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Restaurant Resource Center

How to Clean Cookware & Bakeware

After completing a demanding culinary assignment, your cookware and bakeware deserve the VIP treatment until they return to accomplishing another round of tasks. Proper cleaning and storage of these culinary troopers are vital to ensuring they deliver optimal performance over the long haul.

Here is some cleaning and storage advice from experts in the field.

Let Your Cookware Cool

Don't jump the gun on cleaning your pots and pans before they've had a chance to cool. “Never clean any pan while it's hot,” says Ivan Flowers, executive chef at Top of the Market restaurant in San Diego, CA. “The pan will bow and the bolts will loosen.”

Rinse Smart

Remove debris from cookware and bakeware with warm water before washing. “Pre-rinsing and scraping with water that is too hot may cause certain foods, such as pulp from orange juice, to actually stick to the surface, making it even harder to remove during the wash,” says Gina Nicholson, global client director of retail food services at NSF International, an independent organization that develops public health standards and certification programs to help protect food, water and consumer products.

Wash & Sanitize

Hand-washing is favored over an automatic dishwasher unit, which can dull and damage cookware's finish over time. Special care should be taken if a nonstick coating is involved. “Don't use metal utensils or cleaning implements, such as steel wool, with Teflon® and other nonstick coatings,” Flowers says. These cleaners scratch, mar and strip the finish right off. A three-compartment sink is ideal, as it enables you to wash, rinse and sanitize prior to drying.

Skip the Chemicals

“Cookware does not need to be cleaned with a lot of chemicals,” says Leslie Reichert, a Boston-based green cleaning coach and author. “Cast iron holds onto any chemical you use on it, so it's best to use tools instead.” She recommends a chain-mail scrubber to effectively clean cast iron without removing its seasoning.

Air Them Out

Pots and pans should be allowed to properly air dry before storing, according to Nicholson. “This is essential for the sanitizer to have the proper time to continue killing any microbes that might still be on the surface,” she says. Also avoid stacking cookware and bakeware while it's still wet. “Trapping pools of water inside will allow for pathogens and spoilage microbes to grow.”

Store it Safely

“Too many chefs keep their pots and pans right where they are prepping and cooking for convenience,” says Mary Beth Lawton Johnson, an executive chef based in Palm Beach, FL. That makes it easy for the items to get splattered. “Don't place pots near an exhaust fan or intake fan. Also, don't put them above the salamander broiler, directly below the line up, or on shelves close to food preparation.”

Reserve a dedicated storage space to protect cookware and bakeware from the action. “Chefs should have to walk or run to get their pots and pans,” says Johnson. “Put them where they will be clean and safe at all times.”

Mike Plotnick is a writer, publicist and social media convert who helps businesses elevate their stories. Based in St. Louis, Mike has overseen PR and communications programs for a diverse range of organizations. He enjoys fitness, chocolate and the St. Louis Cardinals.