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Kitchen hacks - simple ideas for making the kitchen a more friendly place

 
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I stumbled on this video today.  It has some great ideas in it for making life easier in the kitchen.  
 
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Thank you! I knew about wire a few of these, but had completely forgotten about a lot of them - and learned some new tricks, plus was inspired, toward a few more, to alter somewhat(to accommodate my weird fridge, lol) & try! :D :D :D
 
pollinator
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In a lot of high end kitchens, there is an area that has a non-stick surface like marble that is at a lower height for rolling out dough and stuff at a much more ergodically correct height. But that takes up a lot of room for a single task which is not very efficient overall. My wife just keeps a pair of high heels inside one of her cabinets and steps into them when she rolls out dough. Being higher, it makes the task more convenient. A person can pick up a pair of high heels cheap at Goodwill or someplace, but if it is hard to wear high heels, even for only a few minutes, taller clogs can also do the same thing.
 
Travis Johnson
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There are a lot of kitchen countertop options, but butcherblock not only looks good, it saves time from having to have, and store smaller cutting boards. In our house, one surface is always butcher block so that a cutting board is always handy. When it gets knife-marked up, they can be sanded down, or replaced.





 
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I'll add a kitchen hack for those with a deep freezer. Similar to the video's suggestion of using baskets to organize the freezer, I use cloth shopping bags full of "like things" like all the beans I froze this year. Then if I want what's underneath the beans, it's really easy to lift out the bag as one step and then find what's underneath. My neighbors were having a little squabble about how hard it can be to get to the bottom of the freezer, and I mentioned my trick and they were quick to agree it might help them, so I thought I'd mention it here. I recommend that the things on the top in bags, should be the lighter things, like my frozen raspberry collection, rather than denser stuff like the side of lamb I ordered in a moment of a desire for something different for a change!

Another hack we use for the deep freeze. My husband collected a bunch of the <1 liter plastic pop-bottles and mixed up a strong salt solution and added a little food colouring to mark them. Salt water freezes at a lower temperature than water does. Most foods are mostly water, so they freeze at approximately water temperature. This way if you have a power failure, the brine bottle will melt first, releasing the energy of melting, keeping your food safer, longer. If you know the power will be out for some time, throw some insulating blankets over the freezer as well and between the two, we figure we're good for 2-4 days of no power depending on the temperature. Of course, all those poor people in snow country right now, will be laughing at this suggestion!
 
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For chest freezers I use bread boxes, the big trays that bakeries use for carrying goods around, they're really strong and perfectly sized for me to get 8 of them into my freezer.
Because the sides in our kitchen are too low, I use a really thick chopping board to bring them up, eventually I will replace the sides and raise them while I am at it. And also replace them with something other than the wood they are now.
One thing we have in our kitchen which is really nice, and you could easily add is built in heat proof edges next to the cooker, so you can take a pan directly from the heat and put it there.
 
Travis Johnson
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Skandi Rogers wrote:One thing we have in our kitchen which is really nice, and you could easily add is built in heat proof edges next to the cooker, so you can take a pan directly from the heat and put it there.



We have concrete countertops for this reason...(the butcherblock mentioned earlier is on the islands).

 
Travis Johnson
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When Katie's family comes up from out of state, we often eat "Buffet Style" to serve so many people. To do that, we have a leaf that lifts up to form a bridge between the little island, and the big island. This gives us an island that is 13-1/2 feet long...perfect for buffet style eating.


 
Travis Johnson
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Here are some pictures of that drop leaf countertop that spans between the little and big islands.

Mostly, we leave it down so Katie can walk between the islands, and not have to walk a long way around. But as you can see, with it flipped into place, it provides for a lot of extra countertop space.



DSCN0751.JPG
kitchen island leaf down
kitchen island leaf down
DSCN0752.JPG
kitchen island leaf up
kitchen island leaf up
 
Travis Johnson
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This is another simple idea: rather than put the Deep Freezer in the mudroom, or basement, we put ours right in the kitchen. I framed cabinetry around it so that you never know, but what is our small island (with a single bar stool for a extra place to sit) is also a freezer, right at hand...right in the kitchen where it should be. This is generally where the kids do homework because Katie or I can help them, if they need it while we are making dinner.

You will also note, I left the leaf up so that you get an idea how much room that leaf gives us for buffet style eating.



DSCN0756.JPG
kitchen island with freezer
kitchen island with freezer
DSCN0757.JPG
kitchen island
kitchen island
 
Travis Johnson
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The right sink, and right kitchen faucet also helps.

I dislike the look of high faucets, BUT they work so well for filling up deep pots. Coupled with a deep sink, you can clean off a lot of veggies from the garden.

In our house, we actually have (2) sinks in the kitchen. Our everyday sink, but also a second sink that works really well for washing dishes. It also doubles as a way to fill the coffee maker which the coffee area is right beside. I used a 15 gallon pail to custom make the sink, then rigged plumbing so that water was routed through a pitcher pump to flow into the sink. We used antique shower faucets to control the hot or cold water going to the pitcher pump. Obviously we do not have to pump the handle to get water.

To the far left of the photo observant eyes will note another feature: a small but second refrigerator. We use this to chill our coffee creamers so they do not take up space in the big refrigerator. Just to the right of the small refrigerator is a pull out trash can. That is situated so everything is at hand for making coffee: get rid of the old grounds, get water to make the coffee, a microwave is just above, with the cabinet above the microwave used to store the coffee filters and coffee. And hooks hold the coffee mugs.
DSCN3793.JPG
kitchen sink
kitchen sink
 
Jay Angler
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With a big US Holiday just done, and the Winter Solstice Holiday season on its way, does anyone have any cool hacks that help them cope "with the season"?

