When it comes to designing a dream kitchen for an expert home cook, the cost can be frightening. Though it’s easy to get carried away in the pages of Architectural Digest and drool over pristine statuary marble countertops, you shouldn’t feel obligated to indulge in every high-end kitchen accessory and appliance. After all, it’s not the kitchen that makes the chef; it’s the chef that makes the kitchen.
Here’s a little guide on where to spend and where to save in your kitchen:
Spend: A good gas range.
What to look for: A range with 6 burners is ideal. Get a range with a convection oven (or double oven) below, that way you can go from stovetop to oven without walking two steps.
Here’s why: I don’t care what anyone says about electric stovetops, gas is the way to go. You can get an instant flame, rather than an electric cooktop which might take a few minutes to get heated. Plus, you never know when you’ll need a flame to blister eggplants for your famous babaganoush. Viking, Thermador, and La Cornue are at the top of my list.
Save: Go with countertops you can afford.
Here’s why: Countertops are all about cosmetics; if you can’t afford marble or granite go with an alternative such as Formica laminate that still looks good and is easy to clean. Don’t worry about it being scratch resistant. No one uses their granite countertops to chop vegetables without a cutting board anyhow. Go for the more affordable route and get yourself a good cutting board.
Spend: A built-in refrigerator.
What to look for: Dual refrigeration with separate sealed systems to ensure your food tastes fresh. Ample space and shelving is also important. If you often buy bulky items at the grocery store, keep that in mind. A produce drawer — every chef needs one.
Here’s why: In addition to saving space in your kitchen, President of Capital Distributing Michael Davis adds, “Built in refrigerators offer a great high-end look and integrate into your cabinets.” In a dream world, I’d have a Sub-Zero refrigerator. The brand promises the highest quality to ensure your food will stay preserved.
Save: Pass on the built-in fryer.
Here’s why: Unless you find yourself making fresh donuts or fries on a daily basis, save on the extra cost. A good chef can go the old-school route by frying in a pot.
Spend: A ventilation hood.
What to look for: A low fan sound level so that you can still hear your guests while you’re cooking. One that can easily fit over your range and that can vent to the outside, to prevent smoke and too much heat inside. Look for a vent with the Home Ventilating Institute label to ensure it’s a good quality and certified system.
Here’s why: Good ventilation is essential when it comes to cooking in the kitchen. The last thing you need is smoke permeating through the house, rather than the smell of your food. “A great ventilation hood or hood enclosure offers a great design expression and serves an important function of removing moisture, odors, and grease,” Davis explains.
Save: Give up the microwave.
Here’s why: For starters, anything that can zap your food to the point that it’s steaming hot in 2-minutes cannot be good for your health. Nothing ever tastes the same if it has been reheated in a microwave.
Spend: A built-in combi steam oven.
What to look for: An oven that is large enough for your needs — think about what you’ll be steaming. You only need one combi oven, especially if you’ve got double convection under your range.
Here’s why: Use that money you would have used for a microwave and apply it to a combi oven — an oven and steamer, in one appliance. “They can produce a moist cooking environment which produces amazing results and is great for ‘refreshing’ leftovers,” Davis says. In my fantasy world, I’d invest in two Miele Combi-Steam Ovens.
Rachael Abrams is a personal chef and freelance writer who is obsessed with home decor and practically mainlines Pinterest. Find out more about Rachael and her excellent taste by following her on Twitter.