Kitchen Design

Kitchen Design

I missed some very important aspects of the cooking environment in the previous kitchen paragraphs and I will correct that deficiency now, with a small amount of repetition. You need a very large kitchen (think 15 feet by 20 feet minimum) with lots of granite countertop area and eye level cabinet space, and a large hanging rack to hold a few dozen of the pots and pans and skillets you use most often, for ease of access. A large island, with more than three feet but no more than four feet of clearance on all sides, is a must too. It should have a medium size sink, offset a few feet to the left or right, across from the primary kitchen counter sink.

The idea is that you can set up multiple workstations, one for each item you are preparing for a meal with no crowding or required sequencing of using available space. That is a great benefit and it makes cooking fun. You get the great overview and status of what is happening in your kitchen, and each workstation is spacious, with its own ingredients and equipment. Multiple people can prepare different foods at the same time with no crowding. And to top off those considerations, islands make a wonderful area for serving a large dinner with many different foods buffet style.

As I reflect on kitchen design and consider all the environments I have used or seen I have some very distinct recommendations. When you build a house or do a major remodeling of an existing house plan the large kitchen area along the lines of what I describe next.

First, you want a very large gas Wolf® cooktop along a wall and not on an island. Have lots of counter space on both sides of the cooktop. The cooktop should be under a very large hood with a powerful exhaust fan that exhausts only to the outside of your home. Never have an air recycling type with filters. They are stupid toys and they simply donít work when you have serious cooking to do. Similarly, the Jenn-Air® disappearing type or range top intake type of exhaust system, that is an integral part of a cooktop, is terribly inefficient compared to an overhead hood, and that idiotically conceived type of exhaust system can even draw off important heat from your gas burners as you cook. You can actually see it happening as the flames are pulled towards the exhaust intake! The simple reason why it doesnít work to your best advantage is that the air intake isnít high enough above the pot or pan that is emitting the steam or oil vapor or odors that you are trying to eliminate. Avoid that type of exhaust/ventilation system.

Install double electric wall ovens of the Dacor® or Viking® class, with all the special features intrinsic to high-end appliances, like temperature control from room temperature and higher in one degree intervals. Double ovens are a must because you will be roasting or baking different items at the same time, or equally likely you will need a warming oven while something else is baking. Also, it is so much better having your ovens where you can easily see inside and easily access the foods you are preparing. Purchase, independently, a thick large flat stone or slate that you can use in one of the ovens to enhance baking of breads, pizzas, etc. Having a large oven under a cooktop, which is similar to the conventional kitchen range, is far less convenient. You have to stoop and/or bend over too much to do any and all operations when using it. Why should you make your life difficult? Thus, I do not recommend a Wolf® or any other type of range with an oven under a cooktop.

So, just where do you go to find the best appliances at retail prices? In Wilmington DE I use ABC Appliances® on Greenhill Avenue, for they carry a fine inventory of the best products of different manufacturers. You will not find the better products they sell at Sears® or any other common appliance outlets. You will have to seek out stores like ABC Appliances® where you live, or perhaps search the Internet for better prices. In the past Marie and I also used the high end EXPO® stores that no longer exist to buy products like cooktops, the kitchen sink, etc. Do what you have to do but do not lower your quality standards. Letís continue.

Yes, have a large convection microwave oven installed high enough that you have the top of the door only 3 to 4 inches below eye level, so that you may easily see what is happening inside the oven. Be sure the front of the oven is inset with counter space directly beneath, extending six inches or so in front of the front of the convection microwave oven. The convection feature is a superb backup in the event you need an additional oven to roast or bake a relatively small item. The microwave function is indispensable for thawing frozen food and for providing rapid reheating or primary heating for many other foods. Having usable counter space below and in front of the convection microwave oven makes inserting and removing dishes or other items from the oven easy. You also need the counter space to make that operation safe, for some items are very hot and dangerous when removed, like open containers of liquids.

Something I have never seen that would be a great improvement in using all ovens is to have the doors open from the top like a conventional oven but provide on the inside of the door a shelf when the door is in a horizontal position. This shelf is where baking dishes, skillets, etc. might be placed temporarily either when first putting them into the oven or during removal or any intermediate step that requires working with the food during the cooking cycle. The point is that oven shelves, even the best slide out types on rollers, do not necessarily present the optimal height surface to the cook. Having an extra shelf capability as a staging area that presents easy access would be a fine improvement, especially for the upper oven of double wall ovens and for microwave ovens. I wonder if any manufacturers will ever act on that improvement opportunity?

Your primary refrigerator should be very large (26 cubic feet or larger) and convenient to your island and your primary kitchen sink. Get whatever brand appeals to you. Subzero® refrigerator/freezer models are often the choice of people determined to have the best kitchens.

Subzero

Similarly, have a top quality quiet dishwasher like Bosch® or Miele®. It is a wise investment and a great timesaver. If you are permitted to use garbage disposals where you live, by all means make certain both sinks are so equipped. If not then use the simple method of having a waste product bowl beside each sink that can contain, for example, vegetable peelings in a confined space, and do not simply toss them into the sink. Later the bowl can be emptied all at once into your trash receptacle(s).

In general you want to use the space under your granite countertops for larger appliances and trash receptacles on sliding shelves. The idea is that under counter cabinets can be a pain in the butt if they are used to store equipment or dishes that you will use frequently. Try to use eye level cabinets or a large hanging rack for things you use frequently, and, have plenty of drawers immediately below the granite countertops for a large variety of utensils and flatware.

