Zojirushi NS-ZCC10 Rice Cooker
The first step to better, happier cooking? Setting up a tip-top kitchen. We’re talking one that’s stocked with essential tools and ingredients, organized so everything you need is close at hand, and sparkling-clean from floor to ceiling. Food52 is here to make it happen. Your Do-Anything Kitchen gathers the smartest ideas and savviest tricks from the Food52 community and test kitchen to help you transform your space into its very best self.
If you’re a Genius Recipes fan, you’ve been inside creative director Kristen Miglore’s apartment kitchen, where she’s been cooking and filming Genius Recipes videos since stay-at-home orders began. And you just may have noticed something missing: much in the way of counter space.
Kristen has spent years hunting down, testing, and retesting Genius recipes—and writing two (soon to be three!) cookbooks. This has turned her into a smart, efficient, and organized cook, with obsessively efficient space usage and storage habits. Her cooking utensils are stashed away in tidy wire drawer dividers to keep them from getting jumbled, and she keeps spares of all her most-used tools (think: silicone spatulas and kitchen shears), so that she doesn’t have to wash them twice during the same recipe. That, matched with a New Yorker’s seen-it-all attitude towards cramped rental kitchens (in her tiniest-ever kitchen, her baking supplies, she said, living in bags on the seat of a chair under the kitchen table), meant she didn’t blink when faced with a counter-light space.
Instead, Kristen devised a clever workaround. She ordered a stainless steel prep table from a restaurant supply store and set it in the middle of the kitchen. Topped with a hefty wooden butcher block, it made a roomy freestanding island at an arm’s length from the refrigerator, sink, and oven. It’s now where she chops vegetables, rolls out biscuit dough, rests hot pans, and enlists her husband Mike to film new episodes of Genius.
It is a Genius Tip of its own.
“Because I’ve always wanted Genius Recipes to be as welcoming as possible to all home cooks, the recipes always call for pretty minimal, basic equipment,” said Kristen. “So I’ve never needed to buy a sous vide circulator, or even a rice cooker! A big pot works for both.”
Similarly, the prep table may not be the generous island of her dreamland kitchen, but it certainly does the job. Designed for the rigors of restaurant use, it’s sturdy enough to stand up to anything she can throw at it. An adjustable shelf below the work surface is ideal for storing heavy pots so that they’re easy to hoist onto the nearby stove.
The tables also come in such a range of dimensions that even the most particular of kitchens could accommodate one. And they’re affordable: Most models (available from online restaurant suppliers who, by the way, will ship directly to your door) go for well under $200—or less, depending on the size.
To add a prep table like Kristen’s to your own kitchen, measure the space you’d like to use, then find the largest possible table that will fit in your space with room for you to easily navigate around it. We’d recommend one that’s at least 24 inches deep, if possible, which will give you a landing zone for a cutting board and ingredients, plus a place for cooking tools or most-used ingredients (like a jug of olive oil, a salt cellar, or a bowl of onions and garlic). If you like, you can even top it with a slab of butcher block as functional as it is handsome, giving it the feel of a wooden countertop—one you can take with you, if and when it’s time to leave your rental for your dreamland kitchen.