A kitchen is generally a room for cooking, in the broad sense of food preparation (outdoor areas in which food is prepared are generally not considered to be kitchens). It may have a furnace and/or a microwave oven, and small appliances such as a toaster, mixer and blender.

Within homes, the kitchen can be the center of other activities as well, depending on its size, furnishing, and equipment (see also major appliance), for example washing up (with or without dishwasher), washing and drying laundry (often with a washing machine), normal and refrigerated food storage, and eating. The kitchen is sometimes the most comforting room in a house, where family and visitors tend to congregate, instead of in the living room.

In restaurants, hotels, and other public establishments, the kitchen generally is required by law to meet certain standards of public health, and is inspected periodically by public-health officials.

In restaurants there are often hours in which the kitchen is closed. This means that no food can be ordered, only drinks and some simple snacks.

For the early history of the built-in kitchen ("Frankfurt Kitchen"), see also the biography of Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky.