Big ideas on making best of a small space

March 21, 2001|By KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

Is your kitchen cramped and cluttered?

You're not alone. Most professional restaurant chefs are actually more comfortable in a small, efficiently designed kitchen than a kitchen the size of a football field.

Here are a few tips for maneuvering in small kitchens:

*Clear the counters and cabinets. Get rid of unused appliances and store seldom-used equipment in the basement or garage. No need to let the bread machine and sorbet maker take up precious counter space if you use them only a few times a year. Rule of thumb: A counter-top appliance needs to be used at least twice a week, or it's not worth the space it takes up.

*Have a plan. Preparation and planning are so important in a kitchen that there's a term for it: mise en place. Like in a professional kitchen, consider making dishes ahead, even days in advance when possible.

*The long and short of it. Stagger the types of dishes you serve in a single meal. A long-cooking dish in the oven and a short-cooking dish on the range top save time and space.

*Limit the number of people in the kitchen. If everyone likes to gather in the kitchen at your house, make sure they're contributing to the workload or politely boot them out.

*Establish boundaries. If more than one cook is in the kitchen, divide the kitchen into stations and draw an invisible line to avoid pileups.

*Clean as you go. You can reduce the clutter and chaos in the kitchen if you tidy up during the cooking process.

*Place recipes at eye level. Many chefs read their orders from a spinning wheel. If you're following a recipe, post the recipe up at eye level to save on neck and eye strain.

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