How to stock a minimalist kitchen

by andrewodom on December 8, 2010 · 26 comments


Originally written for my weekly Thursday post on scissorsanddrumsticks.com.
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I am not a great cook. Crystal on the other hand, is. But both of us live in the same small space. Equally small is our corner kitchenette. Akin to what you may find in an RV or on a boat, the kitchen boasts 3 open shelves, a small countertop, an RV sink, a 3-burner stove/oven, and an undercounter kitchen cart which rolls out for extra work space. Because of such we repeatedly reach for the same utensils, pots, pans, and ingredients in our kitchen. You may as well. We are, after all, creatures of habit and subject only to our available space.

So I found myself taking real inventory recently when my cousin and I were talking about cooking and kitchen tools and our time working together at a gourmet kitchen supply store. She asked me what I now felt were essential items to have in the kitchen. So here are 10 things we can’t seem to live without in our kitchen space.

Please keep in mind that making “essentials” lists is a risky endeavor. Obviously, the items we put emphasis on are not going to be what everyone else seems to need. So in order to make this list I asked myself, “If we had to start over as young, newlyweds and had nothing more than a plate for each of us, what would we stock our kitchen with?”

The minimalist kitchen is:

10″ cast iron skillet

The Lodge Signature series (sold at most Bass Pro shops) its more expensive cousin, the Le Creuset enamel-coated version (sold at Williams-Sonoma) both get the job done extremely well. The artistic side of me prefers the enamel coated version because I don’t have to season it and can throw it in the dishwasher, but both are excellent and the more utilitarian Lodge boasts an unbeatable price tag. They work on the stove top, in the oven, and on the grill.

12 qt. stock pot with lid

Since we live near the Atlantic Ocean we find great delight in steaming our own fresh shrimp or crabs. And when it comes to stock pots, not only do they work best, but they are high quality and quite cheap, all things considered. I suggest purchasing from a restaurant supply store and grabbing an aluminum one. It shouldn’t run more than $40 or so. In it you can make soups, pasta, and sauces, as well as using it for frying and soaking. It also works in the oven and on the grill.

9 qt. cast iron Dutch oven

I love cornish hen and entire chickens. So what else to use but a Dutch oven? I prefer the inexpensive Calphalon Everyday 6-qt. You can roast and braise in this amazing product. It can go on the grill or directly over an open flame. They are expensive, but will last a lifetime.

2 silicone oven mitts

I use an Orka brand, but there are many others out there. Because they’re silicone, they are undeterred by boiling water or kitchen situations that might otherwise cause burns (the way fabric oven mitts do).

A good knife set

And this is where I become a snob. I have used a beautiful Global stainless steel set. I have tried a cheaper Cutco set. But for my money you can give me the Henckel Professional “S” series. You want to find a set that is durable and can go in the dishwasher. The blade should be forged and run through the shank of the knife. An ergonomic handle is nice as well. A good knife set comes both with a warranty and the opportunity to take them to a free, professional knife sharpener once a year.

Cutting board

Each year we are told one product is better than the other. Then the next year it flip-flops. I have used both an acrylic model and a solid wood model. I prefer to use the Epicurean Recycled cutting board which is made with 100% recycled paper. This is certainly your preference but it is NOT to be underestimated in the minimalist kitchen.

Tongs

Odd requirement, huh? Consider trying to get something out of boiling water. Pretty hard to do. What about pulling out those crabs from the aforementioned stock pot? A good, long-handled, stainless steel set of tongs is essential! You can use them in the kitchen or on the grill.

Food chopper

Because we grow our own herbs we have found that a good, medium-sized food chopper is essential for preparing useable spices from dried herbs. Don’t skimp on this item. Make sure the blades are stainless-steel and can easily go into the dishwasher. I recommend the Cuisinart Elite Collection (4-cup).

Infrared thermometer

This appeals to my inner geek. You simply point it at your food and read the temperature. Nothing to clean, and really cool.

