Kitchen Work Zones


Let’s take a closer look at kitchen work zones.

The purpose of zones in the kitchen is to create areas of focus where all the necessary tools and equipment for accomplishing a specific type of task are conveniently located within easy reach of one another.

To plan work zones for your kitchen:

  • Identify the different types of work that you do in your kitchen (mixing, cooking, storing, cleaning).
  • Figure out what tools are needed for each type of task.
  • Designate areas, or zones, within the kitchen for doing the different tasks you've identified.

Thinking of your kitchen in these terms and organizing it accordingly will help you to establish an orderly, functional, clutter-free work space.

The three main kitchen work zones center on the three major appliances or fixtures that make up the backbone of the kitchen: the refrigerator, the sink, and the oven/range.


Refrigeration Zone

The refrigeration zone is, not surprisingly, focused on keeping foods cold. Simple and straightforward as that may seem, this is an oft overlooked kitchen work zone.

Ideally, you should have a minimum of 18 inches of counter space on the latch side of the refrigerator. That way you don’t have to close the refrigerator door or reach around it in order to access the counter space. This section of countertop serves as a sort of landing/launch pad for holding food as it goes into or comes out of the fridge. In addition, this area can be used for filling food storage containers to place in the fridge.

If you don’t have counter space beside your refrigerator, a nearby kitchen island will work. Haven’t got either? Try placing a rolling cart or small table nearby to serve this purpose, provided you have enough room.

What to store in this zone:

  • Bottle opener
  • Ice cream scoop
  • Serving utensils such as slotted spoons, salad tongs, etc.
  • Food storage containers for food going into the refrigerator – to include zippered freezer bags
  • Serving dishes for cold food
  • Glasses – The tendency is to store glasses near the dishwasher, but it makes sense to store them near the refrigerator as well since this is most likely where you fill them. You have to decide which is more convenient for you based on the layout of your kitchen.


Clean-up Zone

The clean-up zone is the most multi-functional kitchen work zone. This is where everything from fruits and vegetables to dishes and hands get washed. In addition, this center supplies water for drinking and for cooking.

This is the most frequently accessed area of the kitchen and the most likely to experience a traffic jam. Ideally it should include a fair amount of counter space to one side at least (30-36 inches is preferable) for draining and drying.

What to store in this zone:

  • Hand soap
  • Dish washing supplies (liquid dishwashing soap, dishwasher detergent, scrubbers)
  • Dish cloths and towels
  • Dish drainer
  • Colanders and strainers for rinsing and draining food
  • Glasses (if not stored elsewhere)
  • Access to trash disposal


Cooking Zone

The cooking zone needs to accommodate stove top cooking, baking, broiling, and maybe even microwaving so storage in this zone is at a premium.

What to store in this zone:

  • Pots and pans and their accompanying lids
  • Casserole/baking dishes
  • Baking pans (muffin, bread, cookie, pizza)
  • Serving dishes & bowls
  • Common cooking utensils: can opener, whisks, stirring spoons, turners, thermometers, ladle, pasta server, etc.
  • Herbs & spices
  • Cooking oils
  • Small kitchen appliances used for cooking food (crock pot, rice cooker)


Basic Kitchen Work Zones


Notice that the refrigeration zone and the clean-up zone overlap, sharing a section of counter space. Not only is this OK, it’s quite common. Think of zones as fluid transitions within your kitchen from one activity or task to another. They will frequently overlap in much the same way as the activities they support.

The refrigeration, clean-up, and cooking zones represent the basics of kitchen organization. For more information on kitchen work zones continue onto the next page.

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