How to Clean the Bottom of Pans & Pots

how to clean a cast iron pan

The best part about cooking in your own kitchen? A delicious, homemade meal you can be proud of. The worst part? Now you’ve got to deal with a sink full of dirty dishes. And even if you swore you only took your eyes off that pan of searing steak for just one teeny tiny second, you could end up with scorched pans, caked-on foods, or a greasy mess at the end of your kitchen session. But that grease is no match for you, your soap, or your sponge. Here’s our tried-and-true guide to how to clean the bottoms of pots and pans, no matter how dirty.

Boiling Water Method

For scorched, blackened stainless steel pans and burnt on foods, turn up the heat. Add water to your pan and bring to a boil for 5-7 minutes (don’t worry about covering the dirty sides with water – the steam will take care of that). After the food loosens and easily comes off the pan, pour out the hot water and wipe any remaining food with the scrubby part of a sponge. For glass or metal baking dishes, add boiling water and let sit for several minutes before using the scrubby side of a sponge to easily wipe away any residue.

clean a pan with stuck on food

Hot Water Soak

A hot water soak can loosen baked, caked on food from dishes like cheesy lasagnas or rich chocolate brownies. Fill the dish with warm to hot water right away, covering the sides. Let soak for 15-20 minutes or until food loosens. Didn’t get around to soaking your dish the moment the food left the pan? That’s ok. Add hot water later and let soak overnight. Then, wash in the morning.

Baking Soda, Vinegar, & Lemon Juice

clean a pan with baking soda

Head to your pantry to get your pots and pans extra clean and shiny. Baking soda, distilled white vinegar and fresh lemon juice are a triple cleansing threat. Add a dash of baking soda or vinegar during the boil method to help clean scorched saucepans. Soak pots, baking dishes or cookie sheets in hot to boiling water with baking soda and fresh lemon juice for an accelerated clean. Rub half a lemon around the bottom and sides of stainless steel cookware for extra shine; rinse and let air dry. Finally, a squirt of vinegar followed by a rinse of water is great for removing any residual odors.

For the really tough stuff, try adding a dash of store bought cleansing powders like Bon Ami, Zud or Bar Keepers Friend. Don’t feel like heading to the store? Use Alka-Seltzer (really)! To help loosen stuck on foods and lift stains, add hot water and a tab or two of Alka-Seltzer or other effervescent to your dish.

how to clean a cast iron pan

Cleaning Cast Iron Pans

Everyone wants to know: How do you actually clean cast iron? If there is one thing to remember, it’s to never use abrasive sponges! It will ruin the seasoning (the oil-treated surface that protects the pan and your food). Instead, rinse your cast iron with hot or boiling water. If there is still anything stuck to it, use kosher salt, warm water and a soft sponge to loosen residue and rinse again. After the dish is totally dry, run some vegetable oil in a thin layer onto the bottoms and sides to keep it lubricated and prevent rusting.

Wash wood by hand using regular dish detergent– don’t place in the dishwasher. If your wooden spoons have stains from a curry or tomato sauce, wash and let air dry in the sun to take out some of the smell and color.

Keep copper away from water and regular soap or else it will oxidize (turn your beautiful cookware green)! Instead, dip your copper in boiled water with a good amount of vinegar or use the vinegar-water solution to wipe the copper clean.

Prevention

To prevent hard-to-clean dishes in the first place, keep your eye on the stove! Line pans with aluminum foil, parchment or wax paper or use a nonstick cooking spray for certain recipes to avoid the sticking of any food that will later burn to the dish. Watch the food in your pots and pans – make sure the temperature isn’t too high and stir occasionally to avoid future cleaning problems. And dry your food thoroughly before searing. Wet or even slightly damp proteins (think chicken, beef, etc.) will stick to your pan!

But if your chow does start to burn or appear to cake on, you can still save yourself from cleaning a mess. First, lower the heat and throw a little water onto your pot, pan or dish if you can. Then, make sure to stir and scrape down the sides of your pan or pot with a wooden spoon (especially when filled with stews, soups or sauces) or wipe any splatters on baking sheets or dishes that are going into the oven. Liquids or splatters will cook off and leave markings. The longer the markings stay on the side under heat means they will caramelize, brown, blacken and burn.

What’s the Best Food to Bring to the Beach?

beach food picnic
Make sure olives are pitted

Going to the beach is supposed to be relaxing, but sometimes planning for a day of doing nothing can be surprisingly stressful. Your whole beach crew needs sun protection, a prime spot on the sand, and of course, the perfect beach food. That last item can get a little tricky—some foods are better suited for the beach than others. To make relaxing a little easier, here’s a rundown of the best foods to bring to the beach. 

