Cleaning

Amanda Hesser’s Very Best Tips for an Organized Kitchen

All the systems she relies on in her tidy-as-can-be Brooklyn kitchen.

August 31, 2020
Photo by Food52

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.


Our co-founder Amanda Hesser’s influence as a master organizer runs through the Food52 office and community. Genius Director Kristen Miglore picked up many of her most reliable kitchen systems (like the little wire drawer organizers for keeping measuring spoons, thermometers, and other small tools tidy) from her in Food52’s earliest days—when the site’s recipes were tested and photographed in Amanda’s Brooklyn kitchen. And parts of that every-nook-and-cranny-considered home kitchen—its shallow pull-out spice drawers, open shelving, and mix of vintage and new—were recreated at the Food52 office when it was time to design a test kitchen.

For Your Do-Anything Kitchen, Amanda let us into that very same Brooklyn kitchen and shared how she keeps her pantry, refrigerator, and cooking rhythms humming along (plus, the one storage conundrum she’s still working out).

On the little systems that are a daily delight:

“After a lifetime of trying to lay out uncooperative plastic wrap in order to store a piece of cheese, it brings me immeasurable pleasure to simply plunk the cheese into a silicone cheese vault and put the lid on it. It’s so much easier, and the cheese is much happier.

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Top Comment:
“I keep them in my Blum drawer pantry next to my refrigerator. Another great kitchen hack I was told about, by a former housekeepers was, to 'waterproof' under your sink cabinet, by installing a plastic mat and to store all your colonders there. It makes sense, as you only use them in the sink. ”
— Michelle D.
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A close second is a drawer filled with neatly folded kitchen towels. Third place goes to my multiple sets of bowls all stacked in descending order in a drawer below my butcher-block counter. Having this set up right beneath my workspace makes me feel at the ready."

On how she maintains what’s possibly the world’s most orderly fridge:

"In my fridge, lemons, limes, and garlic are each stored in their own muslin bag inside of the crisper drawer. All the cartons of milk are lined up—labels facing forward!—in rows, with the one that’s open at the front. Same goes for beer, juice, yogurt, and any other regular staple.

Condiments are organized by type, so all of the hot sauces are grouped together on the fridge door next to ketchups and mustards, then capers and anchovies. The goal is to make it easy to assess what’s needed and to make it seamless for anyone to find what they need without digging around.

I do a clean-out once a week, just before the groceries arrive, and small bursts of maintenance during the week. We label and date foods (like coconut milk or chopped tomatoes) that have a tendency to turn, but for the most part, with tweens in the house, food never lasts long enough to go bad."

On creating streamlined kitchen zones:

"We have a counter next to the fridge where we make toast and assemble drinks. Across the kitchen is a butcher-block counter with a pull-out garbage drawer beneath it, where all of our chopping and prep work is done. Next to this is a counter with the KitchenAid mixer and blender, where all my baking and puréeing occurs. And to the right of the stove, we usually set down all of our ingredients getting cooked on the stove or in the oven, right near a ceramic vessel filled with all our wooden spoons and silicone spatulas."

On the best things she did when she renovated her kitchen:

"We don’t have a ton of square footage but we do have high ceilings, so we had the pantry custom-built to take advantage of every inch of height. The pantry has essentially four levels of storage.

There are two design details I’m very happy with. One is a pull-out shelf for all of my oils and vinegars. The other is a library ladder to reach the top level of cabinets. It’s nice to be able to swing it left and right and not have to pull a step ladder out of a closet."

On the organizational dilemma she’s still trying to solve:

"Aren’t we all still figuring out lid storage? There are steel and copper lids for pots, which behave differently from the glass and plastic lids I have in my container drawer. And then there are my circular, lipped bowl lids, which flop around in a cabinet. In my container drawer, I’ve found it most effective to line up lids inside of one of the rectangular containers—this way, you can pack them in tightly and if they get loose, at least they’re confined to the container.

For pot lids, I have a rack inside of a deep drawer that holds pots and pans. For my bowl lids, I just ordered an adjustable rack (kind of like a plate rack) and I’m hoping it’s going to solve all of my life’s problems."

What’s the one kitchen organization dilemma you’re trying to solve? Tell us in the comments.


Amanda overhauls her liquor cabinet

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Writing and cooking in Brooklyn.

6 Comments

Michelle D. September 12, 2020
About the refrigerator; I read that hot sauces and mustards, etc...don't need to be refrigerated. That saves me a lot of room. I keep them in my Blum drawer pantry next to my refrigerator. Another great kitchen hack I was told about, by a former housekeepers was, to 'waterproof' under your sink cabinet, by installing a plastic mat and to store all your colonders there. It makes sense, as you only use them in the sink.
 
jpriddy September 11, 2020
All my pots and pans store in drawers designed for that purpose (and one not). The lids are stored with the sauce and sauté pans and dutch ovens they fit. I use a sauté lid on most of my cast iron skillets. I store glass storage jars either [if tall] lidded on the shelf where they belong when filled, or [the shallower ones for leftovers] in a drawer with each on top of each lid that fits.
 
Susanna September 11, 2020
It would have been helpful to have more photos. Hard to visualize how it works otherwise.
 
Judy September 11, 2020
I love the way your kitchen looks. I am going to use some of your tips to better organize my kitchen. I currently have very little counter space and way too many appliances that take up too much room. Before we bought our house, one of my requirements was a good size kitchen with lots of counter space. My husband said there was no such house. He was right.
 
rosecedar September 5, 2020
Aside from the fridge, I don't see any place to store food.
 
R September 11, 2020
I read the article, and it specially addresses her pantry:

“ We don’t have a ton of square footage but we do have high ceilings, so we had the pantry custom-built to take advantage of every inch of height. The pantry has essentially four levels of storage.”