Other than water and soap, there is no better tool to wash your dishes than a pot scraper. I worked as a dishwasher. First in a summer camp in northern Connecticut, where we served hot food to 300 sweaty children three times a day. I didn’t have a pot scraper at the time. I wish I had.
A few years later, I worked in Burlington, Vermont, for a college at a Bruegger’s Bagels. There I baked, prepared, filled, washed and even prepared a bagel for the then US Congressman Bernie Sanders during my junior year (sesame, plain, not roasted if I remember correctly).
I put my dishwashing detergent here in good faith, reader, so as not to prove my superiority in a small task. I don’t have to tell you how to wash dishes (I definitely don’t know everything). After all the time with high pressure pulldown sprayers and looking at towers with dirty stainless cookware, I come to you with a simple suggestion. Now that you’re more at home and maybe trying a few new things in the kitchen, throw away your scouring pad and bristle brush and invest in a $ 5 pot scraper.
A pot scraper, if you are not aware of it, is a thin piece of usually nylon plastic with a beveled edge. It often has a thicker piece of plastic wrapped around the top edge as a handle. With a pot scraper you can apparently remove all cooking items that are baked or dried on a pot.
My children, 3 and 8, are made almost entirely of my wife’s macaroni and cheese. Homemade mac and cheese require an oven spin, which of course results in a crust of burned cheese sticking to the edge and sides of the baking dish.
Most often, she uses an enamel lined cast iron bowl for Mac and cheese, but sometimes she uses glass. A bristle brush could possibly clean the pot. Soaking the dish with water and dish soap can help, but it inevitably results in the leftover cheese and sauce being transferred to the bristles themselves, which you then have to clean separately, or a rotten raw stick stinks on your sink.
That is stupid. It also takes longer than using a scraper and wears out the brush bristles because you really have to push yourself down to get everything up.
You can use a scraper to soak your dish first. Or not. Whether glass or enamelled cast iron or stainless steel, your scraper doesn’t care. Does it need elbow grease? It could be, but you won’t hurt your scraper if you really lean in. To clean it, just wipe off any leftovers with your finger and swipe them in the sink. Beat it with a sponge and some hot water if you have to. Done.
Do you hate scrubbing eggs off your pan? A scraper takes care of these eggs. Burnt cake filling or barbecue sauce? Caramelized onions from a roast chicken? A scraper will remove all of this.
There is no soap container for a scraper. It doesn’t keep any smells. It doesn’t bother your faucet handles and doesn’t need a hook to hang up like a bristle brush. It will not scratch your non-stick coating.
I’ll end up with an anecdote from the kitchen of this summer camp. We had just served macaroni and cheese for dinner. I was on pots in this shift, which meant hand washing a stack of commercially available baking tins, each baked with baked bechamel, cheese, and prison-quality pasta stains. I scrubbed that day. I had a scouring pad and a box of soapy steel wool pillows when it got difficult. I scrubbed and scrubbed and an hour later I was the last one in the kitchen. My colleagues had gone to sneak a cigarette or run around with some unappreciative children. It was me, a pan and the corner of a pasta sheet that somehow melted into the stainless steel pan. It would not come off.
These will do the trick.
My instruction was to clean all of the pans. This pan wouldn’t clean. I considered taking the pan and burying it in the forest. Instead, I let this pan and bastard piece of pasta soak overnight.
I came back to the breakfast shift. The pan was still there. I poured out the water and plucked my finger on the macaroni bowl. It would not come off. I scrubbed again. Nothing. I sighed, set the pan aside, and turned my attention to a baking sheet covered with sausage fat. If you had eaten what the chef did next in this pan, you might have tried a hint of soapy gluten. If I had had a pot scraper I might have saved you.