Tiny kitchens are a common problem, but what do you do when you work for Sur La Table and you have access to new kitchen gear every day? To some, this could be a cruel joke — being able to constantly geek out on fresh products but having nowhere to put them. But after enduring this problem for almost nine years, I’ve figured out a few guiding principles for how to arrange my small kitchen. Here’s what’s in it:
1. SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST
The first thing I learned from working here was to invest in good knives and a sharpener. Spending over $100 on a knife is tough to swallow when you are outfitting your first kitchen, until you add up the cost of buying cheap knives over and over again. Although we began with a good starter set, I would now describe our collection as not so much mismatched as evolved. We narrowed down to the shapes we like and then got lots of them! Our kitchen workhorses are three 8″ chef knives, from left to right: Global, Shun Classic and Wüsthof Classic. Tripling up makes sense for us to work in the kitchen together and at different tasks that best suit each blade.
2. KNOW THYSELF
Most kitchen lists by now have an obligatory traditional enameled cast iron cocotte. Mine is reserved for the occasional winter night of slow cooking but, to be honest with myself, I’m not Julia Child. At our house we mostly make quick, one-pot meals and the only thing easier than cooking in my Scanpan CTQ wok is the cleanup. I’ve always loved using nonstick cookware, but many old coatings were not durable and have been shown to be unsafe. Scanpan solves both those problems and elevates nonstick for the serious cook. This really is our perfect everyday pan.
3. BUT BE OPEN TO SURPRISES
I love to entertain with this long rectangular platter. It’s perfect for sitting on our narrow counter or bringing to a potluck where, thanks to the traditional Italian pattern, it looks just as attractive empty as it does full. But amazingly, it’s totally the opposite of my clean and modern aesthetic. I can’t remember what possessed me to get it, but I’m glad that I did because I’ve gotten tons of compliments and mileage out of it.
4. VERSATILITY IS KEY
Our dining table is too small for more than two guests, so for gatherings we usually end up eating cocktail party style with the help of plate clips. Now no one has to choose between wine or food, and we can use our normal dishes! They were such a revelation when I saw them in use, I have to admit that I stole them from a friend until I bought my own set. Another party tip: we love pieces that can go from cooking in the oven to the table as a beautiful serving piece. Multi-function items double your space and cut dishwashing time in half!
5. AND FINALLY, LOVE IT!
This humble rice cooker is the oldest anything in my kitchen. We bought it a decade ago for about $20 at a local drugstore when we moved across the country from Boston to Seattle. For years, I prayed it would break so I could buy a shiny new Japanese model that plays a cheerful song in honor of cooking our rice. I almost got my wish when this guy seemed to be on the fritz; however, it miraculously recovered and is still going strong today. I now no longer want to replace it. It’s small enough to tuck into the cabinet and has achieved synergy with my husband. Together, they turn out the most perfect rice every time.
A tiny kitchen only runs out of space when it is filled with stuff you don’t use and love! So what’s in your kitchen? What are your tricks for maximizing space? Let us know in the comments.