Kitchen Kersplat: Tips to Reduce the Splatter

One-dish meals are lovely: Throw everything in a pan, cook it and dinner is done. Just one pan to clean, then sit back and relax for the rest of the night. Or perhaps not.

Scanning the stovetop, you may see sauce on the backsplash, oil on the countertop and grease on nearby appliances. Simple meals can evolve into a scrubbing nightmare without quick action or prior planning. Try these tips to avoid or reduce splattering:

Start with Dry Food

The water-and-oil dance that is so cute when testing a hot pan turns into a messy rave when tossing in frozen vegetables. The best bet: Pat dry food before placing it in the pan to saute.

Use a Large Enough Pan

Give food space to cook by choosing the right size pan with taller sides to help prevent splatter.

Stay Close

While a watched pot may never boil, a boiling pot may not cause to a mess if you stay nearby. Rice and other grains that require a lid when cooking can boil over, leading to sticky goo around the burner. Prevent it by staying close; occasionally lift the lid to release steam. When cooking thick liquids and sauces, bubble eruptions occur when the pan gets too hot. Before that happens, pick up the pan and hold it over the burner while stirring for a few seconds. Indirect heat and slow stirring helps calm boiling bubbles.

If You Can’t Fight it, Manage the Mess

1. Use a lid. If preparing food with wet heat, such as steaming, a lid can trap water droplets and prevent the pan’s contents from splattering. When removing the lid (lift away from your body to avoid steam burns), some splatter still may escape.

2. Put up a splatter shield. This contraption is like a mini voting booth. With a three-sided wall around the pan, splatter is contained to the pan and its most immediate surroundings. It doesn’t prevent splattering, but it can make cleanup easier.

3. Use a splatter screen. Like a cross between a lid and a strainer, a splatter screen fits on top of a pan and is designed to allow steam to escape while controlling some of the splatter. Vented dome-like covers are made for microwaves to help control splatter.

4. Cover neighboring burners. To keep the rest of your stove clean, place a baking sheet upside-down to cover one or two burners.

Healthy Kitchen Hacks: Cooking with Fats

Create a better pour. When first opening a new bottle of cooking oil, don’t remove the foil covering (if there is one). Instead, make a slit with a sharp knife. This will give you more flow control when measuring or pouring directly into a pot or sheet pan.

Use DIY cooking spray. Be earth-friendly and save money by making your own cooking spray. Mix 1 part oil with 3 to 4 parts water to distribute a thinner and less greasy coat to your cooking vessels. Pour the mixture into an aluminum or glass spray bottle and store in a cool, dry place. Before use, shake the bottle and use the “mist” setting.

Clean grease spills with ease. If an oil spill is still wet, dust it with cornstarch, flour or baking soda and let sit for 15 minutes before wiping it up with a cloth or paper towel. If a grease splatter has cooled and hardened, drizzle with dish soap and wait 10 minutes before scrubbing with a sponge. For tougher, caked-on grease, apply vinegar and let sit for another 20 minutes before wiping clean.

Recycle leftovers. Instead of dumping used oil into a container and throwing it away (never pour it down the drain), look for a local disposal center, drop-off bin or service that converts used cooking oil into cleaner-burning biodiesel. Avoid reusing cooking oil for future meals, as it may affect flavor and can become rancid.


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Elana Natker
Elana Natker, MS, RD, is a nutrition communications consultant in the Washington, D.C. area. Find her online at Sage Leaf Communications, LLC, and on Twitter and Instagram.

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