Kitchen Design 101: Food Preparation Zones

Today’s kitchens serve many purposes, particularly open plan kitchen designs that are integrated with dining, entertaining, and study spaces.  Even though this room is now a central point for activities in the home spanning from baking to wine and cheese parties to homework, the primary purpose of the kitchen is still food.  Food is the heart of the kitchen, and the kitchen layout, storage, and work zones must be set up to make food preparation an easier and more enjoyable activity. 

How do you go about this? 

If you are not planning to re-design your kitchen, you might look at clearing up any excess clutter and reorganizing the items you need so they are readily available when you are cooking and preparing food.  Store items close the area where they will be used, make your storage neat and simple to use, and be sure to keep work surfaces clutter free. 

If you are planning a kitchen remodel, then this is the perfect time to update your layout and storage to support all your food preparation needs.  Traditionally, this meant organizing the kitchen design according to a “work triangle”.  This allowed you to easily move from the refrigerator to the sink to wash and prepare food, and from there to the cooking area, as these spaces were positioned near each other in a triangle shape. 

While this set up still makes sense, modern kitchens typically include more functions and a wider range of main appliances that require an updated method of structuring the layout.  For this reason, today’s kitchen designs are typically organized around “work zones” instead of a triangle, with each zone focusing on a specific activity.  The zones are then arranged in a way that allows easy access to supplies and supports the logical flow of traffic and work throughout the kitchen design.

Depending on the size of your kitchen some of these zones may overlap, while in very large kitchens you could have more than one zone for a single function (such as two food preparation areas).  In general, the food-related zones in a kitchen design include:

Food Preparation

This area requires plenty of clear work space, ideal for chopping vegetables, preparing meat, and mixing ingredients.  You may want to include a place to set your cookbook or tablet so you have easy access to recipes.  In a larger kitchen, this area may include a food prep sink separate to the clean up area.  An ideal choice for this job is the Galley Workstation, like this kitchen remodeling project in Harrison Township, customized to your size and cooking requirements. 

If you are an avid baker, you may have a section of your food prep zone, or even a separate baking zone with marble countertop.  Marble is a beautiful natural material that is not always easy to maintain but is ideal for kneading dough due to its cool temperature.

Food Storage

You typically want the storage zone accessible to the food preparation area so that it is easy to access all the ingredients you need.  This could include a walk-in pantry, pull out pantry shelves, or other customized food storage accessories for your kitchen cabinets.


The cooking zone includes the ovens, range, hood, and other cooking appliances such as a steam oven or warming drawer.  Your cooking zone should be accessible from the food prep zone; and cooking utensils, pots and pans, as well as oils and spices should be within arm’s reach of your cooking area.

Clean Up Area

Every meal from making a sandwich to cooking Thanksgiving dinner involves making a mess that must be cleaned up.  Keep your waste, compost, and recycling bins accessible to your food preparation area to make it easier to clean up while prepping ingredients.  In the same zone, you should include a sink for cleanup and dishwasher, which should all be near the kitchen cabinets where you keep your most heavily used dishes and glassware.

There are many ways to arrange these zones to achieve an efficient kitchen design, such as by utilizing a combination of perimeter workspace and an island to establish and differentiate your work zones.  Our kitchen remodeling gallery includes more inspiring examples. Contact us today to learn more about kitchen layouts and which one is best for your kitchen design.