves and that fact that I am here washing them are miracles.”

We have a 15-year-old dishwasher , and we use it all the time while I admire Artie, I’ve always figured I have different ways to meditate. But recently, we left our house in Boulder and went off to San Francisco for a semester, renting a 1-bedroom apartment. Right after we signed the lease, the landlady called back. “I forgot to mention,” she said sheepishly. “There’s no dishwasher.”

I wasn’t wild about it, but then I thought, well, okay, we’ll just pretend we’re on the river.

And we did. The apartment had a minimum of dishes: 4 plates, 4 bowls, 2 mugs, 2 wine glasses, and a handful of water glasses. No specialty dessert plates, no extra set of dishes to tap into when everything else was dirty you used it, you washed it. There was a full supply of cookware, but knowing we had to wash everything by hand, we made a lot of one-skillet meals.

And when the time came to clean up, my husband and I worked together, one washing, the other drying and putting away. We chatted. We appreciated the simplicity of the equipment: a few squirts of sudsy Joy, thick, softly lined rubber gloves, a squat, round scrub-brush, and lint-free linen towels. We took pleasure in rinsing the dishes in scalding water, since it yielded streak-free plates and clear spotless glasses. And within fifteen or twenty minutes, the kitchen was clean and quiet (no humming dishwasher), and everything was put away.

Of course there were times when a sink full of dirty dishes was the final insult to a bad day. Crusted food, congealed grease, dried egg yolk and avocado—sometimes I wanted nothing but to go to bed so a bunch of elves could come in and clean up while I slept. I can feel really sorry for myself sometimes, and on those nights, after reconciling myself to the task, I𠆝 fume at the landlady for not updating this old fashioned kitchen.

One day, my writing had not gone particularly well. And my husband had to work, so I was left cleaning up. I looked at the dishes and thought, Poor me! But I didn’t have a choice, and as I found myself filling the washbasin, I began thinking of summer days on the Green River, the purples and mauves and oranges of the canyon walls, the brown silty water flowing by, the four buckets of water. I washed those dishes imagining that afterwards, I would lie down on top of my sleeping bag and feel the day’s heat rising off the sand, look at the stars spattered across the sky, and fall asleep to the soft gurgle of the river against the shoreline. When I finished, I hung up the towel and just stood there for a moment, taking pleasure in the simplicity of a job well done.

Comfort Food From a Rebel Chef

At Chicago&rsquos Alinea, Grant Achatz creates delicious, often provocative dishes. Yet this bold chef, who got his start flipping eggs at his parents&rsquo restaurant, also makes a mean mac &rsquon&rsquo cheese and a fabulous meat loaf.

Grant Achatz, the 32-year-old chef at Chicago’s Alinea, has a hyper-experimental cooking style that’s put him in the vanguard of American cuisine, and earned him a slot as an F&W Best New Chef 2002. At Alinea, which he opened last year, Achatz creates exquisite, impossible dishes like a futuristic heirloom-tomato salad𠅊 burst of sweet tomato foam trapped in a balloon of mozzarella somehow inflated like Super Elastic Bubble Plastic. Which is why it’s surprising to find this groundbreaking, risk-taking chef at Alinea on a recent Sunday afternoon making meat loaf.

As his cooks dart around him in the kitchen, Achatz adds ground bacon to a mound of rosy-red ground beef in a giant stainless steel mixing bowl, followed by a heavenly-smelling mixture of celery, fennel, onion, garlic and smoked paprika. The meat loaf won’t make it out to the dining room it’s what Achatz and his staff will eat before the evening’s service begins. Achatz always looks forward to the staff suppers. "We usually go nuts," he says, with all the cooks pitching in and prepping for hours. The staff dinners𠅊s close to comfort food as the Alinea kitchen gets—give Achatz a chance to reconnect with his past, when he cooked at the restaurant his parents owned in rural Richmond, Michigan.

Achatz began washing dishes at his parents’ restaurant when he was eight years old (he had to stand on a milk crate to reach the sink), then quickly worked his way up to preparing breakfast, lunch and dinner as a line cook. By the time he was 12, it was obvious he had serious talent, says his dad, Grant Achatz, Sr. "He was doing a better job on the line than guys I could hire off the road. He was fast and he never got flustered. A lot can happen in a chaotic kitchen, and his strong suit was expediting𠅊lmost like you𠆝 see on Iron Chef."

While Achatz mixes the meat loaf with his hands, pausing the conversation politely whenever a sous-chef swoops by with a question and picking up right where he left off, he explains that he learned a very important lesson watching his parents cook at their restaurant: "There was a lot of obsession with food just tasting good," Achatz says. "There was no real tech behind it. They weren’t driven to secure the best fresh local ingredients it wasn’t that kind of place. But they knew that the people they were feeding wanted home-style, rib-sticking food, so that’s what they cooked. My mom’s piecrust, done right, is the best flaky crust I have ever tasted."