To be a good beach treat, a snack needs to check a few basic boxes. The key elements of an oceanside lunch are: 

A beach food needs to travel well

From cooler, to car, to shore, it might be hours from when you pack your lunch to the time you dig in. The best beach foods should be able to hold up to the heat, and maybe even improve as they sit. This means no temperature sensitive items. Sorry, but poke is off the menu. 

Find a snack that doesn’t produce trash

The goal here is to make things easier. You don’t want to spend your day at the beach keeping track of wrappers or other refuse, and you certainly don’t want to leave anything behind on the pristine sands. If you plan ahead, this should be easy to solve for. Just pit any cherries before you pack them, slice a watermelon and discard the rind, and avoid individually wrapped snacks. 

Focus on refreshing foods

Hours out in the heat can be depleting, even if you’re just lounging. Fresh foods with a high water content and salty foods to replace lost electrolytes will keep you frolicking in the waters all afternoon. Of course, we can’t deny the pleasure of a stealthy glass or rosé or a pre-made cocktail, even if it makes you a little sleepy. Just make sure to bring along plenty of water. 

Highly recommended: 

Pre-cut fruit 

Some fruits will travel better than others. Raspberries are lovely, but are a little delicate for the beach. Strawberries with the tops trimmed off will transport well and be easy to eat. Be sure to remove any pits or peels before packing your fruit, lest you be burdened with scraps to throw away. Sliced apples may oxidize slightly, but will still be fine to eat. If you don’t like the appearance of browning, toss them in lemon juice before packing. Grapes are also a great choice.

watermelon is a good beach food

Potato chips 

Any chip will work, but potato chips are the perfect salty treat to satisfy cravings and encourage you to drink water. They’re delicious on their own, which means you don’t have to fuss with any potentially messy dips or salsas. 

Cheese and crackers

If you’re aiming for a sophisticated vibe, throw some soft cheeses in a cooler. They’ll keep well, and are delicious at room temperature. Be sure to pack the requisite tools. Having a knife, plate, and napkins will make things infinitely easier. 

Pressed sandwiches

Eventually, you may crave a more substantial meal. That’s when it’s time to bust out the sandwiches. When packing the perfect beach sandwich, the secret is in the bread. A sliced sandwich-style bread can get soft and soggy over time. A hearty baguette or ciabatta will absorb flavors and only grow more delicious. A pressed sandwich like a cuban or a pan bagnat is the ultimate travel hero—even if it ends up squished under a book, it will just enhance the flavor.   

Looking for more travel treats? Try our favorite snack for road trips.

Decorate Your Table with Origami Lobster

The food is delicious, the wine is chilled, and the guests are on their way. It’s time to set the table! If you’re hosting a dinner party, why not give the place settings the same love that you gave to all the other details? Sometimes it’s the tiny extras that make a night memorable. 

origami lobster place setting
Origami lobster place setting

This summer, we’re obsessed with lobster rolls. Our lobster box makes preparing a feast easy. For extra fun, try decking out your table with these festive origami lobster. 

If you’ve ever made a paper crane, this design will be easy. Just fold neatly, have confidence, and follow the steps below. 

origami lobster step 1

1. Start with a square sheet of paper. If you’re using origami paper, the colored side should face down. 

origami lobster step 2

2. Fold the paper in half to form a triangle. Press down on the fold to form a crease. 

3. Fold the two corners together to form a smaller triangle. Press down on the fold to form a crease. 

4. With the folded edge facing to the right, lift the top half of the triangle, open it, and press it flat, as shown. 

5. Repeat on the other side. The paper should now look like a square.

6. Position your new square on the table so that the folded corner is facing up. Take the right hand corner and fold it so that the edge of the paper is aligned vertically with the center. Make a crease and unfold. Repeat with the left hand corner.

7.  Take the top corner and fold it down to the center point to form a crease. Unfold.

8. Flip the square over, and repeat step 6 on the other side. 

9. Lift up a flap from the bottom corner. Press the flap open and flatten it. It should fold along the creased lines that you formed in steps 7 and 8. 

