How to Organize Your Kitchen like a Chef
If we were to take a peek inside the kitchens of Michelin-starred restaurants, there’s one very common theme – organization. Everything has its place in a modern professional kitchen. It doesn’t matter if it’s fine-dining or cafeteria style or a pizzeria. A highly-organized kitchen can shorten the time needed to prepare and cook food while also eliminating safety issues. Organizing your own kitchen doesn’t require you to be a professional chef, however. There are a handful of tips and tricks that chefs adhere to in their own little world. You can take your cue from these professionals and turn your home kitchen into an organized workplace. Here’s how.
Start with Kitchen Cabinets and Other “Fixed” Storage Solutions
Organizing the kitchen starts with using the correct storage solutions. Every bit of item that you have needs to have its own place in your kitchen. Whether they are pots and pans or spice bottles and kitchen utensils, they’ve got to have a specific place. Look at your kitchen now and see if you have cabinets, wall shelves, wall cabinets, and pharmacy cabinets. These are only a few of the storage solutions that can help declutter your kitchen. Take out everything from these cabinets and lay them all out on a table. Categorize them according to function. Now try to decide where you want to place or store each category in your system of cabinets. What you would want is to keep those things that you use very often within easy reach.
Use Stackable, Uniform-sized, Reusable Containers
Small kitchen items or ingredients are best organized using small, uniform-sized plastic containers. There are many options to choose from. The key here is to use uniform-sized containers with lids that have raised edges. This allows you to stack them one on top of the other. It is also better to get different capacities of containers, but with the same size of lid. For example, the lid for a 1-cup container should also fit in the opening of a 2- or 3-cup container. This way, you don’t have to worry about mismatching the lids. Moreover, the containers may have different heights, but they come in the same width or circumference. Such a system allows for a neater and more organized way to manage your small stuff in the kitchen.
Use Bigger Storage Containers for Larger and Bulkier Items
It is obvious that you cannot store your bag of flour or sugar in small reusable containers. A better solution will be to use larger plastic containers. Be sure to get one that is food-safe, otherwise you risk contaminating your food items with chemicals. It’s also wise to get several of these as a system so you can stack them on top of the other. Take note of the lid. It should be leakproof and airtight. You’re not storing liquids here but you also don’t want moisture to get in. Flour, sugar, rice, and other large-quantity dry ingredients don’t do well with the introduction of moisture.
Use Squeeze Bottles for Liquids
Liquid ingredients like cooking oil, vinegar, soy sauce, and the like are best kept in squeeze bottles. They are a lot easier to use and a lot safer, too. There’s no danger of breaking should they slip off your hands. The same is true for thick sauces like ketchup, barbecue sauce, and tartar. If the nozzle of the squeeze bottle is small, you may want to snip a section of it to create a bigger hole. Squeeze bottles come with lids. However, if you snip the tip, then you may not be able to cover it anymore. So, be careful when it comes to cutting off part of the tip of the nozzle. When bringing these bottles to a picnic, it’s best to unscrew the top and cover the mouth of the bottle with a plastic wrap. Re-screw the top so that it will form a good seal and keep your liquids from spilling during transport.
Store Your Knives the Correct Way to Prevent Damage
There are several solutions to this. There are now products that you can mount onto your wall that can handle any knife with ease. These contain powerful magnets that work to attract the metal surface of the knife’s blade. The best thing about this is that you also get to showcase your collection of knives. They will be a fascinating addition to your kitchen aesthetics. If a magnetic strip is not to your liking, a knife dock should be great. A knife dock contains slots which you can slide your knife in. It’s almost similar to a knife block, except that the outer edge of the knife is exposed in a knife dock. You can also put almost any other knife in a dock; something that a knife block cannot do.
Use Storage Racks for Additional Shelving Solutions
Sometimes, your built-in cabinets are not sufficient to hold everything. There’s no need to fret because there’s a solution for that, too. Professional chefs recommend using storage racks to further extend their shelving options. Pick stainless steel or metal over plastic ones. They may look fancier, but plastics cannot hold heavier kitchen items like pots and pans. Select a rack with adjustable shelves, too. This gives you the versatility to store any size of kitchen item so they will look neater and more organized. Place the rack in your pantry, if you have one. If not, putting them in one corner of your kitchen will give you access to all the stuff you need.
Store Perishable Items Away from Heat Sources
One of the most common mistakes of homeowners is that they store their perishable items near areas that can get hot. For instance, never store canned goods and other food items in a cabinet that’s located above the gas stove. The heat from this area can bring substantial changes in the quality of the food item. Don’t store your perishables near your refrigerator, oven, and the like.
