Grabbing the Gusto

Deirdre Reid – Freelance Writer & Home Cook

Small kitchens get a work out during the holiday season. When counter space is limited, working cleanly is a must, as is washing as you go. You have to dry as you go too, or find somewhere to let things dry on their own.

And then there’s the cooling rack problem. First, why don’t I have more cooling racks? But even if I did, where would I put them? You might know this scenario: you take a hot sheet pan of cookies out of the oven but don’t have any table or counter space to put them. As you scan the room for a solution, the heat starts to burn through your oven mitt. You quickly open a nearby drawer and stick the pan across it. Problem solved, for now.

Open drawers are one solution to limited counter space. I have an electric glass-top range so as long as I’m not using any burners, it can function as additional counter space. In my old house in Sacramento, I had one of those lovely vintage gas stoves with a fold-back top that covered the burners if I needed more work space. It looked exactly like this one.

If you have a gas stove, you could make your own burner cover. Or you could get a cutting board that’s large enough to fit either over your burners or over your sink – like one of these options.

I once used an ironing board for cooling cookie sheets. I moved it from its usual spot in the bedroom to the little dining area outside my galley kitchen. You need a sturdy board, not one of those rocking ones. And cover it first so nothing is left behind to stain your clothes.

Hang shelves on the walls to store items that normally live on your counters, like canisters, salt and pepper, utensil containers, compost containers, and root vegetables.

Small Space Gusto: Not Enough Kitchen Counter Space| Grabbing the Gusto

Anette Snarby’s kitchen shelves from Small Space Gusto: Not Enough Kitchen Counter Space| Grabbing the Gusto

My Sacramento kitchen also had a cutting board that you could pull out from under the counter next to the sink. I like the idea of hidden counter space ready to be put into service. Wall-mounted drop-leaf tables can serve as extra counter space and dining areas for small kitchens – check out these five examples from The Kitchn.

I love this fold-down shelf – a perfect spot for a cookbook or iPad, as well as other things you want to keep nearby while you cook, like measuring cups, your mise-en-place, a glass of wine, or cooling cookies.

Small Space Gusto: Not Enough Kitchen Counter Space| Grabbing the Gusto

Geoff Sterns’ fold-down kitchen shelf from Small Space Gusto: Not Enough Kitchen Counter Space| Grabbing the Gusto

In the hunt for extra counter space, the first thing you should do is take a hard look at how you’re using your space now. Consider each item – don’t skip over something just because you’re used to it being on the counter. For example, that blender. How often do you use it now? Or has your immersion blender replaced it for the most part? Can you find another home for it?

Or, the coffee maker. You don’t want it too far from the kitchen faucet, but can you shift it to another place in the kitchen or just outside the kitchen?

Do you need that big knife block on the counter or do you have the wall or cabinet space for a magnetic knife rack? These are the issues I’m mulling over. If it were just me in this house, I would lose the knife block, but I live with a man who resists changes. One small step at a time.

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