10. Repeat step 9 on the other sign. The paper should now be shaped like a thin diamond. 

turn folds of origami lobster

11. Take the right hand corner and open it like you’re turning the page of a book. Repeat this process on the other side. The paper will now resemble a kite with two arms at the top. 

origami lobster arm

12. To form the claws of the lobster, grab one of the arms at the top. Fold the tip of the arm behind and out to the side, so that it forms a 90º angle with the centerline. Repeat with the other arm. 

origami lobster claw

13. To form the pinchers, take the tip of the arm again. Fold the tip directly up and press down to flatten, as shown above. 

folding origami lobster

14. Fold the long edges of the torso back, and tuck them inside of the body to form a thinner kite shape. 

15. To form the shell of the lobster, lift up the bottom flap of the body. Fold pleats into the body to resemble the ridges of a lobster shell. Press down to crease, and unfold. 

cut the origami lobster

16. Flip the lobster over, and use scissors to cut the back flap only. Cut up to the center of the torso. 

create origami lobster legs

17. Fold the two newly formed flaps outward to create the bottom legs of the lobster. They should be at a 90º angle with the body. 

origami lobster legs

18. Flip the lobster over again. Fold the tip of the bottom legs behind the paper so that they point directly up. 

completed origami lobster

20. Use a sharpie to add eyes to your completed origami lobster, if you wish. 

Create one origami lobster to set on each plate, or scatter them across the table for a festive touch.

Explore the Galaxy with Blue Apron

Blue Apron is teaming up with Disney & Pixar to celebrate their all-new movie Lightyear, in theaters June 17th. We’re bringing you more ways than ever to unlock a world of flavor and excitement.

A Blue Apron box holds more than just your next great meal—it’s also a ticket to outer space. Follow these instructions to use the box, bubble liner, and a few household items to create a DIY spacesuit costume for any
little ones who love adventure. Now you can go To Infinity and Beyond any night of the week!

Click here to download the complete instructions.

The Blue Apron box is not intended for use by children and should only be used by children under the supervision of an adult.

3 Tips for Maintaining Your Cast Iron Skillet

Perhaps no piece of cookware is more iconic—or dependable—than the cast iron pan. This tried-and-true workhorse is beloved for its durability and versatility; you can fry, grill, sauté, braise or bake in it. Best of all, with proper care, cast iron actually improves with use. Below, we break down how to maintain it.

How to clean a cast iron skillet

After use, wipe your skillet clean, then rinse under hot running water. Scrub off stuck-on debris with salt and a damp towel. Contrary to popular belief, it’s fine to use a little soap on a well-seasoned cast iron skillet. The seasoning on a cast iron pan is polymerized oil, which won’t be broken down by a few suds.

Should you dry a cast iron skillet?

Yes. Immediately and thoroughly dry your pan with a towel. Leaving the pan damp or leaving it in water in it can lead to rusting.

*If your pan rusts, not all is lost! To bring a rusted pan back to life, bake at 450ºF for about an hour, then remove from the oven and carefully rub with oil and a paper towel to loosen and wipe out the rust. Scrub out any remaining rust with salt, then rinse, dry and carefully rub with an oiled paper towel.

How to season a cast iron pan

Use a paper towel to evenly coat the inside of the pan with a small amount of vegetable or canola oil. Use enough oil to give the inside of the pan a nice sheen, but not so much that it feels sticky. Heat the pan gently in the oven or over the stove top, just until is starts to lightly smoke. Let it cool, and put it away until next time.

If you won’t be using your cast iron pan for a while, it’s important to heat the pan to help the oil form a protective seal with the iron. Place the pan on the stovetop and heat on high for a few minutes, until hot and the oil starts to smoke lightly. Remove from heat; when cool enough to handle, carefully wipe out the pan with a dry rag. Let cool completely before storing.

Pick up a cast iron pan of your very own at the Blue Apron Marketplace.

Essential Kitchen Tools

If you’re new to cooking, or moving into your own place for the first time, you’re probably wondering what you need in your kitchen. If the kitchen aisle of your local homegoods store feels overwhelming, we’re here to help. These are the basic tools that every cook should own. Once you have the essentials, you’re free to daydream about fancy blenders or specialty appliances.

A chef’s knife

A chef’s knife is a true workhorse, and no kitchen is complete without it. In our version, an 8.2” blade makes a knife that’s versatile enough every day use, but formidable enough to break down a chicken. The handle is made from composite wood. This knife will make slicing, chopping, and carving a cinch. After use, hand wash and wipe dry to prevent rusting.

A cutting board

To make the most of your knife, you’ll need a cutting board. We love this beautiful wooden cutting board for prepping vegetables. Cut meat on a non-porous material, like plastic or silicone.

Tongs

We use our tongs for tossing salad, flipping large pieces of protein, and serving just about anything. A good pair of tongs will feel like an extension of your own two hands. Our favorite set of tongs is this smooth silicone-tipped pair, available in both 9 inch and 12 inch (we have both).