Achatz sees a connection between the cutting-edge techniques he uses in his cooking nowadays and the perfectionism he learned as a kid—that quest to get a dish, no matter how simple, exactly right. "People think we’re growing stuff in petri dishes and test tubes back here in the Alinea kitchen," Achatz says. "But if we’re using a syringe to put a sauce into something, that’s just precision." And if Achatz is using a new modified food starch made with tapioca to thicken a sauce, he adds, that’s really no more chemically complex than "using sodium bicarbonate [baking soda] to bake a muffin."

Although working at his parents’ restaurant gave Achatz the skills and ambition to be a chef, he felt frustrated by the clientele’s conservative tastes, and by the tedium of meat-and-potatoes-type dishes. "I hated the limitations," he says, sitting at an empty table while his meat loaf bakes and the ingredients for the star anise–spiced prune ketchup that will accompany it bubble on the stove. "It would be something as simple as making a western omelet and me wanting to put an orange twist and a sprig of parsley on the plate�use when you’re 14 you think that’s cool𠅊nd my dad going, ’Naw, you can’t do that!’ I was just like, ’Why? c’mon.’ "

After graduating from high school, Achatz enrolled in the Culinary Institute of America. Once, before a holiday break, he called home and asked his mom to track down emu so he could cook it for a party. As his mother, Barb Strachan, recalls, "That’s when we knew he wasn’t going to do regular food." Achatz has even turned his dad into a major black-truffle fan—though it’s unlikely that truffles will appear on the menu at his father’s new place, Achatz Riverview Restaurant in St. Clair, Michigan.

One of Achatz’s favorite challenges is figuring out how to nudge familiar flavors in radical new directions. Foods he first tried at his parents’ restaurant have led him to all kinds of recipe ideas. One fall, Achatz says, he was thinking back to the pierogies his parents used to serve every Thursday night at the restaurant, and to all the dough he stuffed as a boy on those afternoons. The memories got his imagination going: What if he were to make pierogies with a sharp shot of liquid mustard hidden inside? He tried this dish first at Trio, where he made his name before launching Alinea, and it was a big hit. Recently, he came up with a simplified version: He keeps the mustard on the inside of the pierogi but, instead of liquefying it, adds it as is to a simple stuffing of mashed potatoes and sour cream. He serves the pierogies with roasted chicken, which he calls his "all-time favorite comfort food." Achatz says another of his fondest food memories is of "waking up at 4:30 in the morning, going to the restaurant, filling up the griddle with bacon and just breathing in that intoxicating, smoky smell." At Alinea, bacon often finds its way into his cooking Achatz’s staff-supper meat loaf is loaded with it, and one of the most popular dishes on the menu is bacon dried in a dehydrator, wrapped in butterscotch and served hanging from a wire contraption.

Some of Achatz’s ideas come from dishes his mom used to make at home. Riffing on her spectacular pies, Achatz uses his mom’s crust technique—making dough with just flour, salt, shortening and water and kneading it quickly with very cold hands—then adds a buttery filling of fresh pears and a top crust slathered with a milky glaze. And after a recent craving for his mom’s beef chili𠅊lways the highlight of childhood Halloween get-togethers with his cousins�hatz couldn’t resist re-creating the dish, with a few tweaks, of course. "My mom makes the chili using green peppers with the skins still on—something I would normally never use as a cook," he says. "But then I eat it and I’m like, 𠆚h, I remember.’ It’s nice to have that flavor memory. My version of her chili recipe calls for chipotle chiles and fresh herbs, for a more pronounced herbaceous quality, which I think is nice in relation to the tomatoes and beef. But her basic technique of sweating down the first set of ingredients is the key to building the flavor."

A busboy pops his head around a corner. "Chef, the meat loaf looks great!" he says. It’s time for supper, and Achatz has to go. As he gets up to take the prune ketchup off the stove, he points out that the unorthodox condiment is, in a way, both a tribute to𠅊nd a rebellion against—his childhood. "Working in a town of 3,500 when I was a kid, I knew people didn’t want things like prune ketchup with their meat loaf. But that experience is probably what led me to a style of cooking that’s a little more creative and emotional," he says. "As a kid, I was always like, �n we do this? Can we do that?’ " He laughs. "And now, I can do that."

Louisa Kamps is a writer based in Madison, Wisconsin. Her articles about culture and art have appeared in the New Yorker, Elle and the New York Times.

8 Ways to Clean with Vinegar

This kitchen staple is an all-purpose magic cleaner that's been hiding right under your nose.

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A Versatile Solution

Sure, you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, but sour beats sweet when it comes to household chores. Vinegar is useful for more than just cooking. It's cleaning power makes it an all-natural, multi-purpose workhorse that is also super inexpensive. Buy a large jug of the white distilled kind, fill a spray bottle and keep it under the kitchen sink for these everyday uses.

Clean Streaky Windows

You don't have to use the bright blue stuff to get crystal clear windows: A simple vinegar solution can clear just about any glass. Fill a spray bottle (or an empty glass-cleaner bottle) with equal parts vinegar and warm water. Spray the surface and wipe dry with a soft lint-free cloth (or, believe it or not, newsprint &mdash it won't leave streaks or fibers behind). If your windows are on the grimy side add a little dish soap to the mix.

