Rethinking the Basics--Pot Washing

I normally wash and dry my cookware after use and store it in dust- and critter-proof locations. For the next use, I usually just look to make sure there’s no MoF in it, and then cook away.

However… today I was boiling water to brew coffee in my Aeropress. When the water in the covered saucepan started really steaming, I removed the cover and smelled dish soap! It wasn’t overpowering, but neither was it easy to ignore.

That got me thinking that: (a) maybe I should carefully rinse every pan immediately prior to use; and (b) that I ought to find a more rinse-able and unscented dish soap.

Is there anyone else out there who thinks about whether soap is that “mystery ingredient” in their cooking?

I recall a thread on Chowhound where some fuckwit opined that it was not in the culture of we Britons to rinse crockery, pnas, etc. Very funny, but what a tosser!


I just washed a lot of pots and pans so gave them the sniff test. Couldn’t smell anything. I use water so hot that I wear rubber gloves. I rinse in similarly hot water and air dry.

Hi Kaleo,

When I hand wash pots and pans, I try to minimize use of soap, BKF, and other cleaning agents, and do rinsing more than once if my use of cleaning agents is extensive. There often are tell-tale signs of soap residue, but the ultimate test is always that smell. I’d want to know, so I wouldn’t use unscented soap.

I wouldn’t routinely rinse before use, but I might if I were boiling water for tea or coffee.


Hi, Cath:

Well, here’s the deal. I normally give my pans a sniff test anyway, and never notice anything.

Give it a try: Hand wash and dry as usual, then boil a quart of fresh water in a covered saucepan. When it boils, crack the cover and smell the steam.


Hi, Ray:

So do I.


Did you taste the water?

Instead of rinsing, you can do a quick scrub with water and rinse. Stuff stick to surfaces. Rinsing doesn’t always get them all off.

For example, all kinds of stuff stick to the toilet bowl despite the ‘rinsing’ from the flushing.

Personally I would just clean and wash after use, instead of prior to use. After stuff and water dries, they stick more and become even harder to rinse off. Using unscented dish soap reduces your consumption of the scent, which are VOC chemicals, but not necessarily the detergent.

If you haven’t already, one thing you can consider is using liquid soap made via the saponification process, either made with vegetable fat plus potassium hydroxide. While I won’t eat real soap as food, I am less concerned if I ingest a little of that because I didn’t wash as thoroughly as I should previously, versus if I washed with dish detergents. Manufacturers of dish detergents/ liquid can’t call their products dish soap because because its made of detergents, derivatives of petroleum chemicals, and is produced by different chemical processes from saponification. I know you mentioned that you use dish soap, though many people use the terms detergents and soaps interchangebly, hence the comment.

I think you just need to get a good woman who knows how to do the dishes.

(I’m kidding, I’m kidding!)

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HAHAHAHAHA!!! (Site wants me to do better!)

I give it the squeak test after rinsing. I rub my fingers over the item, and if it squeaks, I know there’s no residue. Doesn’t work with non-stick coatings, though.

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If you’re going to do the extra rinse before using, it would be a good idea, water-conservation-wise, to put a dishpan under the pot and spigot, capturing that water for another use. I got rid of the dishwasher. I use a dishpan in the sink. I use a pottle
jug to capture the water coming from the hot tap before it’s actually hot enough for the dishpan, then use it for rinsing.

I was appalled at that old Chowhound discussion about not rinsing dishes at all, and mentioned it to several people from old New England stock. They all remembered elderly relatives with no-rinse policies.

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Here on the Left Coast we ‘capture’ that water and use it for things like flushing toilets.

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If I recall, Harters, that tosser was me – after being in more than a couple of British homes and being admonished when I rinsed the dishes (and being asked why I would rinse when they or others were in my own home)

I didn’t taste before brewing. Any soap taste got lost in the coffee.

Then again, I made fried chicken tonight and dosed the breading with a fair amount of curry powder. Undetectable as curry on the chicken, just a je ne sais quoi quality.

I think this happens a lot in cooking–for good or bad. Ingredients don’t surmount a taste threshold, but they’re doing something qualitatively. I just don’t want my mystery ingredient to be dish soap.

Couple drops of Dawn soap in the pot . Add a little hot water . Scrub inside until clean . Light scrub on the outside . Hold under faucet swishing rinse water until soap disappears . No soap taste ever . I was a pearl diver in a restaurant when I was young .

Why not boil some water and then taste it plain? That should answer your question.

Coincidentally, I was using Dawn (Ultra) at the time, and your method is identical to mine. I never noticed any soap smell until my little covered boil for coffee.

So boil water, taste it and then be done with it.

Not to go all Zen on you or anything, but if I can smell it, I’m not sure how significant not actually tasting soap is. But for you, I’ll try–if you promise to explain how the result answers my question.

I’m not saying it’s dangerous in any way. I’m just pondering if it’s affecting the taste of my cooking in general. I mean, if the taste threshold for soap itself is 50 ppm, who wants to put 50 ppm of soap in their food?

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