Why your next kitchen remodel should be driven by the way you cook.
by Marilyn Kennedy Melia
When it comes to kitchens, we’re all suckers for glamour and gleam.
And, the bevy of home-related TV programming generously feeds our attraction. But before set your sights on a European oven or ceiling-high cabinetry, consider first: What really goes on in your kitchen?
Cooking, for sure, but we have different cooking styles, finds an in-depth report from the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) that links needed kitchen elements and design with meal and cooking habits.
Luckily, glamour isn’t sacrificed in the pursuit of functionality. Indeed, the NKBA study of 800 adults who recently remodeled their kitchen or are planning to soon, shows that updated style and design was a priority for all, whatever culinary segment they fell into.
Below, see which style cook best defines you, and what features, appliances and overall kitchen design the experts say fit you.
1. The Struggling Cook
What defines you: Does scrambling through the freezer, looking for ways to whip up dinner for a hungry crew at the end of a busy workday sound familiar? You have plenty of company: NKBA finds about half of us are time-constrained and seek to minimize the time and effort of food shopping, meal prep and clean-up.
You are more likely than the other half of “confident” cooks to share kitchen duties with a spouse or partner. Many of you have tried meal kits, and rely on frozen and prepared food to get dinner on the table in a pinch.
Your kitchen gets good use, though, if not always for cooking. It’s the space for the kind of low-key, easy entertaining you prefer, with guests often pitching in, bringing a dish to share.
In fact, non-cooking uses often take priority in a remodel, like a space for kids to toss backpacks or do homework
Design tips: Drill down into your daily habits, to find your particular needs within the broader “struggling” cook category, says Elle H-Millard, a certified kitchen designer for industry relations, NKBA.
For instance, “If one of you does the food prep, and the other clean-up, you may want extra clearance between counters and an island, and ensure there’s a clear workflow pattern for each,” says H-Millard.
Or, if you’re both busy with food-prep, your priority might be adding another sink.
If there’s as much non-cooking activity in the kitchen as meal prep, features that do double-duty may be the answer.
A homework desk can be fashioned from existing lower cabinets, while gaining refrigerator space, for instance, explains H-Millard. Refrigerator drawers that don’t protrude as far as the original cabinet space can be tucked underneath the newly fashioned-desk, “and you can reach down for a drink when you’re sitting there,” she adds.
Since this category tends to entertain informally in the kitchen, refrigerator drawers are also a good option, to simply reach down, grab a prepared food and place it on the counter.
For the very time-pressed, H-Millard enthusiastically recommends induction cook-tops. In the past decade, the price has been sliced by more than half – “you can get one for about $800” – but they boil a pot of water nearly instantly, and are safe because the surface won’t heat paper or other materials that mistakenly land there.”
Induction cooktops save time by cooking food faster, and now are available in lower price points. Here, Elica NikolaTesla induction cooktop.
2. The Confident Cook
What defines you: Meal planning is one of your skills, whether it’s keeping a running grocery list so you don’t run out of needed items, timing a dinner when all the family can eat together or preparing items ahead of time when you’re having guests.
Indeed, entertaining is fun for you, and you’re inviting friends and family over more than most – at least nine times a year. Sometimes, you host a sit-down dinner, and on other occasions it’s a more casual kitchen gathering.
Space to experiment with new recipes would be a welcome extra, because you tend to cook from scratch involving many ingredients.
One reason you work well in the kitchen is because you’ve organized it, but any extra storage is on your wish list.
Design tips: Your problem will be selecting from among the many appliances and devises that will enhance the culinary masterpieces you’re aiming to create.
Among the notable ones, says H-Millard, are steam ovens, which preserve nutrients better than other ovens, and better produce results like cakes, which emerge crisper on the outside but moist inside. The steam oven is generally pricier.
Since confident cooks are likely to chop vegetables and fresh food rather than buying ready-cut, most will want an efficient food prep area.
Sinks outfitted with a cutting board and a wire rack that can be lifted and placed over the sink are a practical, space-saving option. And if sometimes a large, single bowl is needed, but other times a double one, there are models with removable divides.
Sinks with an ice dispenser might be perfect for the confident cook who frequently entertains. “When the ice melts, it drips into the sink,” says H-Millard.
Confident cooks tend to skew older, explains Tricia Zach, the NKBA market research analyst who parsed the study data. “They might want to investigate more accessible design,” H-Millard adds.
3. The Techy Cook
What defines you: You’re using your kitchen to re-charge phones and devices, and use the internet to follow recipes or make grocery lists.
Maybe you have a personal assistant device on the counter so you don’t even have to mark on an item on the list yourself, but just call out a command and it’s done. Or, when you’re cooking, you can watch a wall-mounted, flat-screen TV, that’s still in view of other family members who might be comfortably seated nearby in an open plan room.
Manufacturers are rolling out more “smart” appliances, but adoption is slow because consumers tend not to replace until they need to or are remodeling, says Zach.
Design tips: Anyone with a techy bent will love refrigerators with tiny cameras inside that can be wireless connected to a smartphone.
“When you’re in the grocery store, you can call up pictures of what’s inside, so you know what you need,” says H-Millard.
The time-pressed will appreciate smartphone links to an oven, “so you can pre-heat when you’re driving home, and save 20 minutes on dinner prep,” she adds.
Tech means convenience, whether it’s motion-sensors that turn on task lighting when you approach, or grocery lists made with voice commands, she concludes.