Kitchen Storage and Organization Essentials That Keep Us Sane

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Over the last year, Serious Eats HQ has been adjusting to a move from our modest digs in Chinatown to an expansive new space in Brooklyn's Sunset Park. There have been hitches here and there, but most of our problems are the good kind of problems. Like, for instance, our need to fully stock and organize not one but two brand new kitchens (hopefully we'll be giving you a virtual tour early next year!).

Now, we've written at length about how to stock a kitchen, from equipment recommendations to pantry essentials and ingredient guides. And we've addressed particular storage issues, like the best way to organize your spices or set up your fridge. But as we've added more and more containers, shelving units, and utensil crocks to our office kitchens, we realized that we've never broken down our preferred organizational tools and storage equipment for our readers.

Happily, most of the solutions we've settled on for our office kitchen are equally appropriate to a home kitchen. And because many of these items are designed for, or take inspiration from, restaurant kitchens, you might just be surprised by how efficient and affordable they are. Here's a look at the essentials.

Pantry Shelving

If you're lucky enough to have a real pantry in your home, you're likely going to need to set up some shelving. There are plenty of fancy built-in storage solutions out there, but many sacrifice utility for looks while landing you with a hefty bill. Metro shelves, on the other hand, will run you under $60. They're affordable, easy to clean, and tall enough to fit larger appliances. What's more, if you get some S-hooks, you'll be able to hang all of your utensils, strainers, mandolines, and even pots and pans right from the unit. If you are looking to have something built in, try this simple steel rail from IKEA. With a few of these and a lot of S-hooks, you'll be able to clear the clutter in no time.

Of course, not all of us are lucky enough to have a true pantry at home. If that's you, try some of these under-cabinet storage sets. They'll help you make best use of the space you do have.

Storage Containers

These OXO Pop Containers continue to be some of our favorites for dry storage. They're lightweight, airtight, and the button makes them really easy to open and seal. While the 10-pack is pricey, it comes with a bunch of different sizes, ideal for storing everything from nuts to flour to dried beans. For something a little less expensive, Daniel recommends using glass storage containers like these. They're a little heavier but they nest well and are great if you're looking to transport any of your ingredients.

Taking a cue from those in the office who have worked in professional kitchens, we rely pretty heavily on pint and quart deli containers to store veggies or dry goods. They can be filled with stocks or soups and stored in the freezer (it helps that they're stackable); the quart containers are perfect for storing leafy herbs like cilantro and parsley; you can even use them for drinking cups in a pinch. Unused, they nest and take up very little space. Plus, they are way cheaper than your average tupperware, so you won't feel guilty if you accidentally leave one filled with leftovers in your fridge for a bit too long (just throw it away: these come in packs of 50). To keep their deli containers even more organized in restaurant kitchens, chefs label each container with some tape and a sharpie (date and what the ingredient is—they take this very seriously, as Sohla can attest). If you want to get fancy with it, you can get this awesome label maker, which will make your pantry look even more professional.

Hotel Pans

Another vital container used in restaurant kitchens is the hotel pan. You'll find all sorts of sizes (all of which nest into a full-sized hotel pan) and we find the shallow sixth, the deep sixth, and the shallow ninth to be the MVPs. Daniel uses his collection to hold stews and braises, cooked beans in their water, blanched and drained vegetables, and cooked grains. All of these can be simply covered in plastic wrap and secured with a plastic band. Like pint and quart deli containers, these hotel pans nest well when not in use, plus they're durable and non-reactive (and not plastic, in case that worries you).

Knife and Utensil Storage

Magnetic knife strips are not only space-saving but they also look pretty badass hanging on your wall. They'll keep your knives from rubbing up against other utensils, which can make them dull (and can be dangerous, too). But there are plenty of utensils that need to go in your drawers and for that, we like this adjustable cutlery tray, which should be able to fit your tallest forks and your smallest spoons. If you do prefer to keep your knives tucked away, this in-drawer knife dock is a great solution. With it, knives are out of sight but easy to grab without chance of nicking yourself in the process.

For tools like spatulas and whisks, a good old crock will do the trick, like this ceramic one, which is extra pretty. If you have a dirty utensil but still need it later on, don't set it down and make a mess of your counter, get one of these spoon rests instead.

To store utensils and make even more use of your walls, we love Command strip hooks, which come in a wide variety of sizes and finishes. They actually are quite durable and can stay on walls for years. (If you're a renter, they're a great way to store tools, towels, oven mitts, and more without poking too many holes in the walls.)

Spice Organization

There's a lot to say about how to manage your spice collection. First and foremost, pay attention to freshness. If you can't remember when you bought that bottle of paprika, chances are it has transformed into sad red dust with zero flavor. For more info on how to keep your spices fresh, read our guide here—then invest in a simple masala dabba or these spice tins to keep all your spices close at hand and ready to go.

Everything You Need for Cleanup

While organization is key when it comes to cooking, it's also helpful when you're organized and stocked for cleaning up. Cleaning can be stressful and time-consuming, especially if you don't have a dishwasher (and if you don't but you have some extra counter space, you can buy a countertop one right here). But with the right tools, you'll at least have a good system in place to keep clean-up time to a minimum.

Start with a nice soap dish and an absorbent drying mat. Then get an in-sink drying rack, so dishes will dry quickly and easily, and won't take up a ton of space on your already limited counters. Lid organizers also make great dish racks in a pinch; as you know, we love a good multitasker.