When people imagine living in a tiny house, often the initial vision of the experience skips over the minutia of day-to-day living and how an ultra-small space makes many things- like cooking- a little more complicated. In this article, I wanted to talk a little bit about tips and methods I use when cooking in my tiny kitchen.
Although not a tiny house in the modern sense, my Seattle studio apartment was built in the early 1900s as cheap housing for men working at the nearby waterfront docks. I suppose my apartment might have been a luxury apartment by those standards, since many similar apartment houses in those days were set up more like boarding houses with communal bathrooms and a shared kitchen. When my building was last remodeled, the teensy-tiny kitchens were retrofitted not with standard kitchen equipment, but were so small and compact that the contractor hired a boat galley fitting company to install into these tiny apartments the same equipment installed in the micro-kitchens of small ships.
To make my miniature kitchen work, here are a few of the absolute essential skills and techniques I learned for prepping in a tiny space:
Invest in Dual-Use Cookware
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When I moved from a modern kitchen to a kitchen the size of a modest boat galley, I donated or tossed out most of my cookware. What remained of my collection of pots and pans were three pieces of high-quality cookware: a heavy-bottomed stainless steel saucepan, an 80-year-old Wagoner deep-dish cast-iron skillet, and a lifetime-warrantied scanpan nonstick skillet.
Experiment to find what in your collection of pots and pans you can do without. Find which pieces are your favorite, and then consider if those pieces of cookware could- with a bit of creative thinking- do the work of other pieces of cookware you own. For example, I used my stainless steel saucepan to replace my electric kettle and my coffee maker, my cast-iron skillet made a more-than-adequate replacement for my casserole dish, pizza stone, and pie plate, and my oven-safe scan pan became both skillet, cookie sheet, and toaster.
Put Flatware in Storage Except for Essentials
A good tip for coping with ultra-tiny kitchen is to pare down your flatware to bare essentials. If your tiny kitchen includes a tiny sink or the absence of a dishwasher, you won’t want the option to dirty up too many spoons forks and knives at once.
The longer I lived in a tiny kitchen, the more I found myself continually decreasing the amount of flatware I kept. Cooking for one, I found it sufficient to have three forks, a few good knives, one butter knife, and six or eight spoons (more spoons because: coffee!)
Downsize Utensils and Tools
Perhaps my most unique suggestion that actually works great in a tiny kitchen is finding miniature kitchen tools: for four years my only cheese grater was a three-inch-high novelty cheese grater meant, I think, as either a child’s toy or a playful table accessory to serve tableside with a hunk of Parmesan. Similarly, I traded in a full-size colander for a stainless steel “6” berry colander” – which is a miniature variation of a colander meant to rinse just a handful of berries (or a single can of beans) at a time.
Whichever kitchen tools you choose, know that when it comes to a tiny kitchen quality especially counts. Higher-quality tools make better multiuse tools, and multi-use tools help make a tiny kitchen clutter free and livable.
Open Storage- Decanted Essentials
For my tiny kitchen, including glass-front cabinets- I found that decanting pantry goods into large air-tight jars freed up space in my cabinets, stored food longer, and generally improved the look of my kitchen. Various sizes of hinge-top Fido brand jars are my go-to for pantry staple storage.
Wall-Mount as Much as Possible
An unexpected game-changer was this no-frills, wall mount, vertical paper towel holder. By freeing up both counter space and undercabinet space, this paper towel holder kept towels handy without using valuable real estate. Mounted on the inside of the door frame, it takes up space that literally no other shelf or appliance could, making it an ideal choice for a kitchen with ultra-limited counter space.
Similarly, a pot rack installed on the ceiling- or mounted on an open wall- can free up counter space and keep cookware within reach.