I thought I had a great kitchen at home.
Then I moved into a professional kitchen, and promptly realized that my home kitchen was crap.
A home kitchen is set up to look nice. A commercial kitchen is set up for efficiency. Efficiency of space, efficiency of equipment, and most of all efficiency of work. And if you’re a form-follows-function type like I am, then the home kitchen’s efforts to look good are dripping with irony: when compared to the elegant, streamlined functionality of a well-designed commercial kitchen, a home kitchen just looks ugly (Sub-Zero-type paneling be damned).
Getting a home kitchen to function exactly like a commercial kitchen takes some serious doing and isn’t worth it for many; however, there are a few quick, cheap things you can do that will make your kitchen a bastion of efficiency for years to come.
1. Get a speed rack. Key items in a commercial kitchen are all based on the 18 x 26-inch dimensions of the sheet pan. Commercial refrigerators and ovens are sized to accommodate the sheet pan, and the link between them is the speed rack, which holds loaded sheet pans in a vertical stack. Having a speed rack in the mix means that you can cook something in the oven, take it to a nearby speed rack to cool, then stick it into a refrigerator afterwards – all without changing the original baking tray and without spreading out all over your precious counter space.
You can replicate this at home – your oven and fridge probably can’t hold a full-sized sheet pan, but they can most likely accommodate a half sheet pan (13 x 18 inches), which the speed racks are designed to hold just as well.
Just do it. A half-height speed rack, which can hold ten full or 20 half-sheet pans, can find a home in most kitchens. It can replace a section of adorable-looking cabinetry that you’ve got near the oven, and will do you a lot more good. When you’re not cooking, the speed rack is a highly efficient and easily reconfigurable shelving system, which you can use to hold utensils for the stovetop, half hotel pans (#4 on this list), and key shelf-stable ingredients like salt and oil. Here’s one.
2. Get a small bain marie and leave it by the stovetop. A bain marie is a metal container with vertical walls, narrower than it is tall. They’re great for holding liquids, but in this case it serves a more essential purpose for the home cook: it hangs onto all of the utensils you’re using to cook securely, without taking a lot of space and without letting the mess from that oil-covered spatula spread all over your kitchen like wet leprosy. This one would do fine.
3. Get rid of single-purpose kitchen gadgets. That the silicone garlic peeler? The tomato knife, with its very fine serration able to gently cut through the ripest tomato without bruising it further? Out. You’d be surprised how much you can get done with a single knife – if you don’t want to gangster out with something from Korin then go with the totally rad and very inexpensive Victorinox chef’s knife. And keep it sharp.
4. Get a bunch of half hotel pans. These are great for holding the food you’ve just cooked on the stovetop, freeing up your favorite pan for its next assignment. They also fit nicely in the fridge and, if you get lids, stack nicely.
5. Store your pot lids vertically and separately from the pots and pans they cover. It seems like a natural choice to store your pots with the lids on them. No. Separate ’em, and store the lids in something like this. This will make the lids more accessible and will allow you to nest all of your pots, saving a lot of space. Pot lids have an annoying habit of moving around in the cabinet and falling out avalanche-style when you open it. (amazingly, the Internet seems to have zero videos of someone opening up a kitchen cabinet and getting buried under a pile of pot lids – I looked. And looked. But it does happen).
6. Get your serving stuff out of the kitchen. Most of the storage space in a home kitchen centers around presentation items: dishes, glasses, and silverware, and serving bowls take up much of the prime real estate in a home kitchen. This is a lot of space that can’t be used for, you know, the tools that you need to make food. In a commercial kitchen, this stuff is out of the way. The kitchen I use has all the serving stuff is in the basement. At home you don’t want to do that (as the flatware is most likely in frequent use), but give some thought to taking the less-used service items – which are totally useless in the preparation of food – and get them out of the way in favor of the stuff you need to cook.
And boom! You’re on your way to ultimate efficiency in the kitchen. Use the time you save to watch the greatest television show in history.