Dedicate a Space Near Your Stove for Frequently-used Utensils
Look at the kitchen utensils that you never fail to use every time you cook. Is it the wooden spoon? The ladle? Or how about the wire whisk and tongs? Do you use spatulas and measuring spoons every time? If so, then you need to allot a small amount of space near your stove for such a purpose. You can have a hook bar on the wall behind the stove or a kitchen utensil holder right beside the stove. Or, you can position your stove so that it lies above a kitchen drawer. You can then place and organize your frequently-used kitchen utensils in the drawer. However you want to organize these items, keep in mind your objective. This is to minimize movements during cooking. You want everything that you need within arm’s reach.
Organize Your Refrigerator like a Restaurant Walk-in
The refrigerator is an important piece of appliance in any kitchen. It helps preserve the ingredients necessary for preparing a meal. It’s also a great way to prevent spoilage of cooked food. The problem in many homes is that they often leave the fridge when it comes to organizing the kitchen. Little do they know that it is also a storage solution. Raw fish, meat, and poultry should always be on the bottom shelf. This helps prevent contaminating the other food items. The top and middle shelf of the refrigerator is best reserved for ready-to-eat food items like ready meals, dairy products, cooked meats, leftover food, and the like. Keep in mind that the back of the fridge is colder than the front. Hence, delicate ingredients like fresh greens and herbs are best stored near the door.
You always hear kitchen professionals and food handlers talk about FIFO. This is system of cost flow assumption, whereby things that are stored first should also be used first. That’s why they call it first in, first out. In organizing the items in your refrigerator or your storage cabinet, make sure to put newer items at the back. This means you will have to remove the stored items first, so you can push new ones towards the back. When it’s time for cooking, it’s the ”older” items that you will be using first instead of the “new” ones.
Label Your Ingredients
Label everything, but most especially your ingredients. Small stackable plastic containers and squeeze bottles may help you organize your stuff in the kitchen. But, if you have lost track of what is in these containers, then you run the risk of using the wrong ingredients in your dish. Hence, label all containers using a masking tape or some other sticky paper that you can put on the side of the container. Always use a permanent marker and write in a legible manner. You can also make a print out of the different labels and print them on stickers. This is a much more efficient way of organizing the items in the kitchen. For perishable items like leftover food and dairy products, make sure to include the date when you put them in your refrigerator or container.
Alphabetize Your Containers
Professional chefs always organize their ingredients like spices and herbs in an alphabetical manner. This is very helpful when you have several containers of powdered herbs and spices. For instance, garlic powder may look a lot like white pepper powder, or something like that. And if you happen to have plastic containers with opaque sides, it will be difficult to see the kind of ingredient from the outside. Hence, arranging them in an alphabetical manner while also labeling them can help improve kitchen organization.
Create a Hanger System for Your Pots and Pans
Most homeowners keep their pots and pans in their kitchen cabinets. While this may work, you can allot these spaces for other items that you may have. If you look at your pots and pans, they come with handles. These handles are excellent elements for hanging. If your kitchen comes with a center island, there’s often an overhead panel above it. It is possible to install a hanger system in this section. If you don’t have a center island, the walls in your kitchen can be an excellent solution for hanging pots and pans. The inside surface of the cabinet door panel can also accommodate a hanger system. There’s plenty of vertical space in the kitchen that are seldom used. Now’s your time to use them.
Get a Minimum of Two Cutting or Chopping Boards
Professional kitchens always use chopping boards in different colors. There’s one for chopping vegetables, herbs, and fruits and others for fish, poultry, and meat. We’re not saying you should also have different color-coded cutting boards in your kitchen. Having at least two will suffice. This will help prevent cross-contamination. In a more ideal setup, you should also have another chopping board for cutting sweets like chocolates. You don’t want to cut up chocolate on the same board where you chopped or minced your garlic. The same is true when processing fish, poultry, and meats. You don’t want any of their “blood” and other “juices” to get in contact with your other ingredients. So, it’s best to have at least 3 of these kitchen items.
Put a Trash Can Under the Kitchen Counter
Part of an organized kitchen is waste management. While you may have your garbage disposal unit, you will still need a separate trash can for handling your other wastes. You can install a rolling or pullout mechanism under the kitchen counter. Place a pair of trash cans in this pullout platform. One will handle your non-biodegradable materials while another handles the biodegradable ones. It’s an easy DIY project that can also help save space in the kitchen. Plus, it’s a better solution for keeping the kitchen clean.
Organizing your kitchen like a professional chef is easy. You only need the right storage solutions and an understanding of a few principles of organization. These can make your food preparation and cooking a lot more efficient.