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Kitchen Essentials for a Small (Tiny) Kitchen – Tools, Gadgets and More

Do you live in a big city apartment? Or maybe one of those futuristic pod homes?  Then chances are your kitchen is about the size of your closet… it might even be in your closet if you’re one of the really lucky ones :)

Makes me feel better about my kitchen

Look, it’s a kitchen… in a closet!

After having lived in various tiny Manhattan apartments (the smallest one being 311 square feet!) I’ve learned first-hand what you absolutely need in a small kitchen, what’s nice to have and which ones are total a waste of space! You really learn to maximize square inches with the tools, gadgets and bakeware that will do many things and well. So here is a definitive working list of the essential tools that will help you cook your way through most recipes out there! The focus here is quality over quantity and items that are multi-purpose. I would love to hear, what are the kitchen tools that you absolutely can’t live without? What tools are just collecting dust?


Must haves:

  • Nonstick Skillet: your stove top workhorse – handles everything from eggs to meat to grilled cheese!
  • Non-Stick Pot: use it to boil eggs, make soup, cook rice and anything that requires high sides.
  • Small Sauce Pan: use it for…. (duh) sauces, as a double boiler and even to hard boil one or two eggs at a time!


  • A cast-iron skillet: I put this under optional because it’s super heavy, takes up space and I personally rarely make things like steak or a skillet bake at home.
  • Crock pot: Multi-functional, but depending on how you eat this may not have a use in your home – it doesn’t in mine.

Total waste of space:

  • Bread machine: use the no-knead bread and bake in your dutch oven.
  • Rice maker: Seriously people!? Rice is super easy in a non-stick pot!


Must haves:

  • Large Cookie / Baking Sheet: find one that can withstand up to 500 F temperature – use this for pizza, cookies, bread, roasting nuts and even veggies. Get the biggest size your oven can accommodate – you’ll use this bad boy for everything! The back side can be used to cool anything flat – like a toffee or caramel.
  • Dutch Oven: you can make a million things in this including bread (goodbye bread machine)!
  • Casserole Dish: great for casseroles (duh #2) and anything else you’d want to serve in the same dish it was baked in. I also use mine to roast small quantities!


  • Loaf pan: good if you make quick breads often.
  • Jelly roll pan: higher sides than a cookie sheet – you can also use this to roast veggies !
  • Round cake pan: Useful if you make layer cakes often – you’ll need 2.
  • Spring form pan: Make a lot of cheesecakes? Then get one of these.

Total waste of space:

  • Those little single serve / special shaped cocottes – I mean they are adorable but you’ll probably use them once a year and they are a pain to store!


Must have:

  • Large Chef’s Knife: I love my Wusthof 8″ but really wish I had splurged on the 10″ double wide. A good chef’s knife will get you through many situations – if you learn how to wield it correctly it will be good to you. If anybody is looking for an idea of what to buy me for my birthday, look no further than this Wusthof 10-Inch Wide Chef’s Knife
  • Small Paring Knife: a 3″ paring knife will help you slice and dice your way through delicate and smaller jobs – peeling, coring, and splitting.
  • Serrated Knife: unless you don’t eat bread, tomatoes or are otherwise not human, you need a serrated knife. Those jagged blades grip onto softer surfaces and slice right through them.
  • The right cutting boards – a plastic board for meat, poultry and seafood and a wooden board for everything else.

Nice to have:

  • A pizza cutter: you can get by with the chef’s knife but a pizza cutter will slice through pizza, thinner breads (focaccia) and candies.
  • Cheese knife set: versatile and great if you entertain a lot. I default to 3 types of cheese – 1 hard (like manchego or aged cheddar), 1 soft (camembert or brie) and 1 mild crowd pleaser (like a smoked gouda) – set them on a nice wooden board and add grapes, figs and crackers!

Total waste of space:

  • Automatic knife sharpener: if you insist on maintaining your own knifes, get a traditional sharpening steel. Note: despite the misleading names, these products do not sharpen your knives, they only maintain the sharpness if used properly. Have your knives professionally sharpened once a year if you can.


