Pulling off a large holiday feast — with every dish served hot and cooked to perfection — is exhausting in its own right. Here’s a comprehensive plan for making the Big Clean Up as painless as possible:
BEFORE THE HOLIDAY
- Make plenty of room for ingredients and leftovers by deep cleaning your fridge and freezer. If you don’t have time for a deep clean, call in a PRO, or at least go through and discard any old and past-date items hanging around in there.
- Think about deep cleaning your cooktop and oven. Start with a close inspection. If it’s reasonably clean — meaning no burnt-on bits likely to start smoking when your cooktop and oven are working on overdrive — then wait until after the holidays (even until spring) to deep clean. Otherwise, at very least clean away any substances at risk of setting off smoke or CO1 alarms when subjected to higher- and longer-than-usual heating.
- Inspect clean dishes coming out of your dishwasher. If everything is squeaky clean, you’re good. But, if you notice a slightly oily film, it could mean that the machine’s food chopping and/or draining mechanisms are clogged. Call an appliance pro to get that sorted before your holiday company arrives. Also, if the interior of your dishwasher has hard water or other mineral stains, a quick de-scaling cycle will have it looking spiffy for any guests who help out with loading after the feast.
- Clean your coffee maker. While you’re de-scaling the dishwasher, hit up your coffee maker too, so you’ll have great tasting brew to serve with pie and other holiday desserts.
- Organize and take inventory of food-storage solutions. Discard unmatched bottoms and lids and restock as needed with a variety of shapes and sizes to ensure you are well prepared to quickly pack and stow away leftovers or send some home with your guests.
- Make a detailed timeline. Sit down with a large-ish piece of paper and draw a line representing the entire day of your feast. Start by marking down the time you intend to serve your feast, then work backward, plotting in all the dishes you intend to prepare, accounting for how long each takes to cook and whatever constraints you might have in terms of burners, oven space, and so forth. For each item in your timeline, add the following details: when you will start preparing/cooking it; what pan or pot you plan to use; what burner/oven space it will occupy; how you will keep it warm or reheat before serving, and what dish and other implements you will use to serve it. Make notes around which items, including flatware, might need to be hand washed (and when) so they can be reused. Also: figure out how long your dishwasher’s complete wash and dry cycle is; mark on your timeline the latest time you can run and unload a cooking cleanup cycle and still have the machine completely empty when it’s time to clear the table and wash up after the feast.
- Place a large stack of clean, absorbent dish towels near to hand so you can dry and either put away or reuse items you will be hand washing.
- Clean as you go. Better yet, recruit someone to do this for you!
- Strategically place hors d’oeuvres and beverage setups far away from where you’ll be cooking. The goal is to keep guests from hanging out underfoot in the kitchen; it rarely works but, but it’s worth a try! If, despite your best efforts, people still hang out in the kitchen, put them to work on No. 8 or at least hand them a dish towel to help with drying.
- Even when you clean as you go, understand that a time will come — usually when you’re carving meat, making gravy, and otherwise hustling to get food on the table hot — that you will need to just let it all go. Allow that big last-minute mess to happen and enjoy your feast!
AFTER THE FEAST
- If you’re lucky, one or more guests will start clearing the table. Let them! You did all the cooking and the dishwasher is empty and waiting to be filled.
- Rinse dishes well before loading into the dishwasher. Yes, your dishwasher has a chopping mechanism for food pieces, but these wear, break, and clog; you definitely don’t need that happening when you have a house full of guests with two or more full loads of dishes yet to run.
- Avoid overloading the dishwasher. Perhaps a family member or friend prides themselves on jamming in as many plates, glasses, and utensils as possible. Don’t let them do it! Water needs to circulate freely for those dishes to come out clean and completely sanitized. Rinse and neatly stack anything that won’t fit on the first run, so it will be a snap to load and run them later.
- Hand wash cutlery, serving platters, and any other items you might have on your timeline that need to be re-used for serving dessert.
Finally, consider rewarding yourself for a feast well served with a complete PRO housecleaning! OR, if you’ll be a guest at someone else’s home over the holidays, consider gifting a PRO MaidPro clean to your gracious hosts.