Your kitchen should be true testament to marrying form and function. Not only do you have to cook, clean, and store goods in your kitchen, but the kitchen carries its own aesthetic principles like any other room in the house. Here are some tips from professional chefs on how to plan your kitchen to optimise space and time.
If there's one piece of advice that all chefs can agree on, it's making sure there is adequate surface space. “It sounds obvious, but is a design feature that is often overlooked,” says Josh Katz, chef/owner at Berber & Q, Carmel and Shawarma Bar. “A domestic kitchen counter gets quickly filled up with all sorts of equipment, from a toaster to a kettle, a microwave, knife rack and so on and so forth. Before you know it, there’s hardly any available space left for prepping. Creating adequate surface space, where there is sufficient space to do so, makes a huge difference.”
What's the most effective way to add space? A kitchen island. “I find the addition of an island counter, which tends to be clutter-free from small equipment, is a great solution where it is possible to have one,” continues Josh. Chantelle Nicholson, chef/owner of Apricity, agrees. “I'm a huge fan of kitchen islands - they create so much more bench space! Even if they're quite narrow, they're so helpful.”
As for the arrangement of workspace and appliances, “Make sure all of your most important appliances are fairly close to each other so you don’t have pointless journeys across your kitchen to get something you need every day from the opposite corner,” says Matthew Ryle, Executive Chef at Maison François. One method for organising them is to think about the sequence of events in a typical recipe, says Scott Hallsworth, chef/owner of The Freak Scene and ex-Head Chef at Nobu: “When building your own kitchen, think if you are left or right handed, and plan out accordingly. Working left to right (if you are right handed or vice versa), think where your sink will be in order to be more efficient when prepping.”
“Have your work space near to the cooker,” notes William Drable, chef/owner of Seven Park Place at St James' Club and Hotel, “so you don’t have to carry things to the cooker, you can just prep and put things straight into the pan without having to run around too much.” And while fridges are bulky items that can be difficult to place, make sure they're not too far from the action. “I think it’s useful to have a fridge in the kitchen within close proximity to everything else,” says cook and food writer Ravneet Gill, "so you can grab something from the fridge while something is on the stove."
Ovens and appliances
In general, if you're cooking for a crowd on a regular basis, then go for quantity. “Install two ovens rather than one, it makes life a lot easier,” says Matthew Harris, Executive Chef at Bourne & Hollingsworth. “Also go for as many heat rings on the oven as you’ve got space for, five or six instead of the conventional four hobs. And invest in warming drawers if you have the space and budget.”
When it comes to hobs, you may have been hoping for a simple answer to the question: induction vs gas. Unfortunately you're not exactly going to get one, but the consensus does seem to be leaning in favour of induction. “I'm a strong advocate for induction hobs in general,” says Phil Khoury, Head Pastry Chef at Harrods and Author of A New Way to Bake: Re-imagined Recipes for Plant-based Cakes, Bakes and Desserts. “Once you familiarise yourself with the control buttons, you'll have significant control over your cooking. You can melt chocolate directly in a pan on the lowest setting and boil water for pasta in just 90 seconds.” “I would personally only look at induction, not gas, so renewable energy can be used,” adds Chantelle Nicholson, and William Drable notes that they are considerably easier to keep clean. But if you like to have perfect control over the levels of heat, then gas may still be for you, as Ravneet Gill says. “A gas stove is a must for me, I like the control you get with gas. But you do miss the speediness of an induction hob when it comes to boiling.”
Extractor fans can also make a huge difference to how pleasant your kitchen is. “Invest in a good modern filtration system,” says Scott Hallsworth. “I would say charcoal is the way to go, you just change the charcoal once in a while and it absorbs the grease from frying. This the best option for domestic kitchens, as extract systems are complicated and require planning consent.” “If you have a kitchen island and are installing a stove, I would suggest installing a vented induction hob,” explains Phil Koury. “A kitchen designer explained to me that because the extraction is positioned close to the source of steam and cooking, it is more effective. It will also clear your kitchen sightline and open up your kitchen!”
It goes without saying that you should get as big a fridge as you can fit in, but don't forget about some key extras. “Invest in a small ice machine or get one built into your fridge as this is ideal when hosting parties or cooking for large groups, and you won’t have to deal with empty ice trays,” says Scott. "
Sinks and counters
If the sink feels like an unimportant choice for you, then think again. “When it comes to designing a kitchen at home, a mistake often made is not assigning sufficient space for a large enough sink, says Josh Katz. “Having a big sink makes a huge difference as it allows you to remove clutter from your surfaces and store it out of sight, until you can get round to cleaning it, which will make for a more efficient and pleasurable cooking experience. It also makes the process of washing up so much easier.” William Drable agrees. “Go for a good deep sink and a good sized draining board, especially if you’re not very good at cleaning as you go.” Depth is key here, as Ravneet Gill points out. “A deep sink allows you clean without splashing water everywhere. And preferably get a hose tap so you can blast dishes if needed.”
Counters are surfaces you're going to be interacting with a lot, so make sure they are hardy enough for your purposes and easy to clean. “Go for wipe easy surfaces without too much clutter on them. In kitchens we have stainless steel work benches and I love how easy they are to clean,” says Ravneet." And don't forget to consider the height of the worktops. “Being tall I would say it’s good to plan your worktop heights,” notes Matthew. "This will save you hunching over a low counter while you’re doing your cooking.”
No professional chef would tolerate a messy pantry, and a recurring theme in our contributors' advice was the need to decant food into your own containers. “Store all your ingredients in clear plastic containers,” says Masha Rener, Head Chef at Lina Stores.
“It’s very important to have an organised fridge and dried storage, so check all the ingredients and their expiration dates.” Scott is very much in agreement. “When building your kitchen or doing some spring cleaning, implement a new storage system for fridge/cupboard essentials. Invest in small and medium size containers, label them all up, and decant your products into these as soon as you buy them so you can easily see exactly where everything is and what you have. Instead of ending up in the back of the cupboard, you are more likely to use the ingredient up before expiration and have more creative ideas with cooking.”
And don't just stick to cupboards for storage. “I love drawers because many things tend to get lost in the back of cupboards that are out of reach,” says Phil. “While you may lose a small amount of space due to the rails, you gain extra accessible space.” And if you have the space, trolleys are an excellent (and mobile) solution. “In my current kitchen I’ve got a few kitchen storage trolleys for things like utensils and pots and pans,” says Ravneet.
This article originally appeared on www.houseandgarden.co.uk