What to Store on a Kitchen Counter (And What Not To)

The kitchen counter is prime real estate in your home. It’s convenient, easy to access, and usually spacious enough to store and prep ingredients. But not everything belongs on your countertop. Some items are better suited for your pantry or fridge, while others will just clutter your prep space. Here’s a helpful guide on what to store on your kitchen counter and what’s better kept elsewhere.

Perishable Ingredients

What to Store

  • Fruits and vegetables: Fresh fruits and veggies are kitchen counter staples. Keep a bowl or basket of apples, lemons, limes, onions, garlic, potatoes, etc. on hand for easy snacking and meal prep. Just don’t overbuy – only keep out enough for a few days.
  • Herbs: Fresh herb bundles stay freshest on the counter. Trim stems and place them in glasses of water. Basil, rosemary, thyme, parsley and cilantro are great options.

What Not to Store

  • Meat, poultry, fish: Raw proteins shouldn’t sit at room temperature for long. Refrigerate them ASAP.
  • Dairy products: Butter, cheese, milk and yogurt need fridge storage to prevent spoilage.
  • Produce you won’t use quickly: Berries, salad greens, mushrooms and other perishables won’t last on the counter. Refrigerate them.

Non-Perishable Foods

What to Store

  • Fruit bowls: Keep fresh lemons, limes, oranges, apples, bananas, pineapple and other sturdy fruits in bowls on the counter.
  • Onions and garlic: These pantry essentials do well on the counter away from light.
  • ** Potatoes and sweet potatoes:** Store them in a cool, dark place like a basket on the counter.
  • Tomatoes: Let vine-ripened tomatoes sit out to develop flavor.
  • Bread: Keep bread boxes or baskets on the counter for storing loaves and bagels.
  • Some baked goods: Things like cookies or muffins can stay out at room temperature.

What Not to Store

  • Flour and grains: Store these in airtight containers away from humidity and pests.
  • Coffee: Store coffee beans and grounds in sealed bags in the pantry. Light and moisture degrade flavors.
  • Chocolate: Chocolate bars and chips melt if left out. Keep them in the pantry.
  • Nuts: Shelled nuts can go rancid quickly on the counter. Refrigerate or freeze them.
  • Spices: Humidity causes spices to lose potency rapidly. Keep them in the pantry.

Kitchen Tools and Appliances

What to Store

  • Knife block: Keep your knife set on the counter for easy access but out of reach of kids.
  • Cutting boards: Designate a dedicated spot on your counter to store wood, plastic or silicone cutting boards.
  • Kitchen utensil crock: Place a crock, can or utensil holder on the counter to stash cooking spoons, spatulas, whisks, etc.
  • Salt and pepper mills: Keep these frequently used seasonings handy by your prep space, stove or dining area.
  • Oil and vinegar: Store olive oil and vinegar bottles close to the stove for easy drizzling and dressing.
  • Spice rack: A compact spice rack lets you keep favorite seasoning blends and spices near your cooking area.
  • Coffee and tea: Designate counter space for your coffee maker, kettle and mugs for your morning routine.
  • Kitchen appliances: Your toaster, toaster oven or stand mixer can live on the counter if used frequently.

What Not to Store

  • Hidden appliances: Things like a food processor or stand mixer are better kept in a cabinet except when in use.
  • Overstocked tools: Prune utensil holders and crocks so they don’t get cluttered with rarely used tools.
  • Heavy appliances: Large mixers, blenders or processors hog counter space. Store in a cabinet when not in use.
  • Oil and vinegar near heat: Don’t store these next to the stove, which can degrade flavors.
  • Knives within reach: Keep sharp knives out of reach of children in an upper cabinet or drawer.
  • Loose tools and lids: Cluttered counters seem smaller. Store these in drawers or cabinets.

Kitchen Décor

What to Store

  • Fruit bowls: Glass, ceramic or wooden bowls add flair while holding fruits and veggies.
  • Herb garden: A compact herb garden gives you fresh herbs and greenery to display.
  • Spice jars: Clear glass jars display spices attractively. Keep daily use ones on the counter.
  • Cooking books: Prop up recipe books you reference often or display beautiful cookbooks.
  • Mason jars: Use these to hold utensils or display ingredients like pasta and cookies.
  • Vintage canisters: Metal or glass canisters with tight lids hold bulk foods or tools and accessories.

What Not to Store

  • Clutter: Don’t use your countertops to store infrequently used gadgets, mail, keys, etc.
  • Non-kitchen items: Keep personal items like bills, photos or kids’ art off the kitchen counter.
  • Large appliances: Stand mixers, microwaves and other bulky appliances crowd counters.
  • Mismatched canisters: For a cohesive look, match shapes, sizes and labels of canisters.
  • Knickknacks: Limit decorative items that take up precious counter space.
  • Tall items: Vases, books or cookie jars can block your view and storage access.

