Eight kitchen items you've probably been cleaning incorrectly

Got a new wok? Make sure you season it first.
Got a new wok? Make sure you season it first.  Photo: William Meppem

Most of the time, cleaning your kitchen equipment is pretty straightforward. You know how to wash a plate, right? And saucepans don't pose too much of a problem. But when it comes to tricky pieces like cast iron pans (is soapy water OK?), glassware (streaks) and even steamer baskets, there are better ways to clean. We asked three experts: cleaning guru Shannon Lush; executive chef at Ms Gs, Mr Wong and El Loco, Dan Hong; and Guillaume's owner Guillaume Brahimi for their advice. 

Cast iron pan

Brahimi uses a lot of cast iron pans in his cooking – so how does he clean them? Most pans come pre-seasoned these days, but it's still a good idea to season yours again before first use. On the stove, bring the pan to a very high heat, and then (carefully) rub a teaspoon of oil on the surface with a rag (again: carefully!). It'll be more like a swishing motion as you want to keep the rag away from your body as much as possible. Oiling makes the pan more efficient and increases its non-stick capacity. Brahimi re-oils his pan after every use. "Wash in warm soapy water, then dry it quickly," he says, "Then rub your oil." To store, Brahimi places a cloth or paper towel between each pan to protect them. Easy.

Dry wooden chopping boards in the sun, says Shannon Lush.
Dry wooden chopping boards in the sun, says Shannon Lush. Photo: Matt Inman

Grater or microplane 

"Anything that has sharp edges does not belong in the dishwasher," says Lush, who is as synonymous with cleaning as, say Guillaume is with French food. "It'll lead to rust – even with stainless steel, which is not, contrary to popular belief, rust-free." Instead, wash with hot water and normal dishwashing liquid, and leave to air dry.

Sharp knives

Should you use soapy water on a cast iron pot?
Should you use soapy water on a cast iron pot? Photo: Eddie Jim

Rinse with cold water to remove surface grime, Lush says. Then wash using hot water and ordinary bathroom soap – not dishwashing liquid. Dishwashing liquid reacts with proteins, instead of dissolving them – and of course, we often use our knives to cut proteins, Lush says. This method will keep them clean and sharper for much longer, she says. When cutting anything very acidic (onions, lemons) or alkaline (cheeses), wash your knife frequently during use – anything on either end of the pH scale will dull your knife over time.

Wok

To get the skinny on seasoning and washing woks, we went to the master: Dan Hong. A new wok, he says, always comes with a layer of oil on it to prevent it from rusting – so before you have burnt that oil, it is pretty much impossible to wash off. 

'Anything that has sharp edges does not belong in the dishwasher,' says Shannon Lush.
'Anything that has sharp edges does not belong in the dishwasher,' says Shannon Lush. Photo: Steven Siewert

To burn the oil off – in other words, to season it – you need to heat the wok up until it is almost smoking. "You'll notice the colour change from a nice silver to almost black. Move the wok on the burner so that the whole surface is the same colour. Once this is done, give the wok a rinse, carefully wipe it dry and heat it up again till it starts to smoke. Turn off the flame, add some vegetable oil and coat the whole cooking surface with oil. Carefully discard the hot oil (into a nearby bowl) and wipe away the excess oil left in the wok with a paper towel."

And that's it: your wok is now seasoned and ready to use. But, Hong says, don't ever wash it in soapy water – this will remove the seasoning and ruin all your hard work.

Steamer basket

Got a new wok? Make sure you season it first.
Got a new wok? Make sure you season it first.  Photo: William Meppem

Ever made dumplings at home and had no idea how get that final bit of pastry off the wooden steamer? Hong feels your pain. But all you need to do is soak it in plain hot water overnight to remove the smell or any residual food. This also prevents it from cracking. 

Wooden cutting boards

Lush suggests washing these down with hot water and normal bathroom soap, sprinkling them with salt and after a few minutes, washing it off. Leave the board to dry in the sun.

Soaking in hot water overnight is a good way to get any remnant dumpling skins off your bamboo steamer.
Soaking in hot water overnight is a good way to get any remnant dumpling skins off your bamboo steamer. Photo: Edwina Pickles

Take care with bamboo cutting boards, as their structural make-up is different. "Essentially, you're not cutting across filaments, as you would be with a normal wooden cutting board," she says. "You're cutting across the tubular structure of the bamboo, which means that bacteria can get in more easily." The best way to clean bamboo boards? Don't throw out your next black tea bag – use it to rub down the board and then rinse with water. The tannic acid will rejuvenate and clean the bamboo. 

Cutlery

"If you've got droplets or leftover scum on your cutlery, it's probably because you're putting them in the dishwasher, or using too much soap when you're handwashing." To render your forks and knives super-shiny, Lush recommends washing with normal dishwashing liquid, then rinsing with a mix of hot water and vinegar (half a teaspoon of white vinegar in a litre of water). 

Glassware

"Never put glassware in the dishwasher," Lush says. Over time, they'll develop an ugly white haze. Instead, wash glasses in warm water and bathroom soap, rinse with hot water and polish with a clean cloth. Lush's cloth of choice? Old (clean) pantyhose – they're made of microfibre, after all.