Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Unfinished kitchen cabinets

Ganka on The Kitchen Blog makes a very important point about unfinished kitchen cabinets:

"In the case of the unfinished wooden cabinet, there is no way to hide the type and quality of the wood being used and so the manufacturers have to use top quality defect free wood because the customer will be able to clearly see what he is paying for. In fact, unfinished kitchen cabinets are often made of the best wood available within a specific price range."

Go read the rest, and consider unfinished cabinets for your next project - if you're willing to put in the time to do the finishing yourself, you can get a great deal.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Should you include a waste disposal in your kitchen?

Waste disposals (garburators, waste disposers) have pros and cons. Not everyone needs or wants one. Personally, I wouldn't have one in the house.

  • easy disposal of food waste
  • no bad smelling garbage or compost container
  • waste containers can be smaller
Note: properly managed compost and garbage containers don't have to smell.

  • take up space in the sink cabinet
  • can be noisy
  • can get jammed by or damage items which go into the disposer by mistake
  • another appliance to go wrong and get serviced
  • food wastes add a high load to the sewage system (some areas do not allow disposals for this reason)
  • may overload septic systems
  • can smell (need to have citrus fruit or chemicals run through them to prevent this)
  • can clog and need plumbing disassembled to fix
  • uses a lot of water, which you or your local utility pays for

Because I compost most of my food waste, I don't feel any need for a disposer. But more generally, I believe they waste electricity, water, soil fertility and sewage disposal capacity for very little return in convenience. In fact if I moved into a house with one already installed, I'd probably take it out!

Agree/disagree? let me know!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

"Low maintenance" kitchen materials: Stainless Steel and Granite?

Stainless steel and granite tend to be touted as very tough materials which will last a lifetime. And they probably are. That doesn't mean they are "low maintenance", though, if by that you mean what a normal person would mean - i.e. that they don't need to be cleaned and babied and titivated unnecessarily often, and have special care taken of them.

In fact stainless steel and granite do both need special care and cleaning.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel generally is prone to water spots, fingerprints, and dents. Water spots are sometimes permanent, fingerprints can generally be wiped off - but how many times a day are you willing to do that? Especially if you have small kids. Fridge doors are especially prone to dents. Some "stainless" finishes are much less fingerprint-prone than others, and there are cleaners which make the cleaning both easier and more long lasting. I recommend a search of the Kitchens forum on Gardenweb to find the most up-to-date recommendations from people who actually use their kitchens.


You would think that stone would be the toughest, most cleaning-resistant and least-maintenance material on the planet, right? Apparently not. Granite and other stones need to be sealed after installation and at regular intervals from then onwards. Some cleaning materials will damage them - you have to use the right stuff. High gloss surfaces show marks and fingerprints mercilessly. Some food items can damage or stain them. Very hot pans can cause them to crack. Crisp corners and edges can chip.

So, if you're planning to use these materials, do your homework and make sure you know what they will need in the way of maintenance, and that you'll be happy doing it. Otherwise, why pay all that money just to end up with work you didn't expect or intend?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Decluttering the fridge

If your fridge looks like a bomb went off inside it, or it's stuffed to the gills and you can't find anything, or you're afraid to open it because the science experiments have created their own civilization and reached the gunpowder stage... read on.

  1. Turn the fridge off, pull out everything, and start the fridge defrosting while you work. You can set pans of hot water inside to speed up melting. If the cleaning process will take a while, put frozen and highly perishable foods in a cooler or ice chest.

  2. Throw away the science experiments, anything with fur that shouldn't have it, and anything that’s gone bad.

  3. Look at all the leftovers. Decide: will you eat them in the next 2 days? Can they be frozen to eat later? No? Into the garbage or compost they go.

  4. Check expiry dates. Throw out anything which is unreasonably beyond it’s date (it seems a shame to waste something which expired yesterday – but be sure you’ll eat it SOON!).

  5. Consider how you use the space inside your fridge: could it be better organized? Can shelves be moved to use the space better? Plan for better space use while it’s empty.

  6. Take out your baking soda container if it’s been there longer than a few months, and use it to clean out the sink drains.

  7. Clean the fridge.

  8. Add new baking soda

  9. Replace everything you’re keeping, using your new space plan.

  10. Admire the lovely clean spacious fridge.

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Sunday, June 22, 2008

Where to keep your kitchen spices

Spices and dried herbs need to be stored cool, dark and dry to keep their best flavor, especially if you don't use them up very quickly. An open shelf over the range doesn't meet these needs at all, even though you often see it in magazine pictures. Maybe the people in those kitchens use up their matched sets of herbs really fast - or maybe they don't use them at all and the bottles never get opened!

So, what to do in real kitchens?

First, where do you use your herbs and spices? I use mine in more than one place - at the range, at the prep area, and when I'm baking. So ideally I'd want storage at all those places. Not necessarily duplicating everything in each place, but making sure that the ones I use in each place are there to use.

Next, how much do you use them? If you're a frequent user and you use them up fast, then having the most-used jars out and readily to hand makes sense, and you'll use them up quickly enough that they won't lose their potency. Otherwise, you'll want to have them put away but easy to reach when you need them. Some of the best choices for achieving this are:

A drawer - you can store the jars upright if you label the tops, or use sloping supports that tip them back so you can read the labels on the fronts.

A spice rack inside a cabinet door beside the range keeps them dark and dry though possibly a bit warm. Two out of three ain't bad.

A narrow pantry-style pullout can fit in a small space that would otherwise be wasted, and provides a lot of storage for different sized jars and bottles. Usually there will be space for oils and vinegars too, which is a bonus.

Got other ideas? Tell us how you store herbs and spices in your own kitchen!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Laundry in the Kitchen

Most North American kitchens don't include laundry facilities, but there are some good reasons why you might consider including them in your kitchen floor plans.


Whoever decided that the best place for the washer and dryer was in the basement - often in an unfinished area with a dusty concrete floor and spidery open-joist ceiling - didn't do laundry very often. Especially if you have kids, a laundry area in the kitchen will be much easier to get to and use, and usually be nearer the bedrooms where much of the laundry is produced.


The kitchen already has water supply and drain lines ready to hook your washer into, so if you do want to move out of the basement, it's a good place to move to without having to pay for major plumbing work. You will almost certainly need to run new electrical circuits though, if you want an electric dryer. A gas dryer may be a good choice if you already have a gas supply to the kitchen for your range.


A stacked washer and dryer in the kitchen uses much less space than the regular full sized separate appliances in their own laundry room. Consider using the laundry room for something else completely - maybe you can remove a wall and combine it with the kitchen, maybe you need mudroom space for your large family, or maybe it could be a home office, craft room or darkroom.

Do you have a kitchen laundry? Would you have one? Why or why not?

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Curmudgeonly about Kitchens

You may well wonder why I feel curmudgeonly about kitchens.

Not all kitchens, of course. Lots of kitchens are convenient to work in, easy to keep clean, and fit their owners.

No, it's the shelter-magazine trendy fashion-fad kitchens - or certain aspects of them - I get curmudgeonly about. One of the current trends, for example, is colored appliances. Burgundy, mint green, fire-engine red, robins-egg blue... mmmm yummy! And some of them really are. But... remember the Avocado Green and Harvest Gold appliances of the 1970's? How quickly they went out of style and became an absolute fashion no-no? At the time the fashion leaders were just as ga-ga about those colors as they now are about the current colors.

My take is: if you want fashion colors in your kitchen, paint the walls, change the curtains or shades, buy new accessories, even repaint the cabinets or put in new vinyl flooring - but don't commit yourself to a wild color on something that costs thousands of dollars and will last 20 years.