How to Organize Your Kitchen Like a Professional Chef

You might not have the knife skills or a clue what “umami” actually means, but you still can feel like a professional chef in your home kitchen. All it takes is tweaking some of the ways your kitchen functions. Follow these seven expert tips to organize a chef-approved kitchen.

1. Identify your triangle

Most home kitchens are designed based on a triangle composed of your refrigerator, sink and stove. And just like efficient movement down a professional kitchen line is important, good flow through your triangle is key.

“Facilitate movement by keeping anything you’re not using for cooking — your junk drawer, water glasses, serving platters — outside of the cooking triangle, but proximal to where they’ll be used,” Tasting Table suggests. And think about what you do need for each element of the triangle, as well. For instance, place your trash can as close to your sink as possible, so you can easily clean off excess food on dishes before you wash them.

2. Create stations

Professional chefs work at several stations within their kitchens: prep, cooking, pass (where completed dishes wait for servers) and dishwashing. “Your home kitchen also has analogous areas: prep space, a range and oven, a sink, dry and cold storage in your pantry and refrigerator, and space where you plate food or put hot dishes,” according to Tasting Table.

The goal is to achieve the best flow possible through these stations — though, of course, how you designate spaces in your kitchen is entirely up to you. Still, aim to have a straight shot from your food storage to your prep area, so you can transport food with ease. And plan for your prep station to be as close to your stove as possible if you’re cooking something hot. Then, complete dishes near where you dine. Equip each station with the tools you need for the task at hand — e.g., keep knives near your prep area, not your stove.

3. Limit movement

The “golden rule” of organizing a kitchen is limiting movement. “Chefs set up their spaces to reduce movement during service; equipping your home kitchen so that you don’t have to take many steps while cooking is the secret to making it feel functional and organized,” Tasting Table says.

Plus, reducing the amount you have to move as you cook also makes your kitchen safer. For example, you’re less likely to spread bacteria from food or hurt yourself while carrying a sharp utensil or hot pot. And it makes it much simpler when multiple people are cooking in the kitchen at the same time.

4. Know what’s in your fridge and pantry

labeled jars of food on a kitchen shelf

It’s imperative for professional chefs to have all the ingredients they need on hand. And it’s pretty convenient for home cooks, as well.

To avoid emergency trips to the store when you’re in the middle of cooking, be aware of what’s in your fridge and pantry. Food Network professionals suggest using clear food storage containers and always keeping labels handy to mark the containers if necessary. Be sure to note the expiration date, so food doesn’t go to waste or become unsafe. Plus, maintain a running inventory of the items you have, so you don’t have any questions come grocery-shopping time.

5. Optimize storage

Speaking of food storage, professional chefs know better than to cram food into the fridge or pantry wherever it fits. Tasting Table recommends investing in a set of stackable containers, preferably clear, so your food is easily recognizable and accessible. Avoid overcrowding your food storage, as that’s when items can become hidden and spoil. And learn the best methods to store foods to maximize their freshness.

Furthermore, just like with food storage, avoid overflowing drawers and cabinets with cookware and utensils. Consider drawer dividers or other organization hacks, so everything has its place. And make sure potentially hazardous utensils, such as knives, are stored so you can safely grab them. Plus, Food Network suggests keeping seldom-used items — such as bakeware you only need for holidays — in your least-accessible cabinet or drawer.

6. Re-home bulk items

Professional chefs buy food and other kitchen items in bulk because they have a lot of mouths to feed. You might buy in bulk because it ends up being more economical. But if you don’t have a commercial kitchen, it can be seriously cumbersome to store bulk items.

Instead of forcing giant containers into your kitchen, split them up. This goes for when you cook a lot of food, too. For instance, if you make a giant batch of soup, divide it into small containers, and freeze some portions that otherwise might spoil.

7. Clean as you cook

A person washes a pan in soapy water in the kitchen sink.

Professional chefs have rigid food safety standards to which they must adhere. But those rules are just as important when you’re cooking at home. If you don’t know them already, learn the guidelines — such as these from the U.S. Department of Agriculture — to safely purchase, handle and store food.

Plus, to reduce the spread of germs — and make life easier on yourself — clean as you cook. Place utensils directly into the dishwasher to avoid a pileup in your sink. Clean up messes on your countertop right away. And put away ingredients when you’re done with them. Then, there’s nothing left to do but sit down and enjoy your delicious home-cooked meal.

Main image credit: fotostorm/Getty Images

80 comments

Chad A
Chad Anderson13 hours ago

Thank you.

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Rauni H
Rauni Hyesterday

thanks

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Danny C
Danny Cyesterday

I always clean while I am cooking because it leaves fewer dirty pots, pans and dishes at the end of the meal. Thank you for sharing. :-)

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ANA MARIJA R
ANA MARIJA Ryesterday

Good reminders. Thank you.

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Paulo R
Paulo Ryesterday

ty

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Sophie A
Sophie Ayesterday

Thank you

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Ingrid A
Ingrid A1 days ago

thanks

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Jan K
Jan K2 days ago

thank you

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Mia B
Mia B2 days ago

tyfs

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Edith B
Edith B2 days ago

Good advice!

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