Wooden spoon

No tool in the kitchen can replace the humble wooden spoon. A wooden spoon is strong enough to scrape up sticky caramelized fond, but soft enough that it won’t scrape a nonstick pan. Wood doesn’t conduct heat as quickly as a metal. That means that you can stir a pot of boiling soup without worrying about a scalding hot handle. If you’re in the comfort of your own home, you can use your wooden spoon to sneak a taste. You’ll be less likely to burn your mouth. 

Ladle

A ladle doesn’t have to be fancy. It’s just a simple way to transfer liquid from one vessel to another. No need to risk sloshing soup all over the counter while pouring out of a heavy pot.

Whisk

When it’s time to emulsify a dressing, beat an egg, or combine dry ingredients for baking, you’ll need a whisk. A solid whisk will make thorough mixing a joyful task. A bit of an upper body workout is just an added bonus.

Spatula

The word ‘spatula’ can be used to describe multiple tools. We love our favorite fish spatula for flipping everything from filets to pancakes, but you can’t beat a silicone spatula for scraping the sides of a bowl. 

Nonstick pan

A great nonstick pan will spare you frustration in the kitchen. For certain foods that are prone to sticking, like fresh fish and fried eggs, a nonstick pan will make all the difference between transferring your seared flounder filet to your plate in one piece and leaving too many scraps stuck to the pan.

Cast iron pan

Perhaps no piece of cookware is more iconic—or dependable—than the cast iron pan. This tried-and-true kitchen staple is beloved for its durability and versatility: you can fry, sauté, braise or bake in it. Best of all, with proper care, cast iron actually improves with use. Below, we break down how to maintain it.

A Microplane

What do shaved chocolate, garlic paste, and freshly-grated Parmesan have in common? Two things: they’re all ingredients that can finish a dish with a powerful punch of flavor, and they can all be easily created at home with a Microplane. 

A baking sheet

A baking sheet is an irreplaceable tool for tasks like baking cookies, roasting vegetables, or preparing sheet pan dinners. A simple aluminum half sheet (or quarter sheet, for those with small ovens), is an essential item that you’ll find yourself using almost every day. 

A Dutch oven

We’d love to recommend a whole set of pots: large ones for pasta, medium for sauce, small for grains, and a few others just for fun. If we must recommend just one, nothing compares to the versatility and durability of a heavy bottomed dutch oven. A good Dutch oven can bubble happily on the stovetop as a vessel for soups or stews. Wash it out, and use it in the oven for baking bread or long, slow braises. 

Save Time and Space with the Panasonic 4-in-1 Multi-Oven

space-saving panasonic multi-oven

Whether you live in a small apartment or a roomy house, kitchen counters tend to fill up. That’s why we love space-saving multi-tasking kitchen tools.

The Panasonic 4-in-1 Multi-Oven might look like a microwave at first glance, and it is, but it’s also a whole lot more. 

This multi-oven’s features include: a Convection Oven, an Air Fryer, an Inverter Microwave, and a FlashXpress Broiler. With combination cooking, you can achieve the textures and flavors your microwave has always been missing–perfectly cooked insides and brown, crispy outsides. This appliance is already doing a lot, but on top of those main features it includes simple settings that make cooking and reheating a breeze. Use the keep warm function to keep your sides hot while you finish cooking a main dish, or try turbo defrost or 1-Touch Sensor Reheat to bring life back to leftovers. 

In addition to saving space, this multi-oven saves time. It’s high-powered, and doesn’t require any time to preheat. Have you ever made it halfway through a recipe before realizing you forgot to preheat the oven? Say goodbye to that frustration forever. 

The Panasonic 4-in-1 Multi-Oven also includes a silent mode for those times that you want to heat up a snack without waking up the family. 

Order a Panasonic 4-in-1 Multi-Oven for your home at the Blue Apron Marketplace, and follow this post to learn how a multi-oven can help you prepare your favorite Blue Apron dinners.

Get cooking 
Try using your Panasonic 4-in-1 Multi-Oven to save time in this recipe for Mafalda Pasta & Roasted Broccoli by skipping the preheating step. Just use the convection bake oven function to roast the broccoli for 14-16 minutes at 425°F.

Use the air fry function to make the crispy prosciutto for these Crispy Prosciutto Lettuce Cups with Sambal Mayo & Pepper Rice. Using the included air fryer basket, lay out whole pieces of prosciutto in an even layer and air fry for 6 minutes or until crispy.

The air fry function will make perfect crispy potatoes and free up the oven when you’re making this Gochujang Beyond Burger™ with Scallion Jam & Roasted Potatoes. To use, just place the potato wedges in the fry basket and cook on the air fry setting for 25 minutes.