Baking pans

All you’ll need to get started are anodized aluminum sheet cake, loaf, and jelly roll pans. Prices, sizes, and even shapes vary. But it is hard to make muffins and cookies without a good sheet!

So there you have it. Those are the things we have found are essential to our kitchen needs. In fact, I firmly believe anyone can make fantastic meals with only these items. Do we have more in our kitchen? Absolutely. We feel pretty strongly about a french press, a toaster oven, a bamboo mixing bowl, and even a great measuring cup. This is just a basics list though.

Did I forget something? Do any of these items fall onto your list? Do you think any are unnecessary? Speak up! And as always, if you like this article, please share it on Facebook or Tweet it out!

  • Nebraska Dave

    Drew, I’m a big fan of cast iron as well. I have the complete set from 6 inch up through the dutch oven with lid. The one I use the most is the 10 inch as you do. I do have a couple stainless steel with copper bottoms that I use on occasion but still my everyday use is cast iron. I do have one favorite knife that is used almost exclusively and couple favorite coffee mugs. Most of my drinking glasses are Mason jars. They just seems to be the right size to quench the thirst.

    Have a great kitchen day.

    • anotherkindofdrew

      Cast iron is amazing. It is simple but elegant. It is functional yet artistic. It is affordable and well worth any investment. My drinking glasses were a wedding gift. We had 8 large and 8 small but we gave another couple (friends of ours) 4 large and 4 small. We just didn’t need all those.

      You have a great kitchen day too, my friend!

  • http://www.largepot.net/information-news/stock-pot-a-brief-history/ Stock Pot

    This is cool! And so interested! Are u have more
    posts like this? Please tell me, thanks

  • http://twitter.com/loveandtrash Love And Trash

    Nice choices. I think your tiny kitchen is better equipped than my normal-size one.

    You might also like Click Clack Gorilla’s take on it: http://loveandtrash.com/2011/04/the-gorilla-guide-to-tiny-kitchens/ … she talks a lot about the philosophy behind the items she keeps, which you’ll probably identify with.

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    Really great thought and your kitchen will be well maintained.

  • http://www.register-domainname.in/ Domain Registration India

    Maybe you are not a good cook but your thinking is really great.

  • http://twitter.com/MySwallowsNest Annie McCreary

    We are downsizing from 2700sf to 1500sf (about as tiny as we can get) as soon as our house sells. I need to figure out how to downsize my kitchen! I must say that as a family of 5, I love my crock pot and my Rancilio Espresso Machine ;) Thanks for the posts. I am a fan.

    • anotherkindofdrew

      Hey there Annie. Thank you so much for finding us here and commenting. I have written some posts on the minimalist kitchen. Have you seen them? One I especially like and you may find it a good start. It was a guest post over at http://www.scissorsanddrumsticks.com. Visit: http://www.scissorsanddrumsticks.com/2010/12/5-ways-to-declutter-your-kitchen/

  • http://www.mactonweb.com web development bangalore

    I am not a great cook. Crystal on the other hand, is. But both of us live in the same small space.But your thinking is really great 

  • http://www.mactonweb.com web design Melbourne

     I have the complete set from 6 inch up through the dutch oven with lid. The one I use the most is the 10 inch as you do. I do have a couple stainless steel with copper bottoms that I use on occasion but still my everyday use is cast iron.

  • http://www.adsyou.com/ شقق للبيع في الاردن

    I do have a couple stainless steel with copper bottoms that I use on occasion but still my everyday use is cast iron.

  • Luke Rademacher

    a deep wok is an essential item in my kitchen. I use it to cook almost everything.

  • Luke Rademacher

    as im a coffee snob i especially love my 6cup Moka italian espresso pot. works great over a grill or electric/gas range.

