Time & Motion Note:
Managing the Dishwasher
30 March 2018

¶ Yesterday, I mentioned something that I don’t think I’ve ever discussed, “dishwasher management.” As someone who works alone in the kitchen — Kathleen is never expected to help out — I have to deal with the clean-up as well as everything else, but dealing with it as well as everything else is not something that you’re going to pick up from cookbooks. Scullery is beneath notice. But running the dishwasher with the right load at the right time can make or break the pleasure of serving a dinner. 

Do it right, and the sink doesn’t fill up with mixing bowls, saucepans, and a thousand little items that a bit of forethought might have sent straight to the dishwasher. Do it wrong, and you’re stuck waiting for the cycle to complete in order to empty the dishwasher at a time when you ought to be concentrating on cooking. Doing it right for this menu means that the first load is finished round  about the same time that the oil is heating up for the chicken — I’m just standing around. It’s actually welcome, to have something mindless to do at such moments. 

It ought to go without saying that, when you start cooking a serious meal, your dishwasher ought to be fairly empty and available. This may mean running a very light load the night before, or earlier the same day, and emptying it before getting down to work. One of the great virtues of developing complete menus, in fact, is that you’ll have a fairly good idea, going in, what matériel you’ll be using, and in what order. Making my savory dinner begins with brining chicken in a large bowl of salt water and mixing dough in the stand mixer. I’m going to plan on running those items (and many others) through a cycle while I’m cooking the soup. I’m not going to make the mistake of holding the dishwasher until I’ve processed and sieved the soup, because those finishing steps occur too close to serving time, by which I want to have emptied the dishwasher so that I can begin reloading it. When I sit down to eat, there ought to be nothing in the sink. 

After dinner, I fill the dishwasher with as many dishes as it will hold (what with the food processor, the strainer, &c), run it, and leave the rest until the morning. I find that emptying and reloading the dishwasher after eleven at night disturbs my getting to bed. (In the winter, I clear plates to the balcony anyway.) 

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