Save oven space by using the Panasonic 4-in-1 Multi-Oven to make this Pork Sausage & Beef Ragú Pasta Bake. Use the bake setting to bake the pasta at 400°F for 9 to 11 minutes. Finish the dish by using the broiler setting for 1 to 2 minutes, or until golden brown. 

For these Cheesy Balsamic Onion Crostini, you can use the bake setting to create a quick appetizer. Bake the crostini at 400°F for 7 to 9 minutes, or until the cheese is melted. 

Use the microwave setting to warm and soften your tortillas for these tasty Chorizo Tacos. Just cover with a damp paper towel and microwave tortillas for 30 seconds.

For the Steaks and Black Bean-Butter Sauce, you can use the convection oven setting to roast the vegetables at 425°F. Follow the timing instructions on your recipe card.

You can use the air fryer setting to make the croutons for the Smoky Steaks & Romesco Panzanella. Just season the diced bread with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Toss to coat and air fry for 10 minutes.

A Mason Jar Baking Kit for the Dessert-lover in Your Life

Gift-giving season can be a struggle. The goal is to show our friends and family that we care, and maybe even to make their lives a bit brighter. The reality is that it can be hard to know what another person truly needs. There is, however, a safe bet. Everyone always has room for dessert. 

The holidays are a time of abundance. Desserts and gifts are everywhere. Mason jar baking kits are a way to give something delicious that the recipient can prepare themselves whenever their table is empty. They’re inexpensive, cute, and perfect for friends, teachers, or co-workers.

How to make a Mason jar baking kit

A Mason jar baking kit is basically just the dry ingredients for a baking recipe, measured out and layered into a clear jar. After the jar is assembled, just attach a card with instructions on how to finish the batter or dough and bake. To make a DIY baking kit, you’ll need a jar with a lid, dry baking ingredients, some card stock, and ribbon or twine. 

Almost any cookie or brownie recipe can be made into a kit. Here’s how we adapted our beloved 5 ingredient brownies. 

Measure the dry ingredients into the jar. Pour in one ingredient at a time. You want to form layers, so don’t share the jar.  For extra fun and flair you can add chocolate chips, m&ms, nuts, or other dry mix-ins between the layers. 

Our jar contains:

  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

After the dry ingredients are measured, secure the lid. To decorate, tie a ribbon around the top of the jar and write the remaining instructions on a small card. 

Make sure to mention the other ingredients that they’ll need to complete the kit. Here’s what we’re writing on our card: 

You’ll need

  • ½ cup salted butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 large eggs

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Whisk together the melted butter and eggs. Add the wet mixture into the dry mixture, stirring until just combined. Pour the prepared batter into a greased 9×9 baking pan and bake for 25 to 35 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes before slicing. Enjoy!

Careful not to shake it up! You don’t want to ruin the layering effect.

Still feeling the holiday spirit? Find more gift ideas for people who love to cook here

Gifts for People Who Like to Cook

The holidays are about two things: celebrating the people you love, and eating. Our holiday gift guide helps you combine two. Our team of test kitchen chefs picked out the best kitchen gifts for people who love to cook, whether they’ve mastered risotto or are just trying out grilled cheese. 

Kitchen Gift Ideas

Microplane 

microplane gift

I’ve gifted this to my mom and my partner, and they’ve both told me how it has revolutionized their cooking. You can use it to zest citrus, make garlic paste, and create fluffy clouds of cheese—it’s a small grater with lots of possibilities. — Annabel Epstein

Citrus squeeze 

gift for people who love to cook citrus

Being quarantined has led to a lot of at-home cocktail making sessions, which have been made significantly more enjoyable (and efficient) thanks to my citrus squeeze. From margaritas and palomas to sidecars and sours, making a big batch of drinks in a short amount of time has never been easier. This is the perfect gift for people who love cocktails. I also use it all the time for curd. Lauren Katz

11-inch Nonstick Fry Pan by Scan Pan 

nonstick frying pan gift for people who love to cook

This is one of the best nonstick pans I’ve ever used. It can brown anything, and food won’t stick. It’s also a wonderful size; it’s big enough to cook a lot, but not so large that it feels unwieldy. This is one of the best gifts for people who like to cook, or for someone who is just getting started in the kitchen. — Lisa Appleton

Prep Bowls

These bowls are my go-to kitchen gift idea. I truly believe that a set of great prep bowls will set any home cook up for success in the kitchen. They’re perfect for organizing your mise en place, and they can also double as storage containers for leftovers in the fridge. Kristen Merris-Huffman

