Thursday, November 27, 2014

Three Thanksgiving Kitchen Remodeling Upgrades

For most families, Thanksgiving is the biggest cooking day of the year. Make that days. Indeed, industrious home cooks do not begin cooking on Thanksgiving morning. No, if you want to host a truly splendid table, start days or weeks before Thanksgiving.

There's stock to be made (and frozen, if you please). And how about the pie crusts? And when will you brine the turkey? As The New York Times recently wrote in a Thanksgiving how-to inspired by Regina Charboneau,

"A brilliantly executed, low-stress Thanksgiving meal can be yours with a solid game plan, freezer space and some simple but delicious shortcuts."

Read: "How to Dazzle Without the Frazzle."

We're all for additional freezer space and cooking shortcuts, but at MKBD we're most interested in the "game plan." It's no accident that we see a spike in queries directly after Thanksgiving. For many homeowners, it takes a serious day of cooking to see kitchen deficiencies. For MKBD, the best Thanksgiving game plan is a kitchen remodeling project or kitchen renovation.

After all, to host a truly successful Thanksgiving, you need a functional and efficient kitchen. A Thanksgiving-ready kitchen requires plenty of space: not just in the freezer, but in the cabinets. A Thanksgiving-ready kitchen promotes easy movement (often between multiple people) and easy cooking. Finally, a Thanksgiving-ready kitchen eases the work of cleaning.

Even if you're not ready for a kitchen remodeling or kitchen renovation, all of this can be accomplished with a little forethought and some good old-fashioned elbow grease. If you want to ease your Thanksgiving experience, consider the upgrades below.

New sturdy cabinets, like these Decora cabinets from a Bala Cynwd-area MKBD project, are a Thanksgiving-ready kitchen upgrade that can ease your storage and planning stress.

Maximize Your Cabinet Storage Space

There's no time like Thanksgiving for revealing a lack of storage space--especially cabinet space. Quite simply, the holiday season requires more pots and pans, more ingredients, and more  gadgets, like potato ricers or food mills. But most homes are simply not equipped to handle the extra storage needs.

If you're looking for a true Thanksgiving kitchen upgrade, try new cabinets with deep shelves for storing your pots and pans, ingredients, and larger plates and bowls. And for the most efficient use of space, build your cabinets all the way to the ceiling.

If you're not ready for new cabinetry, the easiest (and least expensive) way to maximize your cabinet space is to clean, clean, clean. Many homeowners do not clean their cabinets until they absolutely need to, and when they do, they discover age-old spices, rancid cooking oils, and tasteless nuts.

Other helpful storage hints include drawer dividers for extra silverware or pullout shelving for corner cabinet--or, if you're considering a kitchen remodeling project, try a kitchen island with ample space for storage. 

In this MKBD project, the new kitchen island comes equipped with a wine fridge and multiple drawers for storage!

Update your Kitchen Layout

A layout update might just be the best Thanksgiving-ready kitchen upgrade. Major layout changes, of course, will be limited to full kitchen remodeling projects, but most homeowners can make more space--especially counter space--with an intensive cleaning. But counter space is not necessarily the most important update. I've we've said before:

"It is not necessary for every square inch of your kitchen to offer a space for supplies and appliances. In fact, a fundamental truth of professional kitchen often applies to home kitchens: the less available counter and cabinet space the better!"

Yup, you read that right. The less cabinet space the better.

Read: "Less or More: A Beautiful Kitchen is a Clutter-Free Kitchen." 

Less counter space necessarily means more floor space, and anyone's who has stirred the roux for the gravy in a crowded kitchen knows the value of floor space. So what can you do to ease movement and increase floor space? Cleaning helps, as we've noted, but the best option might be a remodeling project that includes a work triangle. the three-point work station, from the range, to the refrigerator and/or pantry, to the sink, and back to the range. The work triangle segregates the three functions of kitchen work: cooking, storage, and cleaning. Ideally, if you create a kitchen layout tailored to the traditional triangle, you will also provide ample space between each station.

For more on the work triangle, please read: "Kitchen Remodeling Tips for the Serious Home Cook."

Ease the Work of Cleaning

Who's going to do the dishes? Everyone dreads the work of cleaning the Thanksgiving meal, but a few simple improvements can actually make the experience enjoyable.

If you are installing new cabinets, opt for cabinets without ornate molding or raised panels that can collect dust and grime.

For an easy-to-clean floor, opt for vinyl, linoleum, and tile, materials with fewer seams to collect dust and dirt. Wood is good too, if you have the edges milled.

And remember that beast of Thanksgiving duties: the dishwasher! Old dishwashers not only waste energy, but many don't even do the job right!

For this Fort Washington-area remodeling project, the client maintained the old wood floor, but finished it to seal the lines. Easy-to-clean, indeed!

FREE In-Home Remodeling Estimate!

