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Building the Best Cooking Area

Begin with an eye to good function and maximum safety to build the perfect cooking station.

Whether you choose a traditional look, like this inviting hearth, or a clean, contemporary style, the cooking area is the heart of the kitchen.

Well-designed cooking areas share the same attributes: a high-quality cooking surface with a minimum of 24 inches on either side — one side for food prep and one for a "landing space" for hot pots; a cooking space located between prep and cleanup areas but out of high-traffic zones; and a well-designed ventilation system.

  • The cooktop is the centerpiece of the kitchen, and commercial quality cookers have become popular for residential applications.

  • Hoods cover ventilation systems and come in a variety of strengths, depending on the heat generated by the cooktop. They have unlimited design possibilities, including a stone hearths, to copper and other metals, to glass.

  • Down draft systems, many of which lower when not in use, provide needed ventilation without the look of a hood.

  • Store spices and ingredients as well as pots and pans conveniently close to the cooktop.

  • Natural materials like stone are the most heat-resistant and are smart choices for counters and surfaces near the heat generated by the cooktop.

  • Choose a backsplash material that is easy to clean since it will be exposed to grease and grime. Good choices include natural stone, stainless steel and sealed tiles.

  • Be sure the work space is well lit. Recessed cans in the ceiling provide a shadowless light, while halogens have a clean bright light. Tungsten lamps provide both heat and light and can be used to keep foods warm.

  • For a traditional look, choose rough textured materials like stone, wood and stucco.

  • For a sexy, contemporary space, consider metals and glass with clean edges and simple designs. Glossy surfaces work well.

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