Olive Wood Wooden Spoon 

gift for people who love to cook olive wood spoon

A good wooden spoon is one of the most underrated and versatile tools in the kitchen. It won’t damage or scrape your pans, and it’s perfect for sauteing and stirring. Durable and attractive, a sturdy wooden spoon is an essential part of the home cook’s kitchen. John Adler 

Slotted Spatula

slotted fish spatula

Also known as a fish spatula, this tool can do so much more than its name suggests. I love it for flipping pancakes, pressing down latkes, or gently scraping under the crispy cheese that starts to puddle around a grilled cheese sandwich. It’s such a precise tool that allows you to get really close to your food. This is a great gift for a cook who already owns most of the basics. Claire King

Baking Dish Set 

This set has the only two sizes of baking dish you’ll ever need. The small one is perfect for a few chicken breasts while the larger is great for a lasagna. The white ceramic is super durable and transfers heat well, while also being simple and stylish. — Diane Casner

Why & How To Warm (& Cool) Your Plates

warm plates and chilled plates

This post comes from Lori Yates, the author of Foxes Love Lemons. Lori is adapting the lessons she learned in culinary school for the home kitchen. Her tips will help make you a faster, better, and more confident cook. Her post today is all about enhancing your meal by warming (or chilling) your plates.

A friend recently asked me, “No offense, but are you, like, really picky about restaurant food now that you’ve gone to culinary school?” I told him that actually, no, I’m pretty easygoing. I hardly ever send food back to the kitchen. With one exception. Hot food has to be served hot, and cold food has to be served cold. Bring me a cold bowl of soup or a warm and wilted salad, and I will send it back every single time.

Neighborhood dive bars get this wrong once in a while, but upscale fine dining restaurants hardly ever misstep. The reason is simple, and it’s one that can be easily replicated at home. Try this trick to elevate your home cooking into the realm of a restaurant-quality meal.

warm plates
warm plates

Chilling plates

Serving a side salad or frozen dessert? Grab your salad plates or bowls and let them chill out in the fridge while you prepare your Blue Apron dinner. Twenty minutes is all it should take (do it even faster in the freezer!). By the time your dinner is ready, you can take the frosty plates out of the fridge, plate up your salads, and take them right to the table. Your greens and vegetables will stay cool, refreshing, and crisp while you eat, even on a warm summer day.

Warming plates

Making a pot roast or casserole on a cold winter day? Nothing is worse than cold casserole. Most roasts and casseroles need to stand for a few minutes after they come out of the oven, before serving. Take this time to reduce the oven temperature to 200°F, and throw your plates in there while your roast rests. In just five minutes, your plates will be warmed through and ready for you to serve up your piping hot dinner. You’ll appreciate that your meat stays hot on your warm plates while you take your time savoring each bite.

This maneuver was an absolute requirement when working at the student-run restaurant at my culinary school. The trick made every dish that left the kitchen seem like it could be served in a four-star restaurant anywhere in the world. One tip? Just don’t put your plates in the oven and forget about them. This may have happened just a few times at school. And when the chefs arrived in the morning and noticed plates that had been “warming” in the oven for the last 18 hours, well, there was yelling. Luckily, you won’t have a Certified Master Chef breathing down your neck in your home kitchen. Relax and enjoy your hot food being HOT, and cold food being being COLD.

How the Sloppy Joe Got Made

BBQ Sloppy Joes with Green Bean & Tomato Salad
Sweet, savory, and sloppy

The Origin of the Sloppy Joe

There’s nothing complicated about a Sloppy Joe.

At its most basic, the Joe is a sandwich made with ground beef and a tomato sauce. The Sloppy Joe’s history, however, is a bit more complex.

Some attribute the original Sloppy Joe to a cafe in Sioux City, Iowa, where, many years ago, in 1930 a cook named Joe added tomato sauce to his “loose meat” sandwiches. Voila: a new between-the-bread offering, and the sandwich’s official name. (Loose meat sandwiches continue to be a staple in Iowa and other parts of the Midwest.)

Chicken Sloppy Joe Sliders   with Kale Slaw & Homemade Pickles

Others say that the original sandwich was born at the iconic restaurant in Key West, Florida, Sloppy Joe’s Bar.

And then there are those who say that the concept of the sandwich was dreamt up in Havana of all places, at Sloppy Joe’s saloon, which recently re-opened after a half-century hiatus (!).

But while people may contest where the “official” Sloppy Joe was born, the concept of mixing meat, cheese, and bread is so simple that it’s no surprise that Sloppy Joe soon it became an American favorite.

