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I have an old and small kitchen I'm going to be rebuilding on a budget. I'd like to go with commercial-style kitchen equipment since it tends to be easy to clean, robust, comparatively less expensive than retail kitchen supplies, and usually easier to move around for cleaning or refactoring the kitchen layout for special occasions.

My unconventional idea is to refactor the cooking setup to a more modular and portable design. Instead of the basic 240V oven range fixed in a single spot, I'm thinking why not rip it out to get back the floor space, install stainless work tables as countertops, install a half sheet countertop oven for oven cooking, and use portable plug-in burners for any pan/pot cooking.

I come here to ask for impressions so I can see if there are any obvious shortcomings that I'm overlooking. To my mind, the kitchen would be more efficient if I had the full countertops accessible all the time, and then pulled out a portable burner(s) when I needed to cook things. Plus it would be useful to take back the floorspace footprint committed to the oven range (it's a small kitchen). And if anything goes wrong with the burners, it seems they'd be much easier for me to work on and/or replace than if I have a problem with the stove.

For cons...it's an untested idea and it might totally suck and have zero kitchen flow. I don't know. I'm having a hard time imagining why this wouldn't work, or would be a bad idea.

Greatly appreciate any experienced thoughts and opinions.

Clarifications to comments

  • Location: This is for a kitchen in the southeast US.
  • Resale value: Resale is not a concern.
  • Power: 240V is wired for the existing stove. My thoughts for both portable burner and countertop oven would be to utilize this circuit. If each piece of equipment expects a dedicated circuit, then I'll just drop in an additional run on a separate breaker. The stove countertop is already so small that even though it has 4 burners, it's hard to fit more than two cooking vessels, so one of those two burner tiered portable burners feels more like a horizontal move than a downgrade. And more like an upgrade when I factor in kitchen space.
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  • Note that kitchen cooking appliances for commercial use are listed/labeled to a different standard than those for domestic use. Commented Nov 12, 2023 at 5:33
  • Once again, location may have an important bearing on prospective answers.
    – Tim
    Commented Nov 12, 2023 at 9:26
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    Is eventual resale of the dwelling a concern? Unconventional tends to drive down prices. Commented Nov 12, 2023 at 13:16
  • Countertop oven seems unusual, but using portable electric burners instead of a range is definitely common in small apartments in some places. (I suspect they generally don't have an oven at all, though.) Commented Nov 12, 2023 at 21:03
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    "Small kitchen" (not much space) + "commercial kitchen appliances" (usually large to allow cooking for many all at once) = Wait, wut???? Oh, throw in "comparatively less expensive"???
    – FreeMan
    Commented Nov 13, 2023 at 14:11

7 Answers 7

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I like the idea of separating cooktop from oven. I have done that myself, and it has some major advantages - the ovens are (in my case, this is not always an option) in a wall that really can't be used for storage, the ovens are at a better height for easy access than below a cooktop, the ovens are both full size - there are double ovens available under a cooktop but they are not full size, the cooktop is larger than most slide-in/drop-in ranges, the ovens are electric while the cooktop is gas, etc.

But you are taking this a big step further. A lot may depend on location. In the US, most countertop appliances are designed for 15A 120V circuits, which severely limits the power of countertop ovens and burners. In Europe/etc. with 240V-ish power that is less of a concern. But there are some other issues:

  • Ventilation - Even with electric burners, ventilation of smoke, cooking smells, etc. is important. With portable burners that is a bit more complicated than with a cooktop in a fixed location.
  • Oven size - A typical (US at least) oven can easily handle three racks at once or remove racks and you have room for a turkey. This is great for big meals but also for things like baking a really large batch of cookies. A countertop oven may not be that capable.
  • Counter space - A countertop oven will cut into usable counter space. (Not an issue for the burners as it is a trade for what would be the cooktop space.)
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    Even if the countertop burners are high enough power, I'd be worried about the branch circuit that the burners are plugged into. I'd seriously consider a dedicated branch circuit with lots of sockets for the burners (no way can you use splitters here, 1 burner = 1 wall socket has to be a hard rule) if I was going down that route. Commented Nov 12, 2023 at 14:48
  • Power is going to be a very big limitation. Most kitchens won't be able to support more than 2 portable burners due to this, but your typical stove has 4.
    – Nelson
    Commented Nov 13, 2023 at 0:37
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In most cases, you'll be in technical violation of codes because most commercial appliances forbid their installation in a residence/home. Codes tend to require following the manufacturers instructions. That may also put you in a bad place with respect to your insurance coverage. You might only find out how bad that situation is when you need to make a claim, and find out that you're not covered despite paying for coverage.

