The Kitchen Designer

Thanks for stopping by! I'm Susan Serra, certified kitchen designer, and my mission is to take kitchen design style, function and analysis to a higher level. Here's why the kitchen has the most honored place in the home - all five senses reside in the kitchen.  Best...Susan  Contact: susan@susanserraassociates.com

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« Notes on a Kitchen Design Career | Main | Holiday Kitchens »

Holiday Cooking 

Holiday Cooking has everything to do with flexible kitchen design. Flexibility in kitchen design, as I define it, is having the foresight to plan adequately for multiple lifestyle scenarios such as holiday cooking...as simple as that. Foresight is security!

I do a lot of thinking and observing in and immediately around the borders of my kitchen, both as the action is happening and in later reflection. I am nearly always taking a fresh as well as an analytical look at what happens in my own kitchen. I'd like to share some thoughts about what happened in my kitchen over last weekend which was very revealing.

My husband and I hosted a dinner for our friends, just one other couple. I chose the menu, not for the number of pots and pans to be used, but for the food I wished to serve. Nothing unusual about that. I have a 36" gas cooktop in my kitchen which I inherited when I moved to this home a year ago.

A question: Is there anyone who feels that a 36" five burner cooktop is truly useful? If you find this cooktop useful, please comment, I'm waiting to be enlightened! Me, I'm convinced it's not useful beyond four burners and has few advantages over a 30" size cooktop...and this weekend was my final realization of that. The small extra space between the side burners is of little advantage. That said, it's a completely subjective statement, I know.

Needing numerous pieces of cooking equipment in the course of preparing the main course, I found myself stacking one pan on top of another as dishes needed to be removed from the heat and/or replaced with another pot since the surrounding countertop was only partially available. It felt like, and was, near chaos, as I think back.  It was the antithesis of enjoyable, and I love to cook.

This past weekend's cooking experience surely illustrated the importance of countertop space! But, in giving thought to how a kitchen can be, perhaps, more orderly and efficient during the cooking process, flexibility came to mind. One flexible solution? A portable induction cooktop. I'd like to share two good brand name portable induction cooktops with you. Let's also compare a few of the more important specs. 















Viking Portable Induction Cooker and Fagor's Portable Induction Cooktop


  • Viking: 1800 watts
  • Fagor: 1300 watts

Comment:  Be aware that the watts of a typical induction burner on a cooktop is in the area of 3000. That said, even at 1800 watts, it may not be the best idea to keep a dish cooking on that level for extended periods, given the likelihood of a lack of exhaust ventilation where the portable cooktop is placed. Think about how much power you need...is it for low heat/simmering which could be very helpful, or to boil that pot of water, or both?


  • Viking: 12"x15" 17 lbs
  • Fagor: 12"x14" 7 lbs


  • Viking: Knob with six power levels including simmer/infinite settings between levels
  • Fagor: Touch Pad (with timer, counts down from 180 minutes) Has six power levels beginning at 190 degrees

Don't forget that cooking equipment used with induction cooktops will hold a normal household magnet as a test of its suitability. If it does not hold a magnet, it will not work with induction. Leave adequate space around a portable unit too so it does not overheat. Take a look to see if there is a particularly good spot in the kitchen that could be a designated "second cooking" area when your cooking is under pressure. Amazon has more portable induction cooktops for sale, but I know these two appliances as good, reliable, brands. 

Had I had a portable unit, I think I would have been very much more organized in the kitchen and felt more in control. Portable induction cooktops have a viable place in many kitchens truly offering the ultimate in flexible cooking. Being in control feels goooood.

First image from Fagor, second...Viking.


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Reader Comments (11)

I like your willingness to question the norm. My only worry with a portable cooktop is that it would take up even MORE counter space.

Needless to say, I have an Electrolux model I haven't tried yet, so this serves as inspiration. Thanks!

December 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJulie Warner

Well, I don’t know…..

I’m an old Army cook—figuratively speaking and literally! It’s been now over forty years since I had to wrestle with all the problems engendered by cooking for five hundred men in a mess hall designed for two hundred, but I guess it’s like riding a bicycle!

Our kitchen is so small and so cramped, and I often cook in my mother-in-law’s kitchen, which is even smaller and even more cramped. The absolutely worst kitchen I have ever seen; cooking in it is a nightmare! But I have made Thanksgiving dinners with all the trimmings in both kitchens for over a dozen guests and did them on stovetops with only four burners. It gets a little busy at the end, but I have done it and can surely do it again.

As for the other stovetops you’ve mentioned here, I do think they are interesting, but I would not use them in either kitchen. All they would do is take up valuable counter space, and I can, as I have pointed out, get by just fine with the four burners I already have on a 30” stovetop.