Sloppy Joe Sandwich Ingredients
Sloppy joe ingredients

Loose meat sandwiches

Let’s start at the origin: the loose meat sandwich.

And the origin of that Midwestern delicacy? Well, as ground beef gained popularity in the 19th century, it became renowned as a nourishing and economical food option: it delivered lots of protein for your money. Fillers (like bread crumbs, ketchup, tomato paste, cheese, etc.) were often added to stretch the meat and the ground beef mixture was then turned into things like meatballs, meatloaves and stews. The loose meat sandwich was just another way of using that meat in a creative manner, one that stretched the meat even further because of the carb-filled bun.

While the name leaves something to be desired, in the Midwest loose meat sandwiches are very much a culinary tradition, particularly in Iowa. If you watched the sitcom Roseanne in the late 1980s and early 90s you may remember the loose meat sandwiches that were served up at the Lanford Lunchbox.

Tempo Turkey Sloppy Joes with Shishito Peppers & Carrot Fries
Turkey sloppy joes

Sloppy Joe’s: A Cuban Specialty?

If there’s one restaurant that has become synonymous with the sandwich, it’s Sloppy Joe’s Bar in Key West, Florida, which opened on December 5, 1933—the day Prohibition was repealed.

Originally launched under a different name, it was none other than Ernest Hemingway who encouraged rebranding the bar as Sloppy Joe’s. But it had nothing to do with a sandwich. Nope, the name was adopted from Jose Garcia Rios’ Havana Club, which sold liquor and iced seafood.

“Because the floor was always wet with melted ice, his patrons taunted this Spanish Joe with running a “sloppy” place,” said Donna Edwards, Sloppy Joe’s Brand Manager. “The name stuck.”

But why do so many people order Sloppy Joes at Sloppy Joe’s? While some say we have that chef back in Sioux City to thank for it, we can’t forget about the Cuban connection.

“A loose beef sandwich was on the menu at the original Sloppy Joe’s in Havana,” confirmed Edwards.

Either way, the Key West version of Sloppy Joe’s has been serving the sandwich since the beginning, Today, the joint sells more than 50,000 Sloppy Joes a year.

The Manwich

Manwich, slush burger, yum yums, dynamite, spoonburgers, tavern sandwich; a Sloppy Joe can be called by many other names. The most well-known however is Manwich. Much as we’d like this to constitute a reference to the SJ being a man’s favorite sandwich, this nickname derives from a brand of canned Sloppy Joe sauce that was launched by ConAgra Foods and Hunt’s in 1969.

Marketed with the slogan “A sandwich is a sandwich, but a manwich is a meal,” it’s no surprise that this one-pan meal became so popular during the 1970s and 80s, and for many years, Americans made their Sloppy Joes straight out of a can.

Sloppy Joe Goes to School

Just like people in the early 20th century saw cooking with ground beef as a smart economical choice when it came to nourishing food, school cafeterias embraced the Sloppy Joe even more firmly than the patrons in Key West. Why? A question of value and nutrition. And so, the messy sandwich got a bad reputation as cafeteria food.

“I think the origination of placing Sloppy Joes on school menus likely came from a need for a fulfilling a hearty meal with a minimal cost,” says Robert Jaber, Director of Office of Food and Nutrition Services for District of Columbia Public Schools. “The Sloppy Joe, if served properly, can be the perfect combination of economics, nutrition, heartiness, and student acceptance – it’s a perfect fit for a school menu.”

But as we all know, it’s rare that kids care about money and nutrition; they just want to eat, which means that ultimately, the popularity of Sloppy Joes is all about taste. “It’s funny—It must just be the mixture of spices and sauce which people love,” says Margo Livingston, Kitchen Manager of Stonepark Intermediate School in Charlottetown, Canada, adding that “with Sloppy Joes you can throw some veggies in there and they don’t know the difference.” As Jaber adds, they’re also “a comfort food, especially in the colder months,” which might be why so many of us have childhood memories of the sandwich.

Sloppy Joe Sandwich Filling

Sloppy Joe Variations to Make On Your Own

As a comfort food, Sloppy Joes are certainly a staple, and while we most often think of them as a cafeteria food, you can find upscale versions at restaurants across the country. From serving the sandwiches with aged cheddar to using challah buns, there’s a different variety depending on what you want. But why wait to go out? Using quality meat, or even chicken, making good Sloppy Joe’s at home is easy and a fun way to incorporate a classic comfort food into your weekly meal plan.