If you have any questions about your next kitchen remodeling project, please feel free to call MKBD for an individualized consultation. Let's talk budget and more! Call now! 215-355-4747.

Better yet, check out our Free In-Home Remodeling Estimate on this very blog!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

How to Choose the Best Oven

In last week's post, detailing how to choose the best cooking range, we made a distinction between ranges and ovens:

The oven is the enclosed cooking unit used for baking, roasting, or broiling.The range rests atop the oven (or on the counter), and includes your burners. The range is for boiling, sautéing, or pan-frying. The range might also be called the cooktop or stovetop.

Most homeowners buy a combination oven and range--a duo that some manufacturers call a stove or (confusingly) an oven. Yet many homeowners buy a separate oven and range, and install the separate units in different parts of the kitchen. At MKBD, we promote this approach, when feasible, as it creates two separate work stations, easing traffic flow in a busy kitchen.

Beyond these considerations, for the purposes of shopping, we prefer to analyze the oven and range as separate units (even when they will be purchased as one unit). In this way, a homeowner can focus acutely on the elements he/she wants or needs for each unit. In reality, although the units are often combined, both perform different functions. By clarifying your needs for each respectively, you will be equipped to make the best decision to suit your family's cooking lifestyle.

If you missed our post on ranges, you can read it here. Today we will discuss ovens!

In this stunning MKBD project, the homeowner installed two separate oven units, a single and a double (apart from the range) to accommodate some serious baking. Thanksgiving, anyone?!

How to Choose a Good Oven

As we noted last week in our discussion of ranges, your first oven-buying consideration should be space. In most smaller kitchens, your choice will be limited to a combination range and oven. However, if you have more space, or a unique design amenable to separate units, you can, indeed, buy a separate oven and range.

Beyond generally thinking about kitchen space and design, you will also need to think about the specific space available for your oven. If you're performing a full kitchen remodeling project with an entirely new design, you should be able to define this size yourself. If you're replacing an oven for an older kitchen, you'll likely need to break out the measuring tape to ensure that your new oven will accommodate your current layout.

Once you've figured out your general and specific space requirements, research the available oven types:

Of the available combination units, a freestanding oven stands alone, usually at the end of a cabinet. A freestanding range can also fit between cabinets.

For a perfect cabinet fit, however, a slide-in or drop in-oven might be best.

A slide-in oven will fit seamlessly between cabinets, yet its contoured sides help to ensure that the elevated cooktop will rest above the cabinets.

A drop-in oven will look similar to slide-ins but will be made to look custom fit to the cabinetry. If you're installing a unit into an older kitchen design you might need to modify the cabinets. A drop-in is distinguished by a drawer at the bottom of the oven for storing pots and pans.

Another option is a separate wall oven, which is placed at waist or eye level. Wall ovens are sold as single or double units (the image above displays both!), and come in standard widths of 24", 27", 30", or 36".

In this MKBD project, a drop-in oven is made to custom fit the cabinetry. Note the distinctive detail: the drawer at the bottom of the oven. 

Gas or Electric

As we noted last week, depending upon your available fuel source, the choice between a gas or electric stove might've already been made for you.

If you do have a choice, though, let your cooking preferences guide you.

First things first: Chefs might prefer gas ranges, but bakers typically prefer electric ovens. Pro-electric bakers will tell you that electric ovens distribute heat more evenly and that electric ovens reliably produce dry heat, which is crucial for browning both baked good and roasts.

We tend to agree with this view. So if you're a baker, and you're buying a separate oven, your best choice will probably be electric. If you're buying a combination range and oven, choose the fuel source that is most amenable to your cooking style.

If you cook most of your food on the range, you might do better with a gas unit; if you cook most of your food in the oven, an electric unit might be best. Another option is a combination gas and electric, a "dual fuel" stove. A dual fuel unit might be more expensive, but it offers the best of both worlds.

For this Philadelphia-area MKBD project, the homeowner installed a combination gas oven and range and a separate electric oven for baking. Now you're talking!

Convection or Regular? 

Beloved by cooks, a “convection” oven cooks food more evenly, in less time, and with a nice brown crust. A regular oven produces heat only from the heating units. The addition of a fan allows a convection oven to blow hot air around the food.

Convection is the key to crispy pie crust and crackling roast beef. Better yet--at least for the harried homeowner--a convection oven can reduce cooking time for most recipes by 25%.

Despite the advantages, even though this option is widely-available, many homeowners choose a regular unit. At MKBD, we advocate convection ovens to most homeowners. A convection oven might require a little trial and error, but once you learn the ins-and-outs, you'll never go back to regular!


FREE In-Home Remodeling Estimate!

If you have any questions about your next kitchen remodeling project, please feel free to call MKBD for an individualized consultation. Let's talk budget and more! Call now! 215-355-4747.

Better yet, check out our Free In-Home Remodeling Estimate on this very blog!