How to Organize Even the Smallest Kitchen
Great hosts have great tricks. In Supper Club, Jonah Reider taps into the joys of do-it-yourself hospitality, sharing his essential tips to become a more creative, improvisational, and confident host.
The most enjoyable cooking is always pretty improvisational. I’m happiest when quickly scavenging the fridge for things that catch my eye, then riffing off a favorite recipe to create something delicious.
Don’t think that this easygoing attitude requires much culinary talent: spontaneous, stress-free cooking has much more to do with a kitchen’s organization than it does a home cook's technical prowess.
My apartment kitchen has a little four-burner oven range, a skinny refrigerator, and about four feet of counter space in between. It’s no official “chef’s kitchen, ” but I’ve made it one with simple organizational principles that anyone can follow.
Dedicate Areas for Specific Tasks
A small kitchen can be far easier to work in than a cavernous one where completing a task requires laps around an island. Designate four mini workspaces within yours—for preparation, cooking, cleaning, and storage.
Then, equip each workspace with only the tools essential to that space. My storage area is filled with uniform transparent containers that give me a panoramic view of all ingredients on hand. My cleaning station is simply my sink, some soap, a sponge, and a knot of steel wool. My prep area has a knife block, a big cutting board, and mixing bowls within reach. And my cooking area comprises the stove, with sheet pans and a few tools nearby. These distinct areas, no matter how small, make cooking more purposeful and pleasurable, reducing mess and stress.
Clear Up Counter Space
A giant, restaurant-style cutting board is the only thing that permanently lives on my counter. Unwieldy appliances have a tendency to find themselves permanently taking up valuable counter space, even if I’m only using them a few times a week. And the jar exploding with 25 different spoons and spatulas that plagues many a kitchen counter? I’ve gotten rid of mine, in lieu I hang the tools that matter most directly on the wall.
Exhibiting essential tools on my kitchen’s wall speeds up cooking and cleaning and opens up tons of counter space. Now, I find everything in one glance and nothing magically disappears when I need it most.
A few heavy cast-iron pans are nailed up behind my stovetop alongside a couple of favorite tweezer tongs, spoons and spatulas. Items for food prep, like a microplane and a digital scale, hang above my cutting board. And a hook for dirty kitchen towels to dry hangs behind my sink. I’ve even finagled a way to hang-up sheet pans and mixing bowls near my respective cooking and prep stations.
If you can’t make holes in your walls, you can use small strong stick-on magnets. If you don’t have much wall space, you can hang things right on cabinet fronts. And to make any misshapen kitchen tool hangable, quickly attach a simple hook from the hardware store via super glue.
There are many ways to personalize this strategy— think of a rustic grandmother’s kitchen with hanging tresses of garlic, or an industrial restaurant kitchen with hanging pots and pans. Either way, treat every kitchen like a small one, where every inch of counter space counts.
Place ingredients in containers for easy access and use
I’ve already written about my love for durable, stackable, and reusable plastic containers that help me preserve and keep better track of my ingredients. Anything that I can’t fit into a container can be stored for later in a pantry cabinet or closet.
Same goes for liquids— I save money by bulk-buying oils, vinegars and some shelf-stable condiments. Then I gradually refill reusable squeeze bottles that make accessing and dispensing flavorful liquids much easier (the large bulk containers can be stored elsewhere).
And as a small indulgence, I employ the small stainless steel yakumi pans to hold my most beloved seasonings. A pinch of salt is easy to actually pinch when it’s in one of these little pans; same with ground pepper, chile flakes, or whatever you turn to most frequently — just stack the most fragrant ones underneath others to preserve their delicate aroma.
Eating Utensils Can Go Elsewhere
Make your kitchen feel bigger and better by getting rid of things that aren’t used for preparing, storing, or cleaning food. Stack plates, glasses, and utensils on a shelf in the dining area, where they’ll look as good as a painting and be way more functional. Yes, you read that right — 2020’s best home decor tip is to clean up and clear out the kitchen.