A very essential thing in doing nice cooking is to have clean utensils. The pans of a careless cook are encrusted outside and frequently inside with dry, hard grease, which ordinary washing will not remove; the broilers are black with burned grease, and the ovens are in the same state. If one sees this condition of things, or finds a woman putting a saucepan on the hot coals, one needs no further commentary on her work. The saying "You can judge a workman by his tools" is very true in this case. No good cook will abuse her utensils, or expect to get well-flavored sauces from saucepans which are not immaculately clean. To keep utensils clean, it is necessary to wash them thoroughly, after they are used, with soda to cut the grease, and with sapolio to scour off any blackened spots. Sand or ashes may be used on the outside of iron pots. The outside as well as the inside of every utensil should be clean, and never be allowed to approach that state where only scraping will clean them. When utensils do reach that unwholesome condition, the coat of burned and blackened grease can be removed only by boiling in a strong solution of sal soda for an hour or more, using a large boiler which will hold enough water to entirely cover them. After the grease is softened, it can be scraped off, the articles then scoured with sand, ashes, or sapolio.* This is a good day's work for a charwoman, which will change the aspect of things in the kitchen, and may awaken a pride for cleanliness where it has not before existed.
* It can also be easily removed by soaking in a solution of Babbitt's lye - one tablespoonful to several gallons of water. - M. R.
Tins should be well dried before being put away, or they will rust. Sieves should not be washed with soap, but cleaned with a brush, using soda if necessary. Wooden ware should not be put near the fire to dry, or it will warp or crack.
An orderly arrangement of utensils in the kitchen closet will greatly facilitate quick work. Everything of the same class should be in the same group: Saucepans and gridirons hung on hooks, measuring-cups, iron spoons, and strainers also hung in a place very convenient to hand. Molds and baking tins should be placed where they will not get bent or jammed. Practise strictly the system of a place for everything and everything in its place.
Order in the supply-closet is also necessary. Have a number of tin boxes, and of glass preserve-jars of different sizes, to hold everything large and small in the way of food supplies. Stand them in rows, each one plainly labeled, that no time may be lost in searching for the article needed. The cost of these receptacles is small, while their use is not only a great convenience, but also a protection from dust and insects. A closet so kept is also easily supervised. In every large and well-ordered kitchen perfect order and system prevail. Were it not so, a hopeless confusion would soon ensue. In small households the same nicety can be the rule, and if the mistress makes a weekly inspection, order will soon become a tradition of the household, and be maintained without demur. The refrigerator must be kept scrupulously clean and dry to insure wholesome food, and its waste-pipe kept freely open. This should not be connected directly with the general waste-pipe of the house. Cases of diphtheria have been directly traced to this cause. There should be a free use of soda in washing out the refrigerator to keep it free from taint. As butter and milk readily absorb the flavors of other articles they should be kept by themselves, or with only the eggs, in the small compartment. Lemons or other fruit are particularly to be excluded. Fish may be laid directly on ice, the skin side down; but beefsteaks or other uncooked meats lose flavor if placed m direct contact with ice.
Proper care of the range and intelligent use of the coal are also essential factors of success in cooking. If the drafts are left open too long, the greatest heat is often lost before cooking begins. If they are closed the moment the coal is kindled, the heat will remain steady for a long time. When the coals look whitish, they are becoming exhausted and beginning to fall to ashes, and this condition arrives quickly when rapid combustion takes place from open draughts. Piling the coal above the level of the fire-box is another error generally practised by ignorant cooks. The heat does not increase from the depth of coal, but from the breadth of surface. Piling up the coal, in a mound which nearly touches the top of the range, results in heating the iron red-hot, warping the lids out of shape, destroying the saucepans, and very likely burning the food. No articles cooked on top of the range require excessive heat, and are usually spoiled by too rapid cooking.
When the ovens do not bake on the bottom or on the top, it means a layer of ashes shuts off the heat. The ashes are easily removed from the top, but to lift the plate from the bottom of the oven and clean it out requires a cold range, so this is often neglected or not understood, while the cook wonders why the bread will not bake on the bottom, and why the cake is spoiled.