is your kitchen So small that when you serve a snack, people think it’s a full meal? Is it so small that when you show people around, you make them stand still and turn around? Is it so small that you can’t even fit this presentation in your tiny cupboard? Then this guide is for you. As tempting as it may be to declare all hope dashed and rationalize eating out around the clock, you and I both know it’s healthier and cheaper to cook your own meals.
As someone who lives in New York City, I know a thing or two about small kitchens. Over the years, we’ve tested a variety of furniture and other kitchen gadgets to help make cooking easier (and healthier) in small spaces. Don’t forget to check out our other buying guides, including the best cookbooks and best pots and pans.
Update February 2023: We’ve added new items including coffee makers, cast iron cookware and storage solutions.
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maximize storage space
There are magnets hidden beneath the wall-mounted wooden pole that holds the knife, so it won’t chip or dull your blade like an all-metal pole. Skip countertop knife holders—not only does it take up counter space, but it dulls blades faster.
Hanging these pots and pans on the wall frees up valuable drawer and cabinet space. This bamboo and aluminum rack can hold up to 30 lbs, but even with a full stainless steel cookware set and cast iron skillet, my rack is still rock solid. If you’re installing into drywall instead of studs, choose some EZ anchors. If you don’t have room for shelves, a suspended bar will still keep your frying pans, pans, and woks out of the way.
If you’re short on drawer space, store cookware in ceramic containers. It has enough room for all your spoons, spatulas and tongs and is available in a variety of colors. You can also buy a 1-quart version for $35.
A wall-mounted spice rack also frees up a lot of cabinet space. You can store it with your spices and other odds and ends. This one is made of ash wood and comes in a set of two (although you can choose one if you want).
WIRED Reviews Editor Julian Chokkattu has been using the StoveShelf for about a month and loves it. It’s a smart way to save some counter space, and it’s easy to clean. It’s just a piece of metal with a magnet on the bottom, it sticks to the top of the stove, it’s super easy to install. You’ll want to make sure this part of the stove is metal and not plastic, and doesn’t have buttons or switches that could get blocked (such as the oven light). The backsplash ensures nothing gets caught in the gap between your stove and the wall. I would make sure to avoid any cooking oil in there.
You don’t need to use up valuable counter space to store fresh fruits and vegetables. Keep tomatoes, potatoes, and stone fruit out of the fridge and regain some prep space to handle knives and mixing bowls.
Here’s another copy that WIRED Reviews Editor Julian Chokkattu bought last year. This pantry storage system obviously takes up some floor space, but if you can swing it, you can save a lot of counter space, and it’s especially great for people with limited cabinets. It was daunting at first because it seemed like a million pieces; it took Julian about 4 hours to get it right. But in the five-plus months he’s been using it, it’s worked wonderfully, and making his kitchen less cluttered has been a boon. The door closes magnetically. Just be sure to measure the height of the shelves to make sure your spices and other pantry items will fit.
Instead of a wall-mounted spice rack, WIRED reviewer Louryn Strampe attaches magnetic spice jars to her refrigerator. She loves Gneiss Spice, which has several ready-made kits. You can also specify the spices you want.
Consolidate (and shrink) your cooker
A Dutch oven can replace several disposable pots or machines. I use my pans for steaming oysters, slow-cooking stews, and grilling, and the durable, non-stick enameled surface requires less care and attention than bare cast iron, though I prefer non-enameled bakes.
Forget about Keurig or Mr. Coffee that take up counter space even when not in use. Coffee made with the AeroPress tastes better and can be rinsed and stored in a drawer afterwards. We also like the $25 Hario Pour Over Coffee Dripper and the $120 Frieling 23-fluid-ounce Stainless Steel French Press. I have used it for many years. They never wear out and make great coffee.
How often do you actually use a quesadilla maker or steamer? A multifunctional rice cooker can replace several dedicated machines. In addition to being a pressure cooker, steamer, sauté pan, rice cooker, yogurt maker, food warmer, and slow cooker, it has 13 customizable settings for pressure cooking everything from beans to soup to poultry all food. Read our Best Multicookers guide for more recommendations.
We get it. A KitchenAid stand mixer on the countertop is a sign of sophistication and envy. But it takes up a lot of precious space. Consider a hand blender that you can stash in a cabinet or drawer. I have had no issues mixing thick dough with this KitchenAid hand mixer, and it spins fast enough to make whipped cream.
Ditch the pancake pan and use this multi-purpose stove top pan. You have to be careful not to peel the finish when cleaning it, and you have to season it with food grade oil after each wash, but cast iron provides an excellent cooking surface and heats evenly. In addition to pancakes, you can cook burgers, pork chops, steaks, eggs, bacon, and more and store them in the cabinet when you’re done.
You don’t need that many knives. Ditch the 10-inch knife set: an 8- or 9-inch chef’s knife, a smaller paring knife, a bread knife, maybe a few specialty blades will suffice. This all-purpose chef’s knife is recommended as the first choice for most people in our chef’s knife buying guide, thanks to its edge retention and near-nonstick surface. You can also use an all-purpose cleaver instead of a chef’s knife, like this one for $85.
Wired reviewer Louryn Strampe cooks most of her meals in a pan, skillet, and wok. “It won’t be brighter in one area than the other,” she says, “but it’s sturdy, heats evenly, and the stainless steel surface is easy to clean in the dishwasher.”
If you don’t have the prep room to safely hold a knife, the food processor can slice and dice up to three cups of ingredients at a time. Wired reviewer Medea Giordano likes to use her sauces for fresh pasta sauces.
Add preparation surface
Cutting boards can take up a lot of space when preparing meals. Get one that fits your sink, like this solid maple cutting board. Hardwoods are also better for your blade than bamboo.
Mounting a folding table on a nearby wall frees up space in the middle of the kitchen for easy walking around. In addition to providing a place to eat, it has 20 x 36 inches of additional counter space and swings down and stows away when not in use.
The burner cover adds space to your cooktop by holding an extra cutting board or utensil. This bamboo workstation covers half of your stovetop. Obtain two continuous flat surfaces on all four burners.
For small kitchens, stick to rolling kitchen carts that are 36 inches (91 cm) wide or smaller, like this one that measures just under 30 inches (76 cm). It has a sturdy cutting board top, three hooks for oven mitts and utensil hanging, and locking wheels. You can tuck it into a corner of your kitchen and pull it out when you need more counter space.
how to move around the kitchen
Here are some tips from WIRED senior writer Scott Gilbertson, who has worked in the restaurant industry for six years and knows tight culinary spaces like the back of his hand:
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