Must have:

  • Can opener: well… how else are you going to open cans?!
  • Corkscrew/beer opener: duh!
  • Strainer or sieve: you can use this for straining solids, liquids, or even for things like tea.

Nice to have:

  • Flour sifter: if you’re a baker, you’ll need one. You can even find a tiny 1-cup flour sifter – that’s what I use and it works great!

Total waste of space:

  • There are millions! I’m thinking!

Gadgets & Other Stuff

Must have:

  • Small Food ProcessorMost of the major appliance makers carry the cutest little food processors. They come in fun colors and the 3-cup sized capacity is good for a lot of projects from hummus to pesto.
  • Silpat or non-stick sheet: great for frequent bakers – so that your food doesn’t stick to the baking sheet. Washable and easy to reuse.

Nice to have:

  • Stick blender: Also called an immersion blender, primarily used to make blended soups and purees. Added bonus: you don’t have to transfer your hot soup to the blender to use it!

Total waste of space:

  • How about those toaster ovens that toast the face of Hello Kitty into your bread. Brilliant but not a necessity!

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{ 9 comments… add one }
  • Angie@Angie's Recipes August 29, 2014, 2:17 pm

    A stand mixer and immersion mixer are absolutely must-haves for me. My ice cream maker has been sitting somewhere in the kitchen..useless I wouldn’t say, but you really don’t need it. Last time I used it was about 3 years ago…Did you forget slow cooker, pressure cooker? I love them. What else do I have? Soya milk maker, dehydrator, bread machine…and too many baking pans.

    • Ahu Shahrabani August 29, 2014, 2:39 pm

      I agree with the immersion blender ! I have it in under ‘stick blender’ – but I always thought I make more soups/ purees than the average person. Lol @ the ice cream maker! Good point on the pressure cooker! Never heard of a milk maker – off to google! :)

  • Fae's Twist & Tango August 29, 2014, 11:35 pm

    Wow, this is the smallest, cutest kitchen I have ever seen. Does it have enough cupboard space to even store the must-haves? This post reminded me of the program on HGTV called Small Space. This list is useful even for the people with a little bigger kitchens. :)

    • Ahu Shahrabani August 30, 2014, 8:00 am

      Haha, luckily it’s not mine but I’ve seen many like it! I guess most people in NYC don’t really cook :) That show sounds right up my alley, I have to check it out. Merci Fae jan!!!

  • Sippitysup August 31, 2014, 9:33 am

    We kept an apartment in in NYC and a house in Los Angeles for many years. In 2001 we decided to live full time in Los Angeles. It sounds silly but I never mastered cooking in a small kitchen, so the kitchen was one of the main reasons we finally gave up our apartment in the West Village. Well that and the weather! GREG

  • David Scott Allen August 31, 2014, 12:03 pm

    Agreed. Agreed. Agreed. Agreed. Agreed. Beg to differ. I need a full size food processor. I would find space. :) I think we all have way too many specialized gadgets (glad Markipedia is not reading this), and your list is perfect. In fact, I am sharing it with a friend – especially about the knife needs. She was going to buy a jillion-dollar set of knives and and assured her that she only needs three – the three you mentioned! xox

  • Laura Dembowski August 31, 2014, 3:48 pm

    I could not deal with a kitchen that small. I am so not a New Yorker! I totally agree with some of your suggestions, but I find I don’t have a need or desire for others. I always use my stainless steel skillet and don’t have a non-stick one. I also don’t have a strainer! It seems like such a pain to use. But we all have different methods in the kitchen and that’s awesome :)

  • TiffanyK September 12, 2014, 12:25 pm

    After living for years in a tiny city apartment we learned that one of the BEST things for space saving was our dish strainer which hung right over our sink. Wash dishes by hand, put in strainer above sink, no counter space wasted and you can still use your sink (the inside sink dish strainer worked for only a short time until I realized how annoying it was to be unable to use the sink unless I moved the clean/almost dry dishes out). IKEA sells the one we used and loved (http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/20213835/). When we moved out to our now bigger kitchen we left it behind for the new tenants.

    • Ahu Shahrabani September 12, 2014, 8:05 pm

      This is a great tip, thank you! I’m going to see if it’s compatible in my new apartment!

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