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What are zones and how do you design with them in mind?

Posted by buehl (My Page) on
Wed, May 4, 11 at 8:23

Kitchen work zones, what are they?

"Zones" are areas in your kitchen where the work occurs. Work in the kitchen is broken down into three primary work zones. Everyone has these three zones, everyone!

Prep Zone...This is the zone where food prep takes place. Food prep can be anything from making a sandwich to preparing a multi-course meal. It includes cleaning/rinsing food, cutting, mixing, processing, etc. For many people, especially those with small kitchens, their Prep Zone is also their Baking Center for rolling out dough, etc. 70% of the work and time spent in the kitchen is spent prepping. It's the most often used and longest used zone in your kitchen!

Cooking Zone...This is the zone where you take the food you've already prepped and apply heat...cooktop, oven, MW. Only 10% of the work and time spent in the kitchen is spent actually cooking. This is the least used Zone, relatively speaking. Think about it, you usually don't spend the entire time standing in front of your oven or cooktop watching it cook. Sure, there are some things that do have to be stirred constantly, but most things are not. And even then, you usually still spend more time prepping before you begin cooking.

Cleanup Zone...This is the zone where the dirty dishes are handled! Dishes, pots, pans, etc. 20% of the work and time spent in the kitchen is spent cleaning up.


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OK, so now we know what the primary zones are. So now, how do we design a kitchen keeping them in mind?

Prep Zone...works best when it contains a water source and is next to or across an aisle no more than 48" wide or so from the Cooking Zone. Trash & recycle bins should also be in the Prep Zone.

Cooking Zone...works best when next to/across from the Prep Zone (see Prep Zone). It's also nice to have a water source nearby as well as trash & recycling nearby.

Cleanup Zone...works best when separated from the Prep & Cooking Zones. This can be on the opposite side of a one-sink kitchen from the Prep Zone or it could be in a completely separate location (the latter usually only works well if you have two sinks). Obviously, it also needs a water source and the DW.


What else do we need to keep in mind regarding planning a kitchen and zones?

Dish Storage...works best when it's near the DW and near the serving/eating locations (island, DR, Nook, etc.)

Food Storage...works best when it's near the "action". It's nice to be able to store staples, etc. at their point-of-use, so food storage can be spread throughout the kitchen. E.g., flour, sugar, etc. in a "Baking Center", spices in the Prep or Cooking Zone, Cereal close to where breakfast is eaten, etc. If you have a dedicated pantry, it's nice to have the pantry near the point where the groceries enter the house as well.

Refrigerator...works best on the periphery of the kitchen so it's easily accessed by people working in the kitchen as well as "outsiders" looking for a snack without the "outsiders" getting underfoot of those working in the kitchen. It should also be near the Prep & Cooking Zones inside the kitchen and, if possible, near the main meal location(s) for ease of access during mealtime.

Microwave (MW)...this also works best on the periphery of the kitchen so it's easily accessed by people working in the kitchen as well as "outsiders" looking for a snack without the "outsiders" getting underfoot of those working in the kitchen.


Zone-crossing - avoid!...When planning zones, etc., try to minimize zone-crossing. For example, if you can avoid it, don't put the refrigerator such that you have to cross through the Cleanup Zone to go b/w the refrigerator and the Prep or Cooking Zone.


Protection...of all the zones, the Cooking Zone should be the most protected from through-traffic as well as general-kitchen traffic. The Cooking Zone contains the range/cooktop where you will be dealing with fire (if gas), hot foods, etc. You also do not want to have to cross a busy aisle when taking a pot of boiling water from the range/cooktop to the sink for emptying...or anything else hot, for that matter!


Zones and Kitchen Workflow

When designing your kitchen, ideally, the zones should follow the normal/usual workflow in a kitchen:

Refrigerator --> (Prep) Sink --> Workspace --> Cooktop/Range --> Table OR (Cleanup) Sink --> (Cleanup) Sink --> Cabinets (dishes, pots/pans, etc.)

Which translates to:
Refrigerator --> Prep Zone --> Cooking Zone --> Serving Zone --> Cleanup Zone

You don't necessarily have to have this exact flow, but something close. For example, you might have the Cooking Zone located between the Refrigerator and Prep Zone. This isn't necessarily bad b/c these two zones are tied so closely together. On the other hand (OTOH), it's not a good idea to put the Cleanup Zone between the Refrigerator and Prep or Cooking Zones on the same run or on the same aisle if it's a narrow aisle. In this case, the DW and someone cleaning up and/or unloading the DW will be in the way of anyone prepping or cooking because the refrigerator is an integral part of both prepping and cooking. And, of course, the reverse is true....someone prepping and/or cooking will get in the way of someone cleaning up!


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Common Zones, Appliances In That Zone, and Suggestions For What To Store There:

  • Storage--pantry & refrigerator--Tupperware, food, wraps & plastic bags

  • Prep(aration)--sink & trash/recyclables--utensils, measuring cups/spoons, mixing bowls, colander, jello molds, cutting boards, knives, cook books, paper towels

  • Cooking--cooktop/range & MW (and near a water source)--utensils, pot holders, trivets, pots & pans, serving dishes (platters, bowls, etc.), paper towels

  • Baking--ovens/range--utensils, pot holders, trivets, pots & pans, casserole dishes, roasting rack, cooling racks, cookie sheets, foils, rolling pin, cookie cutters, pizza stone, muffin tins, paper towels [often combined with Cooking Zone]

  • Cleanup--sink & DW & not too far from trash--detergents, linens, dishes & glasses, flatware

  • Eating/Serving--island/peninsula/table/nook/DR--table linens, placemats, napkins, dishes & glasses, flatware

  • Utility--broom, dustpan, swifter, mop, cleaning supplies, cloths, flashlights, batteries, extension cords

  • Message/Communication/Command Center--keys, phones/answering machine, charging station, directories/phone books, calendar, desk supplies, dry erase board or chalkboard, pens/pencils, sticky notepaper

Less Common Zones:

  • Tea/Coffee Bar--tea/coffeemaker (and near a water source)--mugs, teas/coffees, sugar, teapot

  • Snack/Beverage Center--near MW & refrigerator or small refrigerator--snacks, snack dishes, glasses [often combined with Tea/Coffee Bar]

  • Pet Zone--feeding area--food, snacks, leashes, medicines (if no small children in the home), etc.

Overlapping of Zones

Due to space constraints, some zones often overlap. If this is the case in your kitchen, be sure there is enough work space in the overlap for both activities. Zones that commonly overlap...

  • Prep & Cooking Zones--These zones should be adjacent to each other, so this is a common overlap and is generally not a problem. Just be sure you have enough room for prepping as well as landing space for the range/cooktop. (It is strongly advised you have enough room for emergency landing space on both sides of a range/cooktop.)

  • Prep & Cleanup Zones--If there is only one sink in the kitchen, these zones will be adjacent to each other because of the need for a water source for both zones. However, true overlapping is not generally a good idea. Instead, try to keep the cleanup area separate from the prep area by putting the sink between them. E.g., DW on one side, Prep Zone on the other side. (You should strive to keep the DW out of the Prep Zone as well as out of the path between the sink and Prep & Cooking Zones and between the refrigerator and Prep & Cooking Zones.) Also try for at least 36" (42" or more is better) of room on the Prep Zone side of the sink for ample workspace as well as accommodating the inevitable dirty dishes that will accumulate next to the sink.


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RE: What are zones and how do you design with them in mind?

This is a "Read Me" subject thread....

[Please, do not bump this thread!]


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