Fabulous meals can be produced by practicing a few tips for cooking in a small kitchen using simple equipment. Bare bones, you might need a 3-quart saucepan, 10-inch skillet, cast iron skillet, chef’s knife, paring knife, a couple mixing bowls. Add a casserole baking dish, cookie sheet or quarter sheet pan, spatula, colander, measuring cup, Mouli grater (it's one of those hand crank graters), wooden spoon, a cutting board and a set of silverware and few plates and a coffee cup.
If you want to get, fancy add a vegetable peeler and a wire whisk and a hand mixer. The beauty of a minimalist kitchen is the less you have, the more you use what you do have. when you have less, your utensils become more useful. If you love to cook pies, by all means, go out a get a pie plate or whatever other kitchen tools bring you joy and adds value to your cooking.
The only appliances outside of my stove and apartment sized refrigerator that see's any real use is a small footprint microwave oven, crockpot, toaster, and coffee maker. I also own an electric skillet and a food processor, but those only get used for holiday meals. I enjoy the tactile experience of chopping, slicing and dicing my fruits and vegetable.
Before moving into my current abode which is a 750-square foot condo with a rather small kitchen, I lived in an old California Bungalow which was swimming in kitchen space. I had to make some significant adjustments to my little kitchen. There is really no reason why a small kitchen can’t rise to the occasion and deliver great meals. The trick is finding the right organization of your tools within your limited space.
Tips for Cooking in a Small Kitchen
Following just a couple of these tips for cooking in a small kitchen will make meal prep easier and a more pleasant experience.
1. Remove Clutter
Don’t get caught up in all the cute gadgets, because you only need the basics to cook up great meals. Stay away from single-use items unless you use that single-use item often enough to make it worth the space it takes up on a countertop or in the cabinet. I include an electric skillet as part of my cookware must-haves although I don’t use it much. Maybe I feel the need to have one because Mom would often use her electric skillet instead of the stove-top and it's nostalgic. My electric skillet is small 10-inch model which is the perfect size for me and hubby. When it’s sweltering weather, I can fry up some burgers or make a grilled cheese on the balcony!!
For a more in-depth discussion on organizing please read my post on de-cluttering your kitchen and how much cookware is enough you can read my post on organizing and decluttering a small kitchen
2. Organize Storage Space to Make Cooking in a Small Kitchen Easier
Make use of wall space. If you have ever seen any of the Julia Child cooking shows it’s hard to forget her amazing pegboard wall filled with hanging pots, pans, skillets and other utensils. Also, pay attention the space you have in your pantry, the goal is to have enough on hand to serve your needs for a specified period, for me I like my pantry stocked with enough non-perishables to last for a month. I also make sure I have at least one weeks of no-cook meal ingredients on hand for emergencies.
The organization is essential when cooking in a small kitchen. Know your recipe and the steps required, prep all the ingredients beforehand and have them portioned out correctly.
3. Food Prep Space in a Small Kitchen
The main issue with a small kitchen is the prep areas or lack of preparation space to chop, dice, and slice. An easy way to get instance counter space is to buy a wood or sturdy plastic board to place over your sink. Buy one that has a strainer or hole strategically set so you can turn on the facet if needed. The sink board is perfect for those simple chop jobs.
Since my counter space is limited, when I am preparing a more complicated meal, I make use of a large cutting board that I place over my stove for additional prep area. I can prep everything, then remove the board and bring out the pots, pans, and skillets. After I’ve finished my prep work, I discreetly store away my prep board in the space between the wall and refrigerator, which is perfect for storing large cutting boards.
My mom was a master of cutting up vegetables directly over the pot, something I never really got the hang of due to fear of cutting myself!
Also, another issue that makes my space more complicated is cooking on an electric stove. When I turn off the burner I move the pot off the burner otherwise it will continue to cook. Most likely the next stove top I purchase will be an induction model. I could turn the burner off a few minutes early, but I like having full control of the cook time.
4. Tidy Up
The best way to keep your kitchen uncluttered is to tidy up as you go. I keep a plastic bag next to my prep area and toss the scraps into the bag as I go. Empty containers are rinsed and go straight into the recycle box. I use an old wine crate lined with a plastic drawer liner as a recycle bin. Two paper grocery bags fit perfectly inside the wine crate.
5. Embrace One Pot Cooking
I frequently cook frugal gourmet meals in my Le Creuset Oval Dutch Oven or Crock Pot. A small roasting pan cook's up a roast and veggies with little fuss or mess. There are an endless amount of great one-pot recipes to be found just by doing a quick Google or Pinterest search. Another plus of One Pot cooking is the leftovers, just let the pot cool down and store in the fridge.