Hardware & Software: The Countertop Garbage Bowl
Whenever I've watched Rachel Ray on Food TV (one of her cooking shows, not the other Rachel-Ray-empire shows), she always made a big fuss about her "garbage bowl." I hate to tell this to any Rachel Ray fans out there, but she didn't invent the practice of keeping a bowl on your kitchen counter to collect trash while you cook. It's actually a long-time habit of professional chefs and one that home cooks are smart to mimic.
I first learned it in cooking school. Putting a 10" stainless steel work bowl above our cutting board was part of setting up our work station. Every class started with the mise en place -- the prepping of all the ingredients -- and having a bowl to collect the garbage was part of this process. Use it until it's full, then dump the contents into the trash can, and start again.
What's the big deal, you may ask. The trash can is a step away and why add something else to an already crowded counter? Well, even if you have a tiny kitchen and little counter space, here's why adding a garbage bowl makes sense:
- City cooks already separate our trash between "wet" real garbage, paper/dry trash, and recyclables. (What? You don't recycle?! What kind of good New Yorker are you?) A bowl makes it easy to keep food garbage isolated.
- If you collect food scraps for composting, your garbage bowl makes collection simple.
- Many of us don't have in-sink garbage disposals, so by collecting all the peels and trash into one bowl, it's a single step to throw the contents out in the right (roach-repellent) trash container.
- If you're lucky enough to have a garbage disposal, it lets you collect things that still shouldn't go down the drain. Like potato peels (unless you live with a plumber then do whatever you like).
- When you're prepping a recipe -- whether it's making a salad or cutting up a chicken or peeling shrimp -- it's amazing how many times you have to throw things away. It may not save actual steps to toss trash into the bowl instead of an under-the-sink garbage can, but it will save effort and focus.
- It's cleaner. You're not putting your hands back and forth between the trash and the cutting board.
- Whether you're a messy cook or obsessively neat, the bowl will be an improvement to your process.
Here's the biggest reason: you will keep the cutting board clean while staying focused on the task at hand.
Just try it once. The next time you're doing a big meal or anything special, just dedicate a spare bowl (big enough to be useful; small enough to not be in the way) to collect the food scraps. I am sure you'll wonder how such a small change in the process can make the cooking experience so much more effective.