As we move from work to play to home, we find ourselves in a variety of different buildings–an office, maybe a factory, restaurants, stores, and of course, home. As we pass through all these different doors, one thing that’s found inside nearly all of them is a kitchen. Indeed, the only room that’s probably more widely found is a restroom.
We interact with so many different kitchens that it begs the question of whether those kitchens are all the same. With the immense popularity of so many cooking and restaurant shows, the question is even cloudier. After all, lots of successful chefs and caterers operate out of kitchens in their homes, and many homeowners have upgraded their kitchens to the point that they’d make competent restaurant kitchens.
So what really makes a commercial kitchen any different from a residential one? It remains a cloudy topic, but we can think about it in a few major areas.
Let’s start with the appliances. We typically think of commercial equipment as being different from residential equipment in two major areas.
The first is size. A commercial refrigerator will typically be considerably larger than a residential one, and sometimes this is the main limitation on whether a given home kitchen is comparable to a commercial one. After all, a home built with custom cabinetry in the kitchen is intended to accommodate appliances up to the standard sizes and won’t handle anything bigger without major (and expensive) changes.
The second is durability. A home oven might operate for an hour or two each day. The same is probably true of the cooktop. Your home refrigerator will open and close maybe a couple dozen times each day. Consequently, the hinges, latches, and so forth on these appliances can be much lighter than on their commercial counterparts, which are cycled constantly through the day.
This is a similar issue. An expert chef has a set of knives that he or she carefully chose out of countless options, and many chefs guard these knives with their life. They also have very particular wishes about their spatulas, whisks, spoons, kettles, you name it. They want things a certain way to maximize the quality of their food as well as to reduce the need for frequent replacement and repair.
Is a home chef any different? Certainly they may spend less on their gear, but the process of selecting things, caring for them, and using them may be very little different from professionals. After all, profit and reputation are wonderful motivators for professional chefs, but providing for the family and impressing friends are pretty powerful incentives as well. The tools of pros and home pros may vary in price but not in pride.
A few years ago granite countertops were all the rage. New homes were fitted with them, old ones were renovated with them, and everyone loved their gorgeous stone working areas in the kitchen.
Before long, practicality returned. Homeowners found they were expensive and difficult to maintain, and other materials began to show up in new construction. Soon the more practical kitchen materials like metal surged in popularity.
The appeal of metal for kitchen surfaces is what makes them so effective in restaurants. They’re incredibly durable, very easy to clean, and they still look terrific. For homeowners who don’t want to buy specialized cleaning materials and spend hours dealing with cleanup, metal has rapidly become the obvious choice.
There will always be massive facilities that are clearly commercial kitchens and tiny galleys that are obviously residential. But with so much overlap between commercial and residential kitchens that fall somewhere in between, it’s harder than ever to decide which definition captures a given place. One thing is for sure: Kitchens are more durable, bigger, and more innovative than ever before, whether they’re supplying your favorite restaurant or just your household.