Unless you rarely use a stovetop, the "gain in countertop space" there will be illusory. The loss of counterspace for a countertop oven will be quite real. Where space allows a wall oven tends to be a net gain, but that assumes a wall with room behind it for a wall oven.

Unfortunately, very few non-commercial countertop ovens are available with a 240V supply, which puts them on severely limited power (240V need not be "fixed location" - you just need a NEMA-6 outlet rather than a NEMA-5 outlet, for the 15/20A appliances.)

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There's a simple way to test the viability of your idea. Put a sheet of plywood or cement board (for fire protection) on top of your stove and store stuff on it. Move the sheet out of the way when you need to cook.

I'm sorry, but turning a functional kitchen into a chore is bound to frustrate and cause careless fire hazards as you become too lazy to properly move things when cooking. Appliances are supposed to be permanent. Putting away a waffle-maker is commonplace; putting away your stove, not so much...

If you're really adamant about your idea then my mind drifts towards some sort of "Murphy Bed stove".

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    I've seen people who make/use wooden stove-top covers to gain extra storage space, but my concern would always be putting it on too soon after turning the burner off (fire potential) and where to store it in a small kitchen when the burners are being used. (I did +1 because you seem to be advocating against the OP's idea and I agree with you on that.)
    – FreeMan
    Commented Nov 13, 2023 at 14:13
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    @FreeMan I mostly disagree with it but wanted to offer a marginally safer option since we don't know OP's exact situation. If they are in a 600 sq. ft. cabin then a little ingenuity could go a long way towards a more comfortable experience.
    – MonkeyZeus
    Commented Nov 13, 2023 at 14:21
  • @FreeMan As for the fire concert, I added cement board into my answer =)
    – MonkeyZeus
    Commented Nov 13, 2023 at 15:22
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"Using the countertop space" means lifting a heavy appliance on and off the counter every time you switch modes, and having a place to store it when not in use ... Simply using it where you have stored it is a lot easier. (I have a stand mixer that I live but is heavy enough to discourage frequent use, not to mention too many smaller appliances that take up cabinet space when idle.)

May I suggest simply increasing workspace instead? There's a reason kitchen islands were a Big Thing when they started to appear. If you don't have space for one, kitchen carts give you a mobile additional counter. I'm seriously looking at setting up a sideboard in the dining room and putting the portable appliances which don't get used much or don't need much attention on or in that.

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I think splitting off the oven makes sense - but instead of extra burners, I'd either look at something like electric/induction that gives you a flat slab that things can rest on, and/or get or make a cover for the burners - a cover can be lighter, just needs to be basically a wooden tray, and lets you use the stove space as you would everything else.

I made one when our cat kept terrifyingly turning on the electric stove, and it worked super well - it's another surface to chop on, or work on when you're not using the stove, and the cover can also work as a large tray, if you cut handles into it

Edit: the idea was largely from my dad's friend, who lives on a boat - boat kitchens can also be an excellent source of inspiration for this stuff

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Non-fixed burner units, like hot plates, aren't the same thing as individual units taken out of a cooktop. There are specific challenges to creating movable appliances that make the features they can provide much less attractive.

You may instead consider a cooktop (this is a sample of some from one manufacturer, although others have similar models). This would allow you to separate your oven and still get the benefits of a 240V high-wattage cooking arrangement.

@MonkeyZeus gives a good demonstration of how modularity of the range is not as great as it seems. This is very good advice.

Ovens are very easy to get separately and there are now consumer "wall ovens" (once again, a specific manufacturer but others have similar), many of which have desirable (to some) features like convection/air frying.

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I would never substitute portable designs for fixed designs unless I actually needed the portability. What you want/need is more counter space. Taking it away from standard appliances is not the way to get it. You still have to have somewhere to put the portable items when they are not in use. Further, portable items tend to sacrifice utility for the portability. They simply do not work as well, but they work "well enough" in light of the portability option. Frankly, you should just look for a new place with a bigger kitchen.

There's also the issue that virtually all prospective buyers of your home in the future will be really turned off by the lack of a fixed oven and cooktop. In fact, some financing in the USA would not qualify simply because of this, thereby severely limiting your market. In a similar vein, you could not legally rent out a place in some jurisdictions without a fixed cooking oven included (or a space for the tenant to provide their own).

Another idea that might work to get you some counter space: a cooktop cover. There's lots of designs that look good and are hard and sturdy. You simply remove them to do your cooking, and put them back when the burners are cooled. Here's a classy looking one:

A cooktop cover

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