Fabulous meals can be prepared with ease if you cook in an organized way. These are a few tips on how to organize a small kitchen to help take some of the cramped cooking frustration away.
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 organizational system for your tools contained within your limited space.
Evaluate your Cooking Needs
What types of meals do you cook? Thee valuation is extremely important and I go into more depth of this area in my post Moving from a large kitchen to a small one.
If you are someone who cooks fairly simple dishes then you might only need a few pieces of cookware.
A minimalist kitchen list of cookware and utensils
- 2-quart saucepan
- 3.75-quart Dutch oven
- 10-inch skillet nonstick skillet
- 8-inch cast-iron skillet
A minimalist kitchen list of cooking utensils and food prep
If you want to get, fancy then add a vegetable peeler, 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 add value to your cooking.
- Mouli grater (it’s one of those hand-crank graters)
- Serving and mixing spoons
- Wire Whisk
- Cutting board
- Measuring cups
- Measuring spoons
- Duralux prep bowls
- Chef’s knife
- Paring knife
- Mixing bowls
- Casserole baking dish
- Quarter Sheet or Jelly Roll pan
Basic Countertop Appliances
The only appliances outside of my stove and apartment sized refrigerator that sees any real use is a small footprint microwave oven, crockpot, toaster, and coffee maker. I also own an electric skillet and a small KitchenAid processor, but those only get used for holiday meals. I enjoy the tactile experience of chopping, slicing, and dicing my fruits and vegetable.
- Single Serve Coffee Maker - maybe you like Americanos and would get the most use out of a Nespresso machine, or pour over in which case a Hario small kettle is something you would fine useful.
- Toaster - I use a toaster everyday for morning toast, bagels and crisping up garlic toast. If you only make toast or rarely find the need for toaster, try toasting in the oven under the broiler.
- Microwave -
My most recent addition to my cookware is a 10 inch Lodge griddle I picked up at Target for $15. I use it just about every day to cook eggs, fry up bacon, make pancakes, grill cheese sandwiches, hamburgers, and pan-fry steak. It's also great to use in the oven. If I could only have one pan with me it would have to be my Lodge 10 inch Griddle.
Tips for Cooking in a Small Kitchen
Following just a couple of these tips 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 a 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!!
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 need to move the pot off the burner otherwise it will continue to cook. Most likely the next stovetop I purchase will be an induction model. I guess I just could turn the burner off a few minutes early, but I like having full control of the cooking time and temperature.
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.