One very important drawer in particular is usually non-existent in most kitchens. It is a deep drawer(s) that holds all of the lids for your pots, pans and skillets, stored vertically on their edges, in a simple rack that lets you see and access what you want immediately. You no longer have to go searching the recesses of the bottom of a large cabinet or even racks within one if you have a properly designed drawer for lids close to your cooktop.

By using garbage disposals or waste product bowls your sinks remain clean and available to process other food or to hand wash certain utensils or pans that need to be used sequentially to prepare different types of food. For the home chef I strongly recommend using your sinks and your dishwasher as appropriate before a meal to clean all or most used utensils, pots, etc., so that the dirty dishes at the end of a meal are essentially those on the dining room table. This is a great time saver as you will typically have some food item(s) cooking at the same time you are doing cleanup from cooking other items. You will be amazed how great it feels to walk into a clean kitchen after the meal. It makes the small amount of required cleanup of table items fast and simple. After all, you want to be able to relax soon after the meal, not slave for an hour or more to clean up a mess.

The large island is a great workspace and it is above the island that you want your very large hanging rack to hold your pots and pans, etc. That gets them away from the cooktop area, which is a major source of grease and then dust accumulation for anything that might be hanging above it. It is so much easier to find and access what you want than searching in any cabinet below the island or below counter tops. You can have a medium size sink as part of the island but you should have your primary sink along a wall with a nice bay window to allow lots of light into your kitchen. Your primary sink should be a very large and deep stainless steel single sink capable of holding essentially any food item or cooking vessel that you could possibly want in your kitchen, such that you could, for example, fill a five gallon plastic pail under your faucet easily. Double-sided sinks are a thing of the past, when dishes used to be washed on one side and rinsed in the other and then drained in a counter top dish holder. We have evolved.

It is surprising how few people match their supply of trash receptacles to their actual needs, in size, type and in location. Two trash cabinets each with 13 gallon cans are highly recommended. One should be underneath the island granite countertop beside the island sink. The other one should be under the main granite countertop beside (not under) the primary sink. This allows for ease of access where they are most frequently needed, and have them roll out on sliding trays and/or hanging racks, so that you avoid spillage when discarding kitchen waste. You will save a lot of steps and keep your floor and cabinet interiors free from spills and stains.

If you want to carry this concept one step farther, consider having four instead of two trash cabinets and then designate each trash cabinet for recycling requirements, like glass, plastic, metal and paper/general trash. If you do the recycling operation in your kitchen as I have just described you will save a lot of time, both in the kitchen and later in disposing of the trash in larger trash cans for your trash collector.

Trash compactors that seemed like a great idea when first available turn out to be pretty much ignored by most folks I know who own them. Just acquiring the bags is an annoyance and extra expense. And the *&%^ things break. I have no interest in owning a trash compactor.

Speaking of floors, avoid installing hardwood floors in your primary kitchen area where you actually process food for they will get and show a lot of wear and there is a high damage potential from dirt, liquid spills and stains. If you feel you must use hardwood then use a dark stain and a few throw rugs or pads. Ceramic tile is hard and cold and can also develop stains in the grout areas when they eventually develop small cracks, and thus ceramic tile is also a bad choice, especially if you are going to be on your feet for an extended period of time. I believe simple asphalt tile covered with mats, pads or throw rugs to soften the primary walking areas will give you the best result, provided those items can be laundered or hosed clean outside. Simply use hardwood around the perimeter of the asphalt walking areas and either hardwood or ceramic tile flooring in the rest of the kitchen. This design consideration is particularly important between the primary kitchen sink counter and the island.

Have multiple thick hardwood cutting boards of different sizes and shapes to accommodate different and/or simultaneous needs. A simple hot water rinse and wipe down is all they normally need after use, and wood is much nicer to use than plastic, for things can skid away too easily on a plastic surface, and you risk cutting yourself or trashing your food if that happens. All the fear mongering about bacteria on a wood surface is simply that Ö fear mongering! Ignore it. Buy bamboo or other good hardwood (maple or oak) cutting boards with cutouts for liquid drainage or insets to hold foods like a roasted turkey preliminary to carving. The physical act of using wood and plastic cutting boards in a comparison test will quickly convince you that the wood product is much nicer to use. And cuts in plastic cutting boards can also harbor bacteria, so plastic offers no advantage over wood other than weight. Light weight can be a marked disadvantage as you want the cutting board to be stable and firmly in place so it doesnít move as you process food.

Kitchen lighting should be ample and sourced from overhead moveable halogen track lights in multiple locations with dimmer switches, such that specific work areas are very well lit as needed. Inset ceiling lights/floods/spots are far less flexible. Under cabinet lights with dimmer switches are also very important so you can see what you have on your counters under your cabinets. These latter lights are also nice for setting an informal mood in your kitchen. A fair number of people I know with great kitchens use them as entertainment areas for parties, and this is one use of an island that is seldom considered but very nice if the island has two deep granite overhangs with comfortable bar stools.

I recall designing and building a large custom exhaust hood above a cooktop in one of my homes, and I even thought to provide dimmer controlled halogen lighting from inside the hood to illuminate the cooktop. Even the inline fan that exhausted the area above the cooktop operated with a rheostat for variable speed to match the need. My, was that nice, and designing and making it myself was a real high/deep satisfaction.