December 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJoseph

I have five burners on my range, and I was eager to have them, but I found that this Thanksgiving, I did not use the extra burner. But I'm still glad I have the larger range. First of all, larger oven space, which is not an issue if you have a separate cooktop, but is the main reason I have the extra burner. Even though I rarely use the extra burner, I like that there is more space overall on the cooktop. Easier when there are two cooks, like when my husband and I make breakfast -- he's making bacon on one side, and I'm scrambling eggs on the other.

I also like having the large center burner with the higher BTU's, and I like how easy it is to slide pots around. I also think in the past I might actually have liked having five burners for a big meal like Thanksgiving, but I use my slow cooker more and more for large meals, so have less use for the extra burner. I think planning on dishes that can be made using crockpots cuts down on the chaos in the kitchen tremendously on those big cooking days, if you have the counter space for them, which I do.

This year, I even ran out the night before Thanksgiving and bought a second, smaller crockpot, and I'm glad I did. I made the MOST delicious creamed corn in my crockpot, and it was a huge hit. And I was able to put the ingredients together on the stovetop, and then into the crockpot way before I started cooking anything else, while I was still relaxed, and didn't have to do anything besides the occasional stirring, until it was ready to be put on the table, piping hot. I made a spinach dish in my other crockpot, also super easy, but not as good.

I have lots of counterspace in my kitchen, and the counter where I put my crockpots is across the room from my range, so easily tended to without being near the chaos of the stovetop and ovens. Same idea as the extra burner, but requires much less tending, and not the same venting issues.

December 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJeannie

I don't have a 36" stove top but thought it would be a good idea, not for the extra burner, but the occasion of having two or sometimes three oversized pots that tend to push each other off center. Maybe someone else can speak to that point. I know that some stove models would be better than others based on the burner configuration.

December 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterIvy Croake

>A question: Is there anyone who feels that a 36" five burner cooktop is truly useful? If you find this cooktop useful, please comment, I'm waiting to be enlightened!

Right now, I have a Gemini, 30" with 4 burners and a warming plate and two ovens. I've found the warming plate very useful when serving a crowd, but my kitchen overall is so awful I hate cooking in it even though I really like cooking.

December 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterReya

(For me, and extra warming plate is not an option. I only have a 6" landing on one side of the over and another 30" of counter across from it for total prep space int he kitchen, anyway. It's NOT a small house. The current kitchen is 22x14 sqft--one would think one could get more than 30" of prep space out of that. My new kitchen is going to be 26x24 sqft. Can't wait!)

December 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterReya

Me, I have a 36" 5/6 burner cooktop and I use all of them during the holiday season, whenever we have parties and when I'm doing anything complicated. The cooktop is halogen and has two front burners for simmering, 1 extra large single/dual zone for boiling pasta water very fast, a small high btw and a side by side single/dual burner for extra-large pots or two small pots. I cooked for years on a four ring oven and it drove me crazy trying to get everything cooked at once.
Eventually I might replace the halogen with an induction cooktop but go back to 4 burners - NEVER!

December 23, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermodernemama

I have a 36" wolf cooktop and I love it. It came in handy at Christmas I tell you and it looks good too! The rest of my appliances are Miele and they are wonderful - I wouldn't have anything else!!!

December 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKitchen girl

I only have a 30" 4 burner gas cooktop right now, and limited counter space. I sometimes cook for large family groups for Jewish holidays, and am frequently very frustrated with the cooktop. I wish there was more space between the pots, and at least one more burner. I am drooling over an extra induction burner, but I'm not sure where I would be able to put it! I also have an overhead microwave oven, which does not allow for large pots to go on the back of the stove, so the potential for steam burns is quite high. Before Passover, I pull out the 12 qt pots, and they have to go on the front burners, while I have an 8 qt or smaller pot on the back burner.

when I am able to re-do my kitchen one day, I will most definitely be splurging on a larger cooktop!

December 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPinkdevora

The holiday cooking is very good idea for those persons whose daily life is so busy but from the idea of holiday cooking they can cook for their family and become more close to their family and holiday cooking is good idea for all persons in the world.



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December 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterADAM SMITH

Interesting! We use an ancient electric stove, with only two functional burners, and a microwave. Since there's only three of us most of the time we get buy. But we are dreaming of an induction cooktop when we build new, so I've done a lot of reading on them.

Would I want five zones? Personally, no. That's partly practical -- I'm in a wheelchair, so I don't much want to reach across hot pots to get at the back burners. But I also don't like a cooktop where all my pots & pans are crowded together.

My ideal solution is to have two 2-element cooktops set parallel to the counter edge, with a generous space between to allow for two cooks working etc. I'm so looking forward to having a cooktop surface that does not get hot, and zones that respond instantly when you adjust the temperature.

My take on kitchen space is that planning it well is half the battle. Knowing what I want to do in the kitchen, having a place for everything that has to be there, and allowing for easy traffic flow (especially around a wheelchair!) are things I concentrate on in planning our new kitchen.

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