How to Organize Your Kitchen Like a Pro

Smart and efficient organization will make you a better, faster cook.

<p>Getty Images</p>

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When it comes to cooking, two major qualities separate the pros from the amateurs. The first is seasoning; pro cooks season assertively while many home cooks are sodium shy. The second differentiator: kitchen organization. Spend a few minutes in a well-run professional kitchen and you’ll notice how every workstation has a purpose. Every tool and appliance is stored neatly. Every surface is spotless.

This is because a well-organized kitchen is a more efficient kitchen. Good flow and organization empowers a cook to take fewer steps and make fewer moves while prepping and cooking. This saves time, helps get orders to the table faster, and makes cleanup easier.

The same principles apply at home. Here are some organizing ideas to get you started.

Establish Your Workstation

Whether it’s an island or a countertop, the place where you feel most comfortable cutting, chopping, and mixing is your main workstation, aka the central command station in your kitchen. Experienced kitchen designers know this workstation should be set up within a few steps of your refrigerator, sink, and stove unless you have a galley. Trace an imaginary line from your workstation to these other key areas and ideally you’ll have a triangle or diamond shape of movement for the most efficient flow.

Store the items you use the most in the cabinets and drawers closest to your workstation, including mixing bowls, bowls for prepped ingredients, storage containers, and clean, folded kitchen towels. If you have a large butcher block-style cutting board, feel free to keep it out on the counter of  your workstation when not in use.

Clear Your Counters

Counter space is prime real estate, so keep it clean and uncluttered. Only the items you use every day should sit on the counter, like the cutting board mentioned above. This also includes a salt cellar and pepper grinder and a large bowl for ripening fruit like bananas and avocados that don’t need to be refrigerated. Everyday small appliances like a toaster and coffee maker need premium counter placement, while machines that only get used once a week or less should be stored out of sight.

Consolidate and store tools like wooden spoons and spatulas in utensil crocks, ideally next to the stove where you’ll use them the most.

If you’re a cook who prefers to store knives in a drawer, protect the blades with an organizer like the Wüsthof In-Drawer Knife Organizer. Knife blocks are another option, though the chunkier ones take up precious counter space. The best option: Store your knives on a knife magnet. These inexpensive magnetic strips, such as the Ikea Kungsfors, can be mounted easily on the backsplash.

While you’re at it, another smart solution is to install rails with S hooks to hang tongs, citrus squeezers, kitchen shears, and other small, everyday tools within easy reach. Some cooks also hang a breathable net produce bag off one of the hooks to store alliums.

Organize Your Drawers

Line drawers and cabinets with bulk non-slip drawer liners cut to fit the space to give each a more uniform look. Store cutlery and small tools like oyster knives, stackable measuring cups, and ice cream scoops in drawer organizers. As mentioned earlier, anything that you use often to prep and cook should be stored as close as possible to your workstation. Other items you use regularly should be stored close to the dishwasher, so transferring clean dishes, tools, and glassware into drawers and cabinets is a breeze.

Give Your Cabinets and Pantry a New Spin

One lazy susan is not enough, especially in your pantry space. Choose a mix of one and two-tiered lazy susans to maximize your pantry space and group items like canned goods, condiments, or baking supplies in organized fashion. Easy access on the turntable means pantry items don’t get lost forever on the back shelf. Keep spices organized and within easy reach with one of these spice racks

Store thin cutting boards, baking sheets, and baking racks vertically or horizontally in vertical racks that fit in the shelves of deeper cabinets.

Streamline Your Leftovers Storage

You don’t have to label storage containers neatly with blue painters tape and a Sharpie like the pros do in restaurants, but do buy an assortment of quart, pint, and half pint “deli” containers for storing ingredients and leftovers in the refrigerator and snacks like nuts in your pantry. Opt for BPA free, dishwasher safe options. They stack neatly when not in use. Even better, they all have the same size opening, so you can say goodbye to the frustrating hunt for the correct lid.