Welcome to Storage Wars, a new series about the best ways to store, well, everything. From how to keep produce orderly in the fridge (or not), to ways to get your oddball nooks and crannies shipshape; and yes, how to organize all those unwieldy containers once and for all — we've got you covered.
* * *
Creating an Instagram-worthy layer cake or decorating festive cookies with your kids can be a challenge when your kitchen is a cluttered mess. If you feel like you're always searching the back of the pantry for a container of sprinkles, or if there's that one cumbersome whisk jamming up a kitchen drawer, now's the time to learn how to organize your baking tools and get all your utensils, appliances, and ingredients sorted and in their proper places.
When it comes to organization, so much can depend on the size and layout of your kitchen. Since every space is different, we've included a variety of tips and tricks for your pantry, cabinets, drawers, and countertops so you can pick and choose what works best for you and your space. A tip before you start: don't feel limited to the kitchen organization section of stores. Look at the office organization and home improvement areas for different shapes and sizes of items, which may lead to even more creative (and occasionally surprising) storage ideas.
Kitchen countertop space is prime real estate. This area should be reserved for two things: items that are either the most used or the most beautiful. This is where you want to keep that favorite wooden spoon you use to stir your favorite recipe for homemade fudge, or the perfect rubber spatula that gets every last drop of batter from a mixing bowl. They should be kept as close as possible to the work space. Since they will be on display, it's fun to store these items in an heirloom vase or antique crock.
An adjustable countertop rack can expand to fit any space and can help sort your most used items, and can serve as a great place to show off favorite cookbooks from your collection.
The pantry is where most of us store the majority of our baking ingredients. Freshness is as much of a priority here as organization. It's important to store flours and sugars in airtight containers in order to maintain quality and freshness, clearly labeled with what is inside (so you don't have to second-guess in the middle of baking). These food storage containers are stackable and come with a convenient handle.
Organizing herbs and spices has always been a challenge for me. Most of the solutions out there might look nice in a photo, but are not practical for my plethora of ingredients in bottles of all shapes and sizes. A slim vertical rack that can slip into the side of the pantry works wonders.
Instead of sorting herbs and spices in alphabetical order like the grocery store, I like to separate the sweet baking spices from the savory ones. This way, when I'm making something like gingerbread, the cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves are all conveniently nestled near one another.
If you love decorating cakes or cookies, your pantry can quickly be overwhelmed with a variety of food coloring and decorative sprinkles. Since these items are smaller, a divided office organizer works wonders. This way, you can easily pull out the entire bin and quickly find what you're looking for.
Kitchen drawers are the place to store some of your most-used items that just didn't make the cut for countertop space. This is where a drawer organizer is essential, especially one that can be expanded to fit any space.
Think about using each slot for items that are commonly used together. Maybe your pastry brush is near your pastry blender. Or your offset spatula is near piping bags and tips. The drawers closest to your workspace should be filled with the most-used items, like a hot pad or oven mitt. It's also the perfect place to line up boxes of aluminum foil, plastic wrap, and parchment paper, and you can hang your favorite kitchen towels from the handles for quick cleanup.
Kitchen cabinets are ideal for the larger, more cumbersome items in your kitchen. This is where you might keep appliances that are not used on a daily basis. Slide-out drawers are helpful when you want to bring them out for baking.
The cabinets are also where you might store your cake pans, muffin tins, or Bundts, stacked from largest to smallest to save space. I keep my 10-inch springform pan on the bottom and fill it with my 9-inch round cake pans, followed by the 8-inch, and so forth. A shelf lifter placed in the cabinet can provide even more space to sort. This makes it even easier to see all of your bakeware and quickly grab what you need for a project. The space next to the shelf lifter is a great place to vertically line up cutting boards or cooling racks.
It seems that no matter how big your kitchen is, more space is always needed. This is where you can get creative. Why not take a tip from Julia Child and install a peg board to hang some of your most used items on a wall or inside a door?
Consider unused spaces in your kitchen, like the side of the refrigerator. This magnetic refrigerator rack is a genius small space solution. It's out of sight but still stylish and functional. I was always losing my cake tester until I glued a magnet on the back, and started keeping it on the side of the fridge where I can quickly grab it to see if a batch of cupcakes is ready.
My final tip is: once all your baking tools are organized just as you like them, live with it for a week or so and bake up a couple of your favorite treats. This will help you get used to the new setup, and you might make a few logical tweaks along the way. Sometimes you never know the best place for something until you are in the middle of baking.