CLASS #2 – DEFINE YOUR WORKSPACE
Believe it or not, you have definable workspace in your kitchen. I think we forget
sometimes that as beautiful as our kitchens may be, it is there for us to work in. It’s nice
to have a pretty space to prep and cook in, but functionality has to win out in the end.
So this class is designed to help you define these amazing workspaces. You are one
step closer to falling in love with your kitchen! In this video I will describe the work
stations and their functions..
1. The True Cooking Spaces
In a kitchen we have several spaces that are designed specifically for cooking. These
spaces are: the cooktop, the oven, various small appliances and the microwave. For all
of the Kitchanatomy purposes we will be focusing on the cooktop, the oven and one
small appliance, the crock pot. Forming a lasting relationship with these spaces means
learning all you can about them. I cook in a lot of different kitchens, some professional
and some personal. What I have found is that most people do not know the capabilities
of their cooking spaces. They underestimate all the amazing possibilities that you can
achieve with just 2 things, a cooktop and an oven.
One of my favorite stories to share is the time I was teaching someone about cooking
spaces and when I opened the oven I discovered the inside was a storage space for all
of the cookware. I asked why, and the answer was, “I am afraid of my oven. I have
ruined so much food in this oven so I just use my little toaster oven now and the regular
oven for storage.” Needless to say, we worked on getting rid of that fear and got the
cookware in the cupboard and the toaster oven went away, freeing up valuable counter
space in the little kitchen. I tell you this story because you don’t need gadgets to make
your cooking habits easier or your skills better. You need an education about how the
oven or cooktop works and then you can start to form a relationship with them and learn
to love their “no frill” ways. Here are some ideas to get you started.
- Find the owner’s manuals to your cooktop and oven. Read them. You can find them
online if you don’t have the originals. This will help you start to understand your
cooking spaces from a technical standpoint.
- Buy an oven thermometer. Keep it in the oven so you can see the real temperature
inside. My oven is a little on the hot side. When I started using an oven
thermometer my oven projects got much easier and some of my kitchen fails went
- Learn the type of cookware that works best on your surfaces. If you have gas you
might find cooking in cast-iron is better. If you have a glass top you might prefer
something lighter that will heat evenly. We will talk more about this in class #3.
- Learn the suggested methods for cleaning your cooktop and oven. This can make
things a lot less frustrating if you understand the best and easiest way to keep things
If I can only teach you one thing about your cooking workspace, it is this – define the
tools that you use in this space and keep them near. I refer to this as the “Easy Reach”.The Easy Reach gives you what you need when you need it. I can’t stress how
important this is. You want to end kitchen fails and cooking frustrations? Organize your
spaces around each workstation. With the easy reach, everything that you need for a
workspace should be no more than 2 steps away and most things should be within arm’s
length. Here is a list of things that you need around your cooking workspace:
- pot holders and oven mitt
- salt and pepper, on the counter in easy reach position
- oils (keep them within reach but not in a cabinet above the cooking workspace
because the heat can cause them to go stale or rancid)
- serving platters
- all cookware
- cooking utensils (in a nearby drawer or on the counter)
- spices, stored in a nearby space that does not get warm from the cooking workspace.
- spoon rest
- open, uncluttered counter space on each side
You get the idea. On the worksheet you will find some easy steps to get your
workspaces to flow like a champ! Let’s move on to other spaces and talk about how they
flow and what should be in Easy Reach areas nearby.
2. The Sink
Try to imagine your kitchen without a sink and faucet. Do you think you would function in
the kitchen very well without one? You may not think of them as a workspace but it is the
king of workspaces and really the only ones you really don’t want to live without. So
many functions happen in the sink workspace.
- source of water for many tasks
- temporary holding space for dirty dishes
- place to do dishes
- hand washing
- rinsing food
These are crucial functions and an underrated space for overall importance. I can
remember once I was remodeling a kitchen a long time ago and all my appliances were
in and working but the sink I had ordered was not installed yet. I could not function in the
kitchen. As much as I wanted to use my freshly remodeled kitchen I could not because I
had no sink. It’s that important!
Here is short list of things that you might have in Easy Reach from your sink:
- dish soap (I am going to teach you how to make some in the next class)
- sponge, scrubby, or dish cloth
- dish towels
- veggie scrubber
- ring holder6. hand soap
The area under the kitchen sink is often a catch-all for many toxins! In the next class we
will talk more about specifics of getting rid of these toxins and replacing them with things
that will save you money and keep you from getting poisoned.
3. Counter Top Prep Stations
If you are starting on a real food cooking journey, you will find yourself doing a lot of prep
work. You need some counter space to do this in. In the first lesson and worksheet we
talked about clutter and getting it off your counter tops. This section is why it is important
that you finish that task.
The prep stations are important for many reasons. This is where you will chop, slice,
dice, grind, mix, blend and more! When you are cooking real food you will give your
prep spaces a good workout. It is important to define them in your kitchen. Here is an
example. Beside my sink to the right is a butcher block counter top that is about 3’ wide.
This is where I do most of my prep work with my knife. To the right of that is a counter
top that is about 5’ long. I keep this space decluttered for all my mixing, small appliance
work and staging. I have defined spaces in my kitchen for certain types of work. You
can do this too. Here are some tips for success.
