Step one? Ditch the porcelain sink.

By Bridget Hallinan
May 06, 2019
Photo by Carolyn Fong.

Designing a kitchen, in short, can be incredibly overwhelming—aside from picking the right appliances and finding a backsplash that complements your countertop, you also have to ensure that it’s functional. Counter space is crucial for prep work; everything should be strategically placed, so you’re not lugging a pot of boiling water all the way across the room to the sink. Ted Allen, cookbook author and host of the Food Network’s Chopped, likens a kitchen to a workshop, saying you should think ahead when you design the room and take different tasks into account when you're planning each area. As part of his partnership with Build.com, we emailed Allen who offered up his best tips for designing an efficient kitchen (many of which he applied to his own home)—and what you should avoid as well. Check out what he had to say below:

Choose your sink wisely

“In my opinion, lots of people choose the wrong sink. For starters, I don’t like porcelain sinks; they’re brittle and if you drop a wine glass in one of them, it’s very likely to break. I prefer stainless steel—the workhorse material of every restaurant kitchen,” Allen says. “Also, most people’s kitchen sinks are too small. We want to be able to fit a cookie sheet easily in the bottom of the basin for serious scrubbing, or to be able to fill the whole sink with ice to, say, quickly cool a big pot of chicken stock or fill with bottles of wine and soda for a party.”

Counter space is key

“Nothing is more valuable to a cook than counter space,” Allen says. “Create as much of it as you can. Note that it does not all have to be made from the same material; we have an island topped with a blue-green schist called Pietra Cardoza, while the perimeter counters are made of stainless steel. You can put a screaming-hot pan down on any of our countertops without fear of damage.”

Make sure the room is well-lit

“Be sure all countertops are brightly and consistently lit. Use dimmer switches; you want bright light for working, but softer mood lighting for entertaining,” he says.

Don’t skimp on the freezer

“[A freezer] is one of my favorite cooking tools,” he says. “I make large batches of everything so that I can freeze home-cooked stews, soups, and chili to eat when we’re in production on Chopped and there’s time to cook at home. (I use pint-size, single-serving plastic tubs.) Because the volume in most refrigerator/freezers was too small for our needs, we opted for a standalone, 30-inch freezer alongside a separate standalone 30-inch fridge.”

Open shelving is easier for you (and your guests)

“All of our plates are visible above the washing area, where they can be taken out of the dishwasher and stacked without taking a single step,” Allen says. “The knives are readily apparent on magnetic bars behind the prep sink (and out of the reach of children), wooden spoons and spatulas are visible in jars below the knives, and our cutting board is constantly on display. Pots and pans hang from a pot rack, at your fingertips. It’s a room where anyone can find anything, which comes in handy when hosting guest cooks or new friends—this way, they aren’t forced to go through each cabinet to find what they’re looking for (or worse, to ask you where to find it).”

Go for wall-switch disposals (unless you have kids)

Ted Allen's sink.
Courtesy of Ted Allen.

"Here’s a mistake we made: Opting for a disposal that requires you to insert the black plug visible here, next to the faucet, to turn it on," he says. "Is it safer? Yes. But in our opinion—unless you have children to protect—it works much better to have a wall switch for the disposal, allowing you to continually funnel food waste into the drain as you go."

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