We have a pop-out plant window on the east side of our house with many trees shading it. At this time of year, I keep cookies and similar that benefit from being cool, but don't actually need refrigeration. I have a few pieces of salvaged foam that I put against the house-side to trap the cold. We don't normally get weather so cold that it will freeze there, but I keep an eye on the forecast even though it's known to be optimistic at times.
 
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A topic for everyone. <g>

Compost hole in the prep counter (with container under). My #1 wish. Extra points if on the other side of the hole you have the dish sink; a sink cover/cutting board fit into the dish sink and extended the counter so two people could slice&dice at once with all the trimmings shoved down the hole easy-peasy. That was a wun-der-ful setup to work. Keeps the floor, counter and the sink(s) a lot neater. Now I  miss it noticeably. Don't know how this would do with a stand alone butcher block, but with counter cutting boards, it's great.

Knife holders in easy reach of the prep area. We use magnetic, glued to the side of a fridge beside the prep counter. All sharps get slapped in place straight from washing - no drying rack or cloth involved. Dripping is minimal and no problem.

Small-medium pots and pans hung 2' from stove. Closer and they get pregreased - on the _outside_. Lids are still looking for a home, hopefully near the pots&pans.

Small spice rack or other holder over/close-to the stove for cooking oil; saves the cook crossing the room to steal from the good oils at the prep area.

Small spice rack over/near the stove for those things the cook is queer for all day every day. Again saves x-traffic from a hasty cook who then messes up the spice racks search/grabbing all the time. And then leaving something out and "losing" it somewhere around the stove. Bad place for spices, and the containers turn into a greasy mess, but the trade-off, mostly keeping a lunging cook out of the traffic pattern, turns out easy worth it; stuff there gets used up w/in a week or so.

Big utensil mug on the back of the stove for cooking spoons, spatulas, stuff. 6-8" diameter, 10+" tall works. Utensils go straight from washing, again no drying steps; business ends up. They get used enough that the ambient grease/oils mist doesn't matter.

Large bin in some corner near the exit door for package/container recycle.  Depends on your local procedures. "Large" in the sense that C-league players can score from across the room and keep working w/out trafficing across the kitchen...

etc. etc

Cheers,
Rufus
 
Travis Johnson
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After seeing a photo in a magazine, Katie and I have decided to put in a "dog bath".

I put that in quotes because while it can bathe a dog, we intent to use it for more than that. We can wash out mops, wash off muddy boots, fill pails of water, rinse off things, all in a big, dedicated spot. A dog bath area will contain the mess, and yet give us access to water from a spout, and a hand held sprayer. We already have a separate veggie washing sink, but for a person without a separate sink for that, a dog wash area would allow for washing of big batches of vegetables too.
 
pollinator
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Rufus Laggren wrote:

Lids are still looking for a home, hopefully near the pots&pans.



I've found that a dedicated wall rail near the stove is perfect for most lids.  I'm not sure if mine was an Ikea purchase or an old towel rack from the bathroom.
 
pollinator
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I love having a speed rail to hand utensils and towels off of.  The magnetic knife racks are OK if your 12" chef knife actually sticks to them.  Otherwise, be prepared to dodge the blade of doom.  
 
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Lisa, just curious: it seems only people with restaurant kitchen experience reach for a 12" chef knife. Most non-kitchen-magicians seem to find them too big and unwieldy. Any insights on using the big blade in a small kitchen?
 
Lisa Sampson
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You definitely need room to work but when you are processing a lot of veggies, its hard to beat it if you have the knife skills.  As long as there is enough counter top to get my cutting board down, then I have enough space.  I think its only 18 by 24 so its not that much room.  With processing meat, its mainly the boning knife or the cleaver.  You don't need lots of room to work with a big knife but you do need to keep your work area clear.  The big mistake I see most people make is that they don't clear their work area.  They create piles of good stuff and piles of discard in their work area.  That is a good way to end up cutting yourself, IMHO.  

Keep the trash or compost bins handy to dispose of any waste bits quickly and get them out of your work area.  If they don't have enough capacity, then get an old bucket but make sure you have plenty of space to dispose of bits.  Bonus points if you can get the other half to help out by dumping it when its full.  

Keep the processed items contained off your cutting board.  One of my favorites is the big bowl but if there is no room for that, a clean bucket on the floor works as long as I can keep the doggos out of whatever it is.  If I can't I might put the bucket in chair so that I can rake everything that is done off into it.  

One thing I would recommend, as a general life skill, is to work on the knife skills.  Small knife means I can cut up one carrot at a time.  Big knife means I can cut 3 or 4 at a time or 2 to 3 cucumbers.  When I have a whole harvest of them to deal with, big knife wins out.  It also makes dealing with melons and some squashes a whole lot easier since the weight of the knife and not just my arm helps do the actual slicing,  
 
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Lisa Sampson wrote:.... magnetic knife racks..... be prepared to dodge the blade of doom.  


bahaha! Just yesterday I was laughing at the near-supersonic speed of my old man when my chef's knife fell off the strip. I keep a bread knife (who cares), a fruit knife (heavy and sharp, beware) and my ancient heavy cooking shears there (even worse) along with my favorite chef's knife. Not my bigger knife though, and DEFINITELY not my bone cleaver. Just no chance.
They all fall regularly. Some fool used to put my knives there tip-down after washing, but quickly learned that if he wanted to keep his feet (or his head, because if he broke or bent a tip......) tip-up was a better strategy.

and +1 for knife skills. I learned to cook late in life and good knives and related know-how make it all so much better.
 
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