  • Beth

    This is what I keep in my grab & go camping kitchen, which all fits in a picnic basket: a 6 quart stock pot, 12″ frying pan with lid (lid also fits on stock pot), 8″ frying pan, 1 pint stock pot with lid,  4 plates, 4 bowls, 4 coffee mugs, 4 small cups, 4 each forks, spoons, knives, 1 can opener, bottle opener, a spatula, ladle, wooden spoon, kitchen knife, scissors, 1 folding Sterno stove, 4 cans Sterno fuel, 1 box matches, 2 kitchen towels, 2 Brillo-type pads.  Almost everything nests in the large stock pot, with the coffee mugs packed in the corners of the basket, each mug filled with more items and the rest of the small items filling in any empty spaces, with the folding Sterno stove laying on top of everything.

    • Beth

      Oh… I almost forgot… plus a length of clothes line and about a dozen clothes pins!  You have to hang up those wet towels somewhere!

    • anotherkindofdrew

      Sounds like quite a great kitchen Beth. Thank you so much for taking time to comment! Welcome to the r(E)volution!

  • Stacy Ash

    This is a great list. Everyone’s will look a little different depending on what recipes you cook in your kitchen. For me, an omelet pan is a necessity. I have about 5 knives, but find myself constantly going back to the same one. I’m ready to move my big knives to my garage sale pile. Where we are 100% on the same page is the epicurean cutting board. My number one rule is not to keep single use items unless they are frequently used. 
    http://minimalish.blogspot.com/2011/03/getting-rid-of-single-use-items.html

    • anotherkindofdrew

      Thank you so much for commenting on the Tiny r(E)volution. We welcome all voices. So, an omelet pan, huh? Interesting. I would have never thought of that. 

