Cooking big in a tiny space: 5 essentials for small kitchens

Matthew Grocoff

January 7, 2016

By: Matthew Grocoff, Green Renovation Expert

In: AppliancesKitchen Remodel

Newsflash: Meals cooked in tiny kitchens can taste just as good as ones cooked in giant luxury kitchens with $10,000 stoves. Yes, I concede that a tiny kitchen can be maddening. That's why smart design is so important if a million dollar kitchen isn't in your future. But even great design can be ruined if you fill your small kitchen with a lot of unnecessary junk.

Whether you live in a minuscule Manhattan apartment, an itty-bitty bungalow, or even a sleepy Sleepless in Seattle houseboat there are a few kitchen items that can save you some silver, some space, and some sanity.

Tonight, I'm cooking a meal that will require less than 2 square feet of prep and cooking surface. And all I need is a 110v outlet; the kitchen is optional.

As I write, I've got grass fed steaks for four people cooking in my Sous Vide immersion cooker. In an hour, I'll pull them out and they'll be cooked to a perfect medium rare. I'll finish them in a cast iron skillet on my portable induction cooktop - seared at a high temp for just a couple minutes with some butter and thyme.

Here are 5 items that can turn even the smallest guest house kitchen into a restaurant quality food factory.

Sous vide immersion cooker

sous vide cooker

Sous vide cookers are perfect for small kitchens because they allow you to cook spectacular meals without an oven or a grill. A sous vide immersion cooker is about the size of a large pepper grinder. Yet, it punches way above its weight class in ability to cook large volumes of food in a small space. The device clips on to any container that can hold water. I generally use a soup pot, but I've also used a 5 gallon Coleman cooler. Food is placed in a vacuum sealed bag or a mason jar and submerged in the water bath.

Cooking meat at a stable, low temperature allows the meat to cook throughout at a consistent temperature with almost no risk of overcooking. Even if you cook for a longer time, the meat will not get above the precise desired temperature. The skin is then crisped with searing, broiling or torching.

My favorite sous vide cooker is the Anova Precision Cooker. The handy app with Bluetooth connection allows you to easily pull up a recipe and set your tiny cooker to the exact temperature you need for the perfect meal.

Portable induction cooktop

induction cooktop

Induction cookers are magical. Portable induction cooktops are compact and very inexpensive. Yet they can outperform gas stoves that cost $10,000. In a recent test from a graduate student at the University of Michigan, our induction cooktop boiled a liter of water in just over two and half minutes. The gas and electric stoves each took over seven minutes to boil a liter of water.

As a bonus, a portable induction cooktop can be plugged in almost anywhere. I've used mine in my back yard, in my basement and even on my sailboat.

Check out my story on why you can now kiss your gas stovetop goodbye.

And check out this video of me cooking a steak on an induction cooktop with a cotton towel under the pan to catch the splatter.

Immersion blender

Immersion blender

My immersion blender might be my most essential cooking tool. It replaces a food process, a blender, a coffee grinder, a mixer and more. I use it to make smoothies, chop nuts, puree soups (right in the pot), shred veggies, and much more.

It stores easily in a drawer and avoids the clutter of several large appliances.

Mandoline slicer

mandoline slicer

A good quality mandolin slicer tucks right into the smallest of cabinets or drawers. It can be used to prepare a lot of food without the need for a large food processor. The best chefs swear by the Swissmar Borner. At $45 it's a bit pricier than other mandolines, but the space, and the finger tips, that it saves are worth it.

Pour over coffee maker

How to make pour over coffee

No room on the counter for a coffee pot? Short of snorting the coffee right out of the bag, a small pour over coffee maker is the most compact coffee maker available. It is all you need to make a barista quality cup of joe in a space no larger than your favorite mug.


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