Tiny Kitchen Living: 5 Tips for Cooking in a Small Space

small kitchen

Small kitchen? No problem. 

Table covered in mixing bowls, two pots boiling, one thing on the verge of burning in the oven, a dish almost just tipped over and fell into the sink, and how the hell did all of the counter space get covered in vegetable peelings? Sound familiar?

If you are cooking in a small kitchen you are not alone.

If we are to believe the glossies, everyone except for ourselves is working in a thousand square feet of clean granite and aluminum bliss. Oh, and they have professional stoves too. Not that crappy electric thing from the late ’80s that your landlord installed to save money. But don’t feel bad, despite what the food blogs might have you think, not everyone is cooking in a glamorous kitchen.

In fact, you can cook on something as simple as a camp stove, which makes the excuse “I don’t have the right set up” a moot point. Forget the creme brulee torch and the bread maker, as the food savvy Mark Bittman puts it, the essentials for a kitchen really are, “a stove, a sink, a refrigerator, some pots and pans, a knife and some serving spoons.”

Succeeding in a small kitchen space just takes a little work.

1. Do Your Dishes

I have found that the main trick to feeling good about cooking in a small space after all the cooking has taken place, is that your surroundings are still fairly organized. This takes practice. In preparing a brunch for four people recently where there was only one main dish, I did the dishes three times. Mixing bowls, measuring spoons, graters, utensils used to stir… don’t leave it until the cooking is all finished.

2. Get Rid of What You Don’t Need

Your wardrobe isn’t the only place you should be minimizing. Take stock of what you own and what’s just excess. That tray your grandmother gave is a nice vintage item, but when was the last time you actually used it? If it’s not something you use regularly, or at least on nice occasions (we all have the right to some fancier champagne glasses, even in a tiny space) then get rid of it.

3. Invest in Quality

It may sound like the advice of your mother, but there really is something to be said for having quality tools on hand in your cooking space. Build up a core stock of kitchen utensils that you know will last and serve you well. Think twice before buying new things for the kitchen. Can you do more than one thing with it? A cast iron frying pan can be used for more than just omelets. And a Cuisinart may just change your life.

4. Get Creative

That cutting board? Also works great as a cheese platter. The cheese grater? Perfect for when you don’t own a garlic press. Just like basic food items can be multipurpose, so can most of the stuff in your kitchen. If you don’t have the exact dish or item you think you need, look around, there’s probably something that will work instead.

5. Plan Before You Cook

If you are cooking in a small space, the term “think before you act” is well worth some contemplation. Just like cooking a good meal takes some planning, cooking a meal in a tiny space takes even more. Think about how to maximize on your dishes, where you can do two jobs at once, and what order will minimize dishes, vegetable peelings, and stress.

Image: Anton Novoselov

Anna Brones

Anna Brones is a food + travel writer with a love for coffee and bikes. She is the author of The Culinary Cyclist and Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break. Catch her weekly column, Foodie Underground.