Organizing Your Counter

When organizing your kitchen counter, keep these tips in mind:

  • Group like items – Keep baking supplies together, oils and vinegars together, etc.
  • Prioritize high-use items – Reserve prime real estate for your most reached for ingredients and tools.
  • Establish zones – Have areas for food prep, cooking, appliances, cleaning, etc.
  • Add racks – Vertical storage like paper towel holders, knife blocks and spice racks maximize space.
  • Edit ruthlessly – If you don’t use it daily, find another home for it. Counter space is precious.
  • Allow breathing room – Make sure appliances have ventilation space. Don’t overcrowd.
  • Mind ergonomics – Position items at comfortable heights. Frequently used items should be most accessible.
  • Deep clean regularly – Sanitize surfaces and clean out old, expired items every week.

With some thoughtful organization, your kitchen counters can be both beautiful and highly functional. Just remember – only keep out the essentials you use daily. The rest is just clutter!

FAQs About Storing Items on Your Kitchen Counter

What foods should you never leave on the counter?

Perishable foods like meat, fish, dairy products, cooked foods, cut fruits and vegetables should never sit out at room temperature for more than 2 hours. These items need to be promptly refrigerated to prevent bacterial growth.

How do you organize a messy kitchen counter?

Start by removing everything from your counters. Clean and sanitize all surfaces. Group like items and decide which tools and appliances you use daily vs. occasionally. Reserve prime counter real estate for everyday items. Store the rest in cabinets, drawers and pantries.

What should you not put near a stove?

Avoid placing anything flammable near the stove like dishtowels, paper towels, bags, packaging or oils. Also keep small appliances and tools away that could melt or overheat, like knives, spatulas and mixer beaters.

How do I make my kitchen counters look cleaner?

Declutter first by storing away non-essentials. Organize remaining items into zones. Always wipe down surfaces after each use. Use shelf liner inside cabinets to catch drips. Add greenery like herb gardens or fruits in bowls. Open blinds to let in natural light.

Should potatoes be kept on the counter or in the pantry?

Potatoes stay fresher in a cool, dark place around 50-60°F like a pantry. But countertop storage in a basket or bowl works fine for a week or two. Just keep them away from light and don’t store onions and potatoes together, which causes them to spoil faster.

What small appliances can be left on the counter?

Compact appliances like a toaster, coffee maker or electric kettle are fine on the counter if used daily. For larger or rarely used appliances like stand mixers, food processors or panini presses, store them in a cabinet to free up space until needed.


Your kitchen counters see a lot of action, so keep them organized and decluttered. Reserve your prep space for everyday ingredients like fruits, vegetables, herbs, oils and utensils. Store perishable foods like dairy, meats and cut produce promptly in the fridge. Keep appliances contained that you only use occasionally. Follow basic food safety rules. And above all, limit counter storage to essentials that facilitate your everyday cooking routine. A clean, tidy counter not only looks great, but helps you work more efficiently.

What to Store on a Kitchen Counter (And What Not To)

The kitchen counter is a convenient place to temporarily store ingredients and tools while cooking. But not everything belongs on the countertop long-term. Here are some guidelines for what should and shouldn’t be stored on kitchen counters:

Perishable Foods


  • Fresh fruits like apples, oranges, bananas – Keep in a fruit bowl for 2-3 days max
  • Onions, garlic, shallots – Okay for 1-2 weeks
  • Potatoes, sweet potatoes – Store in a cool, dark place like a basket
  • Tomatoes – Let vine-ripened ones sit out to develop flavor

Don’t Store:

  • Meat, poultry, fish – Refrigerate raw proteins immediately
  • Dairy products like milk, cheese, butter – Always refrigerate
  • Berries, leafy greens – These perish quickly without fridge storage
  • Cooked foods – Refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours



  • Lemons, limes – Keep handy near cooking area
  • Dried herbs and spices – Use daily varieties in small jars
  • Olive oil, vinegar – Place near prep and cooking spaces
  • Bread – Store in breadbox or basket on counter
  • Some baked goods like cookies, muffins – Okay at room temp

Don’t Store:

  • Coffee, tea – Store in pantry to retain freshness
  • Chocolate – Pantry storage prevents melting
  • Nuts – Refrigerate shelled nuts to prevent rancidity
  • Grains, flours – Store in airtight containers away from humidity

Kitchen Tools


  • Knife block – Keep within reach but away from kids
  • Cutting boards – Designate permanent counter space
  • Utensil crock – For spatulas, spoons, tongs, etc.
  • Salt, pepper, oil – Keep near cooking area
  • Appliances – If used daily, like coffee maker

Don’t Store:

  • Cluttered, overstuffed utensil holders
  • Heavy mixers, blenders – Store large items in cabinet
  • Knives within kids’ reach – Use high cabinets or drawers
  • Loose tools, lids – Contribute to clutter, store away



  • Fruit bowls – Glass, ceramic or wooden bowls
  • Herb garden – Provides fresh herbs and greenery
  • Clear canisters – Display spices, pasta, cookies, etc.
  • Cookbooks – Prop up ones you reference frequently
  • Decorative jars – For utensils or dry goods

Don’t Store:

  • Knickknacks – Avoid cluttering counters
  • Non-kitchen items – Keep bills, photos off kitchen counters
  • Mismatched items – Use coordinating canisters
  • Large appliances – These hog precious counter space
  • Tall items – Can block views and access

In general, store often-used items on counters and put the rest away. Keep only essentials out that benefit your everyday cooking routine. Maintain counters that are organized, decluttered and easily cleaned.