Once all of the groceries, utensils, dishes and electrical appliances have been stored in a typical kitchen, one fact often becomes very clear. There's abundant storage space, but precious little workspace. For this reason, kitchen designers have developed a special counter called a kitchen island. A kitchen island is a centrally-located countertop used primarily for food preparation and auxiliary cooking needs. In many kitchens with busy families, the island also doubles as a table for quick meals.
The simplest island design is a smooth countertop made of a standard kitchen material such as tile, stainless steel, wood or stone. This extra surface allows cooks to prepare bulky items like doughs and pastas, or to transfer hot foods from the oven to cool before serving. The countertop is usually placed around waist level or higher, with several drawers for utensils and food prep tools.
A more advanced design may feature a working sink and disposal unit for prepping fruits and vegetables. A side cutting board may be pulled out from one end, while another can be placed on the countertop for handling raw foods. Illumination for the workspace on a kitchen island is often provided by an overhead light, recessed lighting or focused track lighting. It is important to have enough light when working around sharp equipment like knives and mandolin slicers.
Some designs can be very elaborate indeed. Some may have small refrigeration units for storing prepped but unfinished ingredients. Occasionally a kitchen island will have a set of electric burners, a griddle or even a grill. Quick meals may be prepared exclusively on a high-end kitchen island, eliminating the need for a hot oven. If such a countertop cooking system is used, however, proper ventilation is vital. An exhaust fan located beneath the heating elements should draw smoke and heat away from the rest of the kitchen.
Many cooks also use the island as a staging area for large meals. As individual dishes finish cooking in the traditional oven and stovetop, they can be transferred there to make room for others. This can prevent accidents caused by improvising storage spaces. The centralized location allows for easy movement around the kitchen without crowding out guests or helpers.
Overall, a kitchen island is an elegant solution to the problem of finding usable workspace in a typical home kitchen.