Sloppy Joe recipes

BBQ Sloppy Joes with Green Bean & Tomato Salad

BBQ Sloppy Joes with Green Bean & Tomato Salad

Chicken Sloppy Joe Sliders   with Kale Slaw & Homemade Pickles

Chicken Sloppy Joe Sliders with Kale Slaw & Homemade Pickles

Tempo Turkey Sloppy Joes with Shishito Peppers & Carrot Fries

Tempo Turkey Sloppy Joes with Shishito Peppers & Carrot Fries

Other Sloppy Joe Variations

Try these ideas for some fun twists on a classic sandwich.

Add vegetables. Chop up some carrots, dice a red bell pepper, sauté some mushrooms.

Use fresh herbs. A little thyme or oregano will liven up the dish.

Or all kinds of spices. You can change the flavor profile of your Sloppy Joes by adding different spices like cumin, curry powder, or chipotle. You can even try an Asian inspired Joe with Sambal Oelek and Hoisin sauce.

Embrace fusion. You might also want to give Sloppy Joe Tacos or Sloppy Joe Grilled Cheese a try.

Make the sauce with wine. Just like a good meat-based pasta sauce benefits from a red-wine base, so will your Sloppy Joes.

Mix in sun-dried tomatoes. You can change up the tomato flavor by using sundried tomatoes in addition to the tomato base in your recipe.

Go vegetarian. Switch out ground beef for a veggie protein.

This post was written by Anna Brones, a food and travel writer based in Paris, France who has a love for bikes, coffee and all things organic. 

How to Choose the Right Size Pot or Pan for Cooking

Cook the rice in medium pot

There are a few pots and pans we use all the time—we love our large pot for boiling water, and our medium-sized frying pan for searing beef or chicken. When it comes to making dinner, choosing the right pot or pan can make a big difference.

If a frying pan or baking sheet is too small, the food will end up very close together. This make it difficult to brown or sear whatever you’re cooking. Vegetables and proteins release steam as they cook, and if they’re all piled on top of each other, the steam won’t be able to escape. You’ll end up with a watery steamed dinner instead of a flavorful browned dish. An unnecessarily large pan can lead to waste, and increases the likelihood of burning your dish.

Read on for tips on how to choose the right pan for the job.

Cook the chicken in large frying pan

Frying Pan

A large frying pan is true kitchen workhorse. Blue Apron recipes use large frying pans for everything from browning chicken for Chicken Tikka Masala to searing tilapia for Tilapia with Shallot-Tarragon Butter. It’s a good idea to invest in one your love. If you cook often, you’ll find yourself setting it on the stove nearly every day. We alternate between two pans, one nonstick and one a heavy stainless steel pan. Both are about 12 inches in diameter, which means there is plenty of room any task we encounter, from sautéing onions to flipping fish. If you’re cooking for a crowd you can even go for a bigger pan—a 14-inch frying pan will cook up to 4 chicken breasts at once.

Don’t have a pan that’s exactly this size?  Don’t fret. The good news is that you can improvise. The main criteria is simply that you have enough space to cook your food. If necessary, you can brown two filets of cod, for example, in two smaller frying pans.

cook pasta in a large pot

Large Pot

When we call for a large pot, we’re likely cooking pasta (or sometimes gnocchi!). When pasta cooks, you want to give it lots of space to dance around the boiling water. In a crowded pot, your spaghetti will cook unevenly and stick together. Don’t let that happen. Haul out the biggest pot you’ve got. We like one that holds at least 6 quarts.

When cooking grains or vegetables, we usually reach for medium pot rather than a large one. Depending on the quantity, these foods often don’t need as much space. If you only own one pot, make it a large one.

Make the mustard seed rice

Small Pot

The small pot should hold about 1 1/2 quarts and have a tight-fitting lid. We use the small pot almost exclusively for cooking up grains, from brown rice to bulgur wheat. In this case, the tightly fitting lid is more important than the exact size of the pot. Since most grains steam as they cook, you don’t want to let boiling water or hot air escape from the vent in between the pan and the lid. If your lid doesn’t fit tightly, you can seal a sheet of foil on top of the pot before placing the lid on.

Prepare & roast the cauliflower

Medium-Sized Baking Sheet

We use our baking sheet for heating up bread or naan, baking meatballs, or finishing our quinoa-falafel patties. When it comes to choosing a baking sheet, the determining factor is often the size of your kitchen. Half sheets, quarter sheets, and full-sized sheet pans can all get the job done, as long as they can fit in your oven. When you’re cooking, make sure you have enough room to allow for a few inches of space between your items. This will help ensure even cooking. As with your frying pan, if your baking sheet is on the small side, improvise by using two.