Learning to chop an onion efficiently may have taken until your mid- to late 20s to master, but you know there is a Gordon Ramsay within you somewhere. And whether it’s extra-spicy enchiladas or chicken tikka masala, you’re ready to take your skills to the next level.
So, go on, gather your black cardamom, sumac, Pasilla de Oaxaca chiles, saffron, and more, to get ready to heat up your spice kitchen. This is not your ordinary kitchen, mind you—it’s hidden away. All the cooking magic happens behind closed doors.
“The spice kitchen is primarily used as an isolated space that allows for the rich aromas from a spice-filled dish to be limited to the spice kitchen,” says Jay Kallos, SVP of Architecture at Ashton Woods Homes. “It enhances and enlarges the heart of the home—the place where meals are prepared.”
Having a spice kitchen can also bump up the value of your home for resale purposes, since for many buyers, it can be a desirable feature. While it may seem extravagant to have two kitchens in one house, here’s why adding another one can bring more sizzle to your living space.
Where is a spice kitchen?
A spice kitchen is usually located next to or behind the main kitchen.
Back in the day, the purpose of a spice kitchen was to cook food with a strong smell or that was especially labor-intensive, says Patti Delgado, head chef at Vibrant, an eatery based in Houston.
“If you cooked it in the spice kitchen, it wouldn’t make the entire house smell or clutter the main kitchen,” she says.
The spice kitchen is always separated from the rest of the house by a door and includes a heavy-duty exhaust fan to keep the aroma from percolating into the rest of the home, adds Kallos.
Spice kitchens are typically small—about the size of a pantry—and are customizable, with convenient storage of spices and other essentials.
What’s in a spice kitchen?
Consider the spice kitchen a scaled-down version of your main kitchen. It should have all the usual features of a kitchen, including a single or double sink, a countertop preparation area, cabinetry, and a range with a high-volume exhaust hood.
“I would recommend having a good hood vent in the spice kitchen, and possibly a window,” says Delgado.
Most spice kitchens also have a separate venting system to pull out odors. It’s also essential that it have a stovetop and an oven.
“This space is a mini version of the kitchen itself, with all of the traditional appliances—with the possible exception of a refrigerator and freezer—and can utilize the main kitchen’s pantry,” says Kallos.
Why have a spice kitchen?
The odors from certain spices and ingredients can linger for days, as can cooking oily meats or fish. If you use fragrant herbs, in dishes with gorgeous colors and sauces, the separate spice kitchen will keep scents from overpowering other areas of the home. A spice kitchen may even be essential in homes with an open-concept design.
“All ingredients such as fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, and meats have chemical compounds that develop aroma or flavor compounds either during ripening or the cooking process,” says Delgado. “When these Ingredients are cooked, they release oils and aromas that go into the atmosphere. We then not only smell those odors, but our clothes and certain materials can also absorb them.”
And what if you feel the need to remove the smells from your spice kitchen itself?
“I learned a trick where you boil four cups of water in a saucepan with two cinnamon sticks (or one tablespoon of cinnamon powder), one-quarter cup of imitation vanilla, and a sprig of rosemary,” says Delgado. “It will help neutralize odors.”
Other sneaky uses for a spice kitchen
“Spice kitchens can provide an extra workspace for bigger events in your home,” says Delgado. “Or it can allow you to do smaller, everyday cooking and let your main kitchen be a focal point in your home.”
Using your spice kitchen can also be a great way to hide messier activities away from the primary kitchen, where all the entertaining takes place, and can do double duty as a storage room.
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