  • Susyn153

    I lived on a 24′ sailboat with 5′ headroom for seven years with my husband. It was shaped like a p-pod with the v shaped berth in the front of the boat, the living area in the middle and the galley under the stairs leading to the cockpit, the boat was only 8′ at the widest part (the beam)  You simply cannot belive the crap you can do without. I have ONE peice of advice for everyone, weather it’s kitchen, bath or living area make ANY object do double duty.    I never had a fridge, running toilet or TV. You simply cannot be a clothes horse on a boat.  You MUST live with the fact that most if not all of your clothes need to fold and fit in a couple of milk crates.  I do need to add that this is Florida and as such you can get away with a nice hoodie and a pair of sweatpants for your winter wardrobe.  I will add that 4 of the 7 years I worked in an office, I only had 4 things that hung up.  I do love the fabrics that you can roll into a ball and they don’t wrinkle.  Sweaters, knits etc don’t need hanging and fold quite well, I only had 5 pairs of shoes, 3 heels (work), one pair of boat shoes and one pair of sandles. Again, everything needs to do double duty, a scarf can make the same outfit look completly different.    I did however have an excellent car stereo system in the boat.   In regards to my galley (kitchen).  I had a cutting board over the sink which was also nearly a 75% of my counterspace.  The sink was tiny with a capitol T and the dishes were 2 mugs, 2 tervis tumblers (double as coffee mugs if we had guests) 4 plates, 4 bowls, one set of silverware for 4 held in a large stainless steel cup that doubled as a mixer cup for the stick blender, spatula, large spoon, stainless tray/large plate (doubled as a serving plate, coffee tray, mirror in a pinch) I had some spices in two of the 8 spice per box camping spice boxes) and one large frypan/1 small frypan, one small alluminum pan for soups etc and one large one, one aluminum coffee pot that was great for cooking spaghetti or anything that needs draining after cooking.  One propane stove and an alcohol stove (that was two burners if I needed it) and one large knife (chef) and a small paring knife.  and last but not least, a pressure cooker to cook things fast and to keep dishes without refrigeration.
    My pantry was stocked with some canned food, some fresh stuff that didn’t need refrigeration.  If I wanted fresh stuff, I would have to purchase ice for the icebox and just planned my meals around a single block of ice a week.  You have a tendency to eat wasa bread, crackers etc twords the end of the week and try to use up fresh bread in the early part of the week.  Same with meat, TVP requires no refrigeration, neither do lentils etc, so use the veggie option at the end of the week.  I did have power, but a generator would have worked just as well or a windmill as it was only used to charge a battery (very large) and the lights and stereo ran off of that.  the cooking used no power, the incinolet used propane (if I remember right) I had a tiny grill of the back of the boat and used tongs for that (essential) You cannot belive the amount of food that really needs no refrigeration that you end up refrigerating, like ketchup, mustard, pickles, olives, hard cheeses, olive oil, all spices,  I am very surprised at how little one needs, The only problem is laundry (need to find a laundry near you or have access to a washer/dryer)  It was a pain doing dishes in the tiny sink so I usually did them in a bucket outside.  You can wash dishes in salt water with joy or dawn detergent and then rinse them in fresh water (large bowl or small bucket or a new unused bug sprayer was my fav method for using very little fresh water) the bug sprayer was a large 3 gallon model that we put black duct tape around and let the sun heat the water, give it a couple of pumps to presurize and you have spray hot water.  I rarely used more than 3 gallons in about 4 days.  My water tank for the rest of the boat and the sink and most of our drinking water was only about 15 gallons.  The propane tanks were only filled every couple of months.  The battery was on a trickle charge (you have to get a special marine battery for this use) They also make fridges that run on propane as well.  The alcohol stove wasn’t for fast cooking but was fantastic to boil water for coffee, cook soups, braise meats, run a pressure cooker (great way to keep leftovers by the way)
    Hope this helps, also I only used papertowels to clean up things that really would be bad. (used aprox one roll per year)  I used old t-shirts (clean) to clean up most messes, and those eco rags for most everythng else.  I will make a note on the power use for the ladies, grow your hair out a bit so that you can air dry it rather than blow dry.  This is not a lifestyle for the high maintenance types.  I did do my toe/fingernails once a week and did not regularly use makeup (a big blessing) 100% of my wardrobe and shoes etc will fit in a single suitcase (if you can pull this off then you are truly living)  We had rent at the slip for 375/month including parking.  We had a LARGE % of disposable income.  Before the boat I lived in a 30′ trailer for nearly a decade, Before that a 16′ trailer for about 7 months, then spain (tiny appartment) so I had prior experience.  My parents home that I grew up in was quite large with 4 bedrooms/5 baths a living room, giant kitchen, den, family room, dining room and the whole cellar/ attic was finished making it 4 floors for 4 people.  90% of the stuff in the house was decorative filler.  

    • http://www.tinyrevolution.us/ anotherkindofdrew

      WOW! Thank you so much for commenting Susyn. So great to hear from you. It is awesome to have people like you as part of the r(E)volution! You hit the nail on the head here: “You simply cannot belive the crap you can do without. I have ONE peice of advice for everyone, weather it’s kitchen, bath or living area make ANY object do double duty.” Preach on!

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000784353475 Katie Pepin

      Susyn, We would love to see photos of your tiny spaces… We all gather great information from sharing ideas with each other.  If you would care to share, I would love to see how you had your set up.  Tiny spaces intrigue me.  Boats in particular!

  • Boatcook ak

    Never put a knife in the dishwasher, unless you like a full knife set. Wash and wipe dry when you finish using them and they will stay sharp for damn near forever. Just a thought.

    • Boatcook Ak

      Correction, “dull” knife set.

  • Pj

    UGH! Never NEVER put knives in the dishwasher.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/jessicarus Jessica Leanne

    My go-to must-have is a stick or “motorboat” blender. I use it for soups, sauces, batters, smoothies… just about everything. I don’t own a regular blender anymore because the stick is so versatile and compact. Most also fit into a widemouth mason jar, so I just blend smoothies directly in the quart jar and take it to go!

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