Kitchen organization

How to set up and organize a cooking cabinet

by Tara Scott

June 1, 2020

If you can make the space for it, a cabinet directly to the left or right of the stove is the most functional location for spices, cooking oils and sauces.

Take it all out

Find a good spot where you can lay everything out and take your time sorting. Dispose of any rancid or leaking oils. No need to get rid of expired spices unless they’re infested or spoiled – generally they will simply have less flavor. Make a point of using these first to get rid of them.


Remove anything not used during or immediately after the cooking process, so cooking oils, vinegars, sauces, sprays, seasonings and spices stay; condiments are better stored in the fridge or pantry. Conversely, there may be items in other parts of your kitchen that should be here; take a quick look around and grab anything that should be added to this cabinet.


Sort into categories that take into account your cooking process and what you have. Here we sorted into the following categories: oils, vinegars and sauces, general seasonings, general spices, grilling, Asian seasonings, baking/sweet seasonings, salt, seasoning packets and bulk/backup spices.


Wipe down the shelves. Do a dry run by laying everything out sans product to see where it fits. If the shelves are adjustable, move them around to optimize storage. We usually recommend leaving the most space on the top and bottom shelves – tall, heavy bottles of oils are best on the bottom shelf and the top shelf is ideal for storing larger items that aren’t used very often like the large pots that were stored here. Keep in mind that you will need to leave extra space for putting things away and getting them out – and that turntables can add an extra inch or two to the amount of space you will need between shelves.

Add product (if necessary)

Measure your shelves for product: depth, width and height. Leave space between turntables so they can turn without getting caught on each other. We were lucky enough to be able to repurpose almost everything by shifting things around and stealing a bin and turntable from another cabinet. Label product or shelves to make it easier to find and put away.

Lowest shelves

Spices and cooking liquids are divided by category and stored on labeled turntables.

Middle shelf

Infrequently used spices and the bulk spices used to refill jars are stored in high-sided turntables and a bin to keep them contained.

Higher shelves

Bulk seasonings and salt are stored on a labeled shelf.  No bins necessary because items stand upright on their own and the shelf is labeled. Items already stored at the top were kept as is.

Where we shop for organizing products:

The Container Store

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