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Living: Clean teakettles and fireplaces; pancake tips

Martha Stewart

Q. My pancakes always turn out too thin. is there a secret to making them fluffier?

— Carly Rosenberg, Chicago

A. Actually, there are several tricks you can try. First, bring your wet ingredients to room temperature before using them; cold liquids and eggs produce soggy pancakes. Make sure not to overwork the batter when whisking wet and dry together. Overworking the batter develops the gluten in the flour, giving the pancakes a flat, gummy consistency. Finally, create more loft by folding a few whipped egg whites into the batter.

For the full recipe and more answers to your cooking questions, check out Thomas Joseph’s Kitchen Conundrum videos at marthastewart.com.

Q. How do i clean my stainless steel teakettle?

— Danielle Sarbone, Dallas

A. Your kettle takes a beating when you keep it on or near the stove, where it’s exposed to constant splatter and grease. To remove stains, add enough white vinegar to 3 tablespoons of baking soda to form a thick paste. Apply it with a soft rag or sponge, and scrub until the stains disappear. Then wipe the kettle with a damp cloth — and store it out of harm’s way.

Q. I’m done using my fireplace for the season. How should i clean out the soot?

— Abbey Theban, Tulsa, Oklahoma

A. A quick going-over at the end of the season will keep your fireplace spotless until next winter. Start by shielding surrounding surfaces with a protective covering, like newspaper, to prevent soot from spreading. Then follow these steps from Scott Santel, store manager of the Home Depot in Maryville, Tennessee.

1. Remove andirons and grate. Add water to trisodium phosphate (TSP) powder to create a paste. Apply to andirons and grate, and scrub with a nylon brush. Rinse completely with water; wipe dry.

2. Scoop out any leftover piles of ash and debris with a fireplace shovel and discard.

3. Scrub fireplace walls from top down with TSP paste and a dirt-removal sponge, such as the Dry Cleaning Soot sponge ($33 for 12, homedepot.com).

marthastewart.com