This is my life: I’d waited years to finally build my fantasy kitchen… and then I had to live without a kitchen to make it happen.
My more fortunate girlfriends had the option of moving out during the renovation. Others had their entire kitchen (stove, oven, sink with hot and cold water, refrigerator and dishwasher) transplanted to another part of the house. Some others moved their kitchen into an adjacent room and had their plumber put in a sink. And then there was me: squatting by the bathtub washing dishes and trying to keep stray spaghetti strands from going down the drain.
But this won’t happen to you, I promise.
Setting up your Temporary Kitchen is really not that difficult if you plan ahead… something that we all say we will do, but never find the time. Well, here is your chance. If you give some thought as to how you are going to feed those people who keep showing up for meals at your house (presumably your family), it could save you a lot of money, lessen your stress and more importantly, help keep the pounds off because you won’t be eating out or ordering in.
Start by picking a spot
Most kitchen renovators do what I did: move into the dining room or family room and set up camp. Try to find a location that will not be in the line of fire. You don’t want to be in the way of construction traffic or appliance storage. You also want to be able to sit down and have a meal with your family, even if it is only once a day. Remember, while this is yourdream renovation, ultimately your family will be the ones that will benefit. Remind them of this everyday: If Mama ain’t happy, nobody’s happy.
Next, let’s figure out the basic layout of your temporary kitchen
Try to recycle or use what you already have on hand because you will want to buy new items when your kitchen is finished, assuming you have any money left. Begin by sizing up your space. You are definitely going to need a refrigerator and a place to eat. How much room do you have left? Here are suggestions for the initial set up:
- A card table to use as a work space and for appliances, as well as one larger table. The larger table should be as long and as wide as possible because it can also serve as your main dining area. If you have a nice dining room table, try to move it into storage or cover it with one of those table pads made of lightweight fiberboard. These pads protect against spills, moisture, dents and heat. I didn’t move my dining room table and I really regret it. There is a great website - www.tablepadsdirect.com – that will save you hunting all over creation for a pad that fits. It is worth the investment. These pads can also be cut to fit the tops of other pieces of furniture that you may want protected.
And while we are talking about it, remove any carpets, rugs, art work or important pieces of furniture or chairs from the area. This space is now your kitchen. Anything can happen and probably will.
- You can also rescue a portion of your old kitchen counter, if it is lightweight enough, and set it up on two sawhorses for a makeshift dining table or workspace.
Move your outgoing refrigerator into your Temporary Kitchen, if possible. You will probably lose the ice making and water dispensing elements of the fridge in your temporary workspace. Buy a large plastic bin and scoop that will fit in the freezer section and use store bought bags of ice, or buy ice trays and make your own ice cubes. Ice cube trays were such a novelty to my kids they started making all sorts of frozen treats in them. This was great fun until Mama didn’t have any ice for her martini.
Old Kitchen Cabinets or Storage Shelves
When they start ripping out your cabinets, see if you can salvage some of the base cabinets to use underneath the tables for storage. Check the bottom, backs and sides for rough edges so they do not scratch your floor or walls or give your 13 year-old a splinter the size of a small log.
You can also use open plastic shelving or easy to assemble steel shelving. Both of these are available at your big box stores like www.samsclub.com or at www.bedbathandbeyond.com. The beauty of these shelves is that they are heavy duty and can be moved to the garage, basement or elsewhere after construction.
Move in the Basic Appliances
A Temporary Kitchen should have a few basic appliances. If you don’t already own one of these appliances, with the exception of a microwave, don’t buy a new one, borrow a friend’s. If you don’t own a microwave, but will be putting one into your new kitchen, see if you can have it delivered early so that you will be able to use it in your temporary kitchen. I would not buy a used microwave because you don’t know if someone used it to dry their poodle. Maybe it’s just me, I don’t know.
Remember those long-forgotten wedding presents buried in the back of your cabinets: the electric skillet, the electric wok and the slow cooker? Those little appliances are the backbone of your Renovation Kitchen. Some of them will be useful now. But others you should just give away because they will only take up space in your new kitchen. How often do you use The Salad Shooter? I thought so. Get rid of it. The appliances you will need:
If you use your microwave to reheat coffee or make popcorn, you will be surprised at what you can do with this oven. Keep your old microwave oven if you are getting a new one. Make sure it is on a good sturdy surface because you will use this appliance more than ever before.
Even if you don’t drink coffee, you need one of these. Make coffee every morning for your construction workers and you will quickly build a great rapport.
