About two years ago, my husband and I moved to the Dallas-Fort Worth area. We grabbed the first house up for rent that would allow us to have our pups. (I quickly regretted the choice.) Because of my husband’s job, we move frequently and have always lived in rentals, allowing us the flexibility to pack up and move whenever the time comes. A year ago, I decided I had had enough of living in rental homes. Still, we had absolutely no desire to purchase a home. So we made the decision to sell everything (well, almost everything) and move into our tiny vintage trailer.
Moving into a tiny trailer meant that I had to embrace a tiny kitchen. It took some time and patience to get used to my little kitchen, but I love it now. I’ve worked in all types and sizes of kitchens, and believe it or not, I learned the most from my tiny kitchen. With that in mind, allow me to share some tips on how to get the most out of a small kitchen.
Below is a picture of my typical workspace. Throw in a simmering pot, dirty knife, and some food splatter, and it’s closer to reality. I also have a little dining table to my right but, for the most part, this is all I use.
Prep First, Then Cook
In my opinion, this rule applies in large or tiny kitchens. It’s called mise en place, and it’s a fancy French way of saying “everything in its place.” It’s essential when you are cooking in a tiny kitchen. Big kitchens allow you the room to spread out and chop while you cook, but that luxury doesn’t exist when you cook in a tiny kitchen. Prep your food first, dicing and chopping all of your vegetable and herbs. Then wrap them in plastic wrap and set aside in a bowl until ready to use. If you are working with a few vegetables and herbs, you can keep them in small piles on the cutting board. If you are good at washing dishes as you go, you can also use prep bowls, but if this gets away from you, you’ll end up with a pile of dishes. For me, it largely depends on how my day is and what I am preparing.
Big Cutting Board or Burner Covers
I know at first this seems counter-intuitive. Why would I want a big cutting board in a tiny kitchen? The easy answer is that it doubles as additional counter space. I keep my big cutting board on top of my range, converting my range into counter space when not in use. When I use the range, I move the cutting board and cover half of the kitchen sink, again providing more work space. If you’re lucky and happen to live in a house with an under-mounted sink, you can get crafty (or have a crafty friend) make cutting boards that fit into your sink.
Keeping a bowl for kitchen scraps helps keep your workspace in order, and order is the key to maintaining sanity and loving your tiny kitchen. Once I am done prepping, I toss all the scraps into a trash bag and take it to the dumpster. A tiny kitchen usually equals a tiny trash can, so I like to take it out as soon as possible.
If you don’t have room for a garbage bowl, you can also use paper towels. Peel vegetables straight onto a paper towel, then collect and toss.
Tiered Racks aren’t Just for Cookies
Tiered cooling racks are for more than just cookies: they also double your prep space. I keep my trash bowl on the top tier and keep prepped vegetables, plates and ingredients that I will be using on the other tiers.
Take a look around your kitchen. Do you have empty wall space? Well, you shouldn’t! That is valuable real estate–use it. Walls can hold books, ingredients, kitchen tools, pots, pans and more! It’s important to be creative with your wall space. IKEA has a great line of kitchen wall storage items. It’s the key to keeping my tiny kitchen organized and functional.
My tiny house has an equally tiny pantry, and my spice collection took up a shelf all on its own. The best investment I made was a bunch of magnetic spice containers. I’m able to store my spices on the front door of my refrigerator where they are visible and accessible, freeing space in my pantry. I also use magnetic strips to store my kitchen knives. Keeping them in a drawer dulls them and takes up space, and a knife block takes up valuable counter space.
Stock Only What You Need
When was the last time you used that avocado slicer or melon baller? If you don’t use it on a regular basis or if it only accomplishes one task then it needs to go. Let’s be honest, a rice maker is nice, but rice can be made in a pot. Also, we all dream of making homemade ice cream, but that contraption takes up a lot of room. And how many times have you really used that ice cream maker? I’m a food blogger, and I can count on one hand how many times I’ve used mine in the last year.
Stock your kitchen with essentials and keep only as many dishes, eating utensils and cups for members of your household and two guests. If you need any more than that, you can invest in some nice disposable plates. Because let’s be honest, most tiny kitchens don’t have dishwashers.
Here is my list of kitchen essentials:
- Dutch oven
- cast iron skillet
- cast iron griddle
- small stainless steel skillet
- large stainless steel skillet
- small sauce pot
- large sauce pot
- stock pot
- 10-inch nonstick skillet
- rimmed sheet pan
- rectangle metal cake pan
- square metal cake pan
- 2 round cake pans
Cutlery and accessories
- large wood cutting board
- chef’s knife
- serrated knife
- boning knife
- paring knife
- immersion blender
- hand mixer
- Induction burner
Tools and gadgets
- tiered cooling racks
- large metal bowl
- glass prep bowls
- metal spatula
- plastic spatula
- wooden spoon
- bulb whisk
- flat whisk
- fine mesh metal strainer
- Benriner mandoline
Invest in quality cookware and kitchen tools. As you can see from the list above, the only small kitchen appliances I have are an immersion blender, hand mixer, and induction burner. An immersion blender simplifies your life when making creamed soups or smoothies. You can blend straight in the pot or cup and it’s easy to clean. A hand mixer takes the place of a large, bulky stand mixer. Don’t get me wrong, I love my Kitchen Aid mixer and still have it in storage. But there is nowhere to keep it in my tiny kitchen. You may be asking, “Why an induction burner?” A small kitchen quickly heats up and induction burners throw off so little heat that a tiny kitchen can stay relatively cool.
These are the tools that I use to make the most out of my tiny kitchen. Every kitchen (and cook) is different, so feel free to make your own list of essentials. Just remember that it’s best to stock what you will use and stay away from uni-taskers.
Changing out a faucet is easier than you think. A tiny kitchen usually means a tiny sink, and that can make cleaning large pots and pans challenging. A gooseneck faucet is essential, and if you can get one with a pull-away spray head, that’s even better. If you’re lucky, that spray head will reach the stove top. It’s almost as cool as a wall-mounted pot filler. See? Small spaces have their benefits!
Clean as You Go
Cleaning and doing dishes as you go helps keep your tiny kitchen organized, and you sane. Cooking in a tiny kitchen can get out of control very quickly. One minute your little kitchen is spotless, and the next minute it looks like the Swedish Chef stormed through, all because of one pot and two spoons. You know what I’m talking about!
Rinse and Reuse
This goes hand in hand with cleaning as you go. Instead of grabbing another spoon, bowl or spatula, rinse and reuse. Try to finish with the same tools and cooking equipment with which you started. At the moment, it may be tempting just to grab a new one, but when your tiny sink ends up overflowing with dirty dishes, it won’t be so great.
There you have it! A tiny kitchen can be challenging, but magical things can happen in it. Also, it challenges you to take stock of what you need and use. Do you have any tips to share about how to make the most out of your small kitchen?
Originally posted 2016-02-14 12:43:25.