Get Rid of Grease

A stovetop is a grease trap. Treating it with a daily spritz of full-strength vinegar can prevent grimy build-up from cooking splatters and spills. Let the vinegar sit for 10 to 15 minutes and wipe away with a lint-free cloth.

Make Glasses Sparkle

Serving drinks in tumblers speckled with cloudy spots is embarrassing. Don&rsquot let yourself get flustered in front of guests: Add vinegar to the rinse aid compartment of your dishwasher to give the detergent a boost and make glasses crystal clear. Spot clean any holdout stains by rubbing them directly with a vinegar-soaked lint-free cloth before letting them air dry.

Steam-Clean the Microwave

Before you even remove the glass plate, give your microwave a vinegar sauna treatment. Combine 1 cup of water and 1/4 cup vinegar in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on the high setting until the liquid starts to bubble, then cook for an additional minute. Let cool for a few minutes and use oven mitts to remove the bowl. The acidic steam will loosen any splatters, making it easier to wipe clean those cooked-on spots.

Freshen Up the Kitchen

If there's something off-smelling in your kitchen, there's a good chance that vinegar will neutralize the funk. Deodorize your garbage disposal by funneling in 1/2 cup baking soda and then chasing it with 1 cup vinegar. When the foam subsides, run the disposal and flush with warm water for about 5 minutes. Your fridge can get the vinegar treatment too: Mix equal parts vinegar and warm water in a spray bottle, and spray both glass and plastic surfaces. Then use a lint-free cloth to dry the whole thing.

Scour Pots and Pans

Not all materials are equal when it comes to cleaning cooking equipment &mdash what works for stainless steel may not for cast iron or copper. Make an all-purpose scrub that is safe for any metal: Combine equal parts salt and flour and add just enough vinegar to make a paste. Use a rag or scrub brush to work it in, then rinse with warm water and dry.

Polish Stainless Steel Appliances

Fingerprints on stainless steel are inevitable. Instead of investing in a specialty cleaner, try using full-strength vinegar to wipe away smudges on your fridge or dishwasher. Dampen a lint-free cloth with vinegar and rub into the surface following the grain of the steel, until the marks vanish.

Scrub Out Stains

Say good-bye to the brown rings in your favorite coffee cup for good! Soak a paper towel in vinegar and wipe the mug clean (wash it in soapy water if you're hankering for a cup of joe pronto if not, just leave any excess vinegar to evaporate). This also works for stained wood cutting boards. Sprinkle a beet- or berry-stained wood cutting board with kosher salt and rub with a vinegar-soaked paper towel until the spots disappear. Bonus: The vinegar deodorizes the board too!

How to Wash Your Dishes by Hand, According to Experts

If you're skipping this step, there's a chance you're actually spreading germs.

Growing up in a very tiny kitchen in New York City, a dishwasher was a luxury that I never had. So, like many New Yorkers, I got used to washing my dishes in the sink after dinner. (Here&aposs how one writer learned to love washing dishes by hand.)

Like many other home cooks, I tend to turn on both the hot and cold taps to get a comfortable temperature before I scrub away with a sponge and some dish soap, before dropping it in a rack to dry. Who wants to stick their hands in scalding hot water, right? But I&aposve learned that even something as simple as dishwashing has a science, and that just washing dishes in cool water is a complete waste of time.

Stay up to date on what healthy means now.

Sure, scrubbing off any crusted-on sauce may leave you thinking that a bowl is now clean as can be𠅋ut according to Stop Foodborne Illness, a public health organization, unless you&aposve effectively sanitized a dish by soaking it in cleaning solution or sufficiently hot water, it&aposs not clean.

And not just a little hot. Water needs to reach at least 170ଏ—that&aposs generally a lot hotter than what comes out of your faucet, and is hotter than you probably want to touch with your bare hands.

Experts at the health organization say that you need to thoroughly rinse or completely submerge your dishes for at least 30 seconds in order to kill any harmful germs. If you want to to properly clean your dishes for optimal safety, be sure to have a good pair of kitchen gloves, and possibly a thermometer.

If you don&apost want to use hot water, Stop Foodborne Illness recommends using a sanitizing solution. One tablespoon of unscented chlorine bleach per gallon of water is enough to effectively sanitize your dishes.  

More on how to best clean your kitchen safely:

Many bacteria behind foodborne illnesses, such as salmonella, can actually multiply based on contact alone—if you fail to properly sanitize your plates, there&aposs a good chance that your sponge is picking up and holding any harmful bacteria it has come across. It&aposs all too easy to imagine using that same sponge on something else and potentially contaminate that item as well.

We&aposve previously learned that many Americans are washing their hands wrong or ineffectively, so don&apost be too embarrassed if you&aposve been cleaning dishes wrong. Taking the extra time to make sure cookware and dishes are clean could help keep our households that much safer.


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