Electric Skillet or Electric Wok
When it comes to the Electric Skillet, I am talking about that square thing with a lid and a plug that your mother used to use. This will replace your stove-top skillet or frying pan for making eggs and pancakes and one-skillet dinners. You’ll also be able to roast big chunks of meat when you are determined to have a SUNDAY FAMILY DINNER. (Was I yelling? I’m sorry.)
The Electric Wok is surprisingly versatile and moves beyond just stir fry. It is similar to an electric skillet because you can easily roast meat, make fondue, or deep fry. An electric wok is also great for making scrambled eggs and, of course, frozen Chinese pot stickers, dumplings and noodles.
If you haven’t used one of these since college, or only use it now for toast and nachos, you’ll really be pleased at how much you can produce. While you won’t be able to roast a whole chicken or rump roast, if your toaster oven is one of the newer models, you’ll be able to bake chicken pieces and chops. You’ll also be able to make smaller cobblers and pies. Like the microwave, the downside is you often have to cook in batches. That’s okay, feed the kids first and have a cocktail with your husband while you wait for your dinner. Date night!
Meet Your New BFF: Store-Cooked Rotisserie Chicken
Every time I buy a rotisserie chicken I silently thank the Party Gods. This is one convenience food that is almost always delicious, no matter where you buy it. The National Chicken Council says that
Americans buy more than 800 million chickens a year. We also buy almost as many rotisserie chickens as whole raw chickens. Wow. I like these birds because they are high in protein and, if you take the skin off, low in calories and fat. While you are doing your kitchen renovation, you will be eating a lot of rotisserie chicken because you can use it in amazingly different ways and you won’t get sick of eating it until just before your renovation is finished.
- Buying the Bird
- Rotisserie Chickens come in a lot of different flavors, like Barbecue, Teriyaki and Herb. Those flavors lightly scent the meat, so if you have a choice, try to find a plain roasted chicken. Some stores roast their chickens without the skin. This tends to make the birds drier, but somewhat healthier because it is not cooked in the fat. If you don’t want to remove the skin yourself, look for skinless rotisserie chickens. I have seen them in places like Whole Foods and other organic-minded stores.
- Check the time the chicken came out of the oven or how long it is has been under the lights or in the store’s oven box. The time is usually marked somewhere on the package, but if you can’t find it, ask.
- Choose the larger, big breasted chickens. I don’t know why, but the big-box stores, like Costco and Sam’s Club seem to have larger chickens. This means they have more meat and are less likely to be dry.
Preparing the Bird
- Try to prepare and eat the chicken as soon as possible. Separating the meat from the bone is easier when the chicken is still warm. You will need a resealable plastic bag or plastic storage container with a tight fitting lid nearby to store the meat after it has been carved. Remove the plastic lid covering the chicken and turn the lid upside down so it is like a bowl. This will keep your workspace cleaner and minimize the number of dirty dishes.
- Unless you are serving it as it as a roasted chicken, remove all of the skin from the chicken. Place it in your “bowl.” Pull the leg and thigh back at the joint and pull it away from the body. These chickens cook so long in the rotisserie oven, that this is pretty easy. If you can’t just snap it off, use a sharp knife to cut through the thigh socket. Repeat on the other side and place the meat in the plastic bag or storage container. Twist the wings off the carcass, or use the knife if they are a stubborn, and place them in the bag or container.
To remove the breast, use a sharp knife to cut deeply along either side of the breast bone. Pull the breast meat off with your hands. Store as previously directed. You can keep the chicken in the larger pieces or remove it from the bone, shred it and store it. I like to keep it in the large pieces because some recipes call for shredded and others ask for cubed or sliced chicken.
Storing the Bird
- Store the chicken in the resealable plastic bag or plastic storage container in the refrigerator. Store-cooked rotisserie chicken usually yields 4 cups of white meat and 2 cups of dark. The dark tends to be more flavorful and moist and the white can be drier, but use whichever you prefer. I like to use the white meat when presentation is important. Don’t lose sight of the importance of making your dishes taste and look delicious, even if you are serving them on paper plates.
- Try to use the chicken within 4 days. If you are creeping up to the 4th day, make a simple chicken salad with mayonnaise and stuff it in a hollowed out tomato or avocado. Another idea is to top tortilla chips with the chicken, a little cheese and some jarred jalapenos and microwave it until the cheese melts. This is an quick lunch or dinner, and if anyone complains, make them do the dishes.