- When choosing a space for your knife work, think about being close to the sink. When
you need to wash things you want to be close. Your sink can act as a scrap catch- all.
- Make sure you have adequate electrical outlets if you are selecting a space to use
small appliances. Always make sure that your cords safely reach and are out of the
way of water or other hazards, like a hot cooktop.
- Choose spaces that are large enough to hold two of your biggest serving platters or
baking sheets. This will insure that you have adequate flat space to work with.
- Make sure you have the proper lighting. It’s helpful to see what you are working on in
good light. This is better for your eyes and makes your work much less stressful.
- Make sure you’ve selected spaces that are not designated for other work. For
example, don’t use your stovetop for a cutting board space. It’s ok to multi task your
space but make sure it is not a hazard.
I can’t define all your prep workspaces for you. It really depends on the type of cook you
are. We all have different needs in the kitchen and you will have to personalize these
ideas to fit your needs. For me, my prep workspaces are where I do my knife work and
where I use small appliances for certain tasks. You on the other hand might be a baker
and need more space for rolling out doughs. Or you might be a raw foodie and need
bigger spaces for your juicer or blender. SO take some time and think about your needs
and how you cook. If you are changing the way you do things, your workspaces will
likely change along the way as well..
4. The Refrigerator and Freezer
Can you believe that we have only had personal kitchen refrigerators and freezers sincethe late 1920’s? What did people do before that? This is going to be another one of
those painful conversations. This is why: I used to be the worst at opening my fridge
and finding there was no space to put anything. I hated putting groceries away because
it felt like there was no place for them. I would have to toss food that spoiled because I
had no plan for leftovers and would forget about them because I couldn’t see them in the
back of the fridge. Now that I buy mostly organic it can get expensive when that
happens so I put the kibosh on this problem about a year ago. When we get to the
section on meal planning this will help these woes a lot! For now let’s talk about
refrigerators and freezers as a workspace. This is storage workspace. You don’t cook or
prep in these spaces, you store. It is important to the flow of your kitchen that you think
of these appliances in this way, as a true workspace. Here are some tips to make your
refrigerator and freezer work for you!
- Just like the rest of the kitchen, everything needs a home. If you buy apples every
week, get a pretty bowl, wash them, and put them in the fridge in that bowl. If you
have milk, make a space and that is where the milk goes every time it is used. Butter
in a beautiful butter dish goes right back to the same spot every time after use. This is
a great practice for staple items that are always in the fridge.
- Organize with tall items in the back and shorter items up front. The only way we break
this rule is for staple items. I like my staples to be up front and easy to grab.
- I like to use liners in produce drawers. Even if it’s just a paper towel, it makes the
drawers much easier to clean when the time comes.
- Give your family the tour of the fridge. Show your family where to place staple items
and put down labels as reminders. Tell them why it goes there and with a bit of luck
when you are ready to use the item you will find it exactly where you need it to be.
Making changes can be fun and if you are excited about it chances are you can get
family members to get excited about it too!
- If you use specific items for recipes and you want to insure they don’t get used for
anything else, specify a place in the fridge for recipe ingredients. Convert a produce
drawer for this purpose. This does two things. It helps your family help you and it
makes it easier to gather ingredients for your recipe.
- Rotate your food. Don’t put new food in front of old food. Rotate your old food to the
front and keep newer food in the back. This will keep things fresh and prevent things
from getting lost in the back row!
- Get a sharpie marker! This is a good friend in any kitchen. When you open
something, mark the date on it. This will help you know how fresh the item is. Using a
sharpie is a simple and easy way to save time and money!
I could give you 100 tips for your refrigerator, but it’s time for you to put your gears in
motion and come up with some ideas of your own that will make this very important
storage workspace the happiest place in the kitchen!
5. The Pantry
The last of the workspaces, but not the least. Once again we consider this a storage
workspace. I have a super small pantry. Honestly, a healthy kitchen does not need a
large pantry, unless you are buying bulk. The normal things that are stored in a pantry
are usually processed, boxed, bagged, canned or pouched items. When you start to
change your lifestyle into more of a real food way of life you will find your pantry stayspretty emptied out. I have nuts, legumes, grains, baking staples, dried fruit, chocolate,
and some gluten free paleo crackers in my pantry. I no longer need sugar, bread,
cereal, can goods, pasta, pasta sauce, chips, or snack items in my pantry. Kinda crazy
to think about. I might have just had my own lightbulb moment. Honestly, the same
principles that apply to the refrigerator apply here.
- Rotate food
- If you buy in bulk then use mason jars to store your items. They will keep things
fresher and way easier to use when you need it for a recipe. Plus it looks adorable!
- Use that sharpie here too!
- Keep staples in an easy reach place and use labels to make sure everyone knows
where they go.
- Tall items in the back, shorter up front.
We will be talking about staple pantry items in class #9. I will share with you everything
a healthy kitchen pantry should have. In the meantime, you can work on getting rid of
everything that should NOT be in your pantry.
This week while cooking, keep this work sheet close. Designate items that should be
around each workspace. Everything that is not designated needs to go! Maximize your
spaces with more room to move! Make cute labels to place in designated spaces for