Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Guest Post: Compact Kitchen Necessities

It's no secret that cooking anything in a tiny kitchen presents certain challenges. You have to get a little creative when trying to find a home for that extra large mixing bowl or when the dish you're cooking has a large number of ingredients and you've got nowhere to keep all of them. I've gotten pretty comfortable maneuvering around my 60 square foot kitchen, but there is always room for improvement. The good people at Cookware.com offered to lend a hand to me and my fellow tiny kitchen dwellers on finding some of the most useful items to stock in our cupboards. Here's what they had to say:

Compact Kitchen Necessities

Size matters, when it comes to your kitchen. The luxuries afforded by a large and roomy kitchen are many, from more counter space, to a larger 1.5 - 2 bowl kitchen sink. For those of us living in a smaller space, a smaller kitchen is just something that we have to get used to. As frustrating as it may be, you can't let a compact kitchen hamper your culinary creativity.
By choosing the right cookware, appliances and kitchen accessories, you'll be on your way to whipping up masterpieces in no time. From cookware sets and utensils to space saving countertop appliances - this is your guide to compact kitchen necessities.

Compact Cookware Essentials: While an 8 - 10 piece cookware set might be nice, if you are dealing with a compact kitchen, it's just not practical. You have to account for storage space as well as how much space you have to prepare and cook your food. Purchase a durable 3 - 5 piece cookware set instead. Typically, a 3 - 4 piece set will include a fry pan and saucepan with lids. A 5 piece cookware set might include a Dutch oven as well, though not essential, still is very useful for making soups and stews. Stackable cookware sets are essential to help you maximize your storage space.

Utensil Essentials: Utensils have a tendency to take up a considerable amount of space in the kitchen, so purchasing a pre-packaged utensil set is a good idea. A six-piece utensil set typically includes a spatula, cooking spoon, slotted spoon, ladle, pasta fork and serving tongs. Other utensils you might need could include a whisk, garlic press, and cheese grater. Take into consideration the dishes you make most often and use that as a determining factor in which kinds of utensils you purchase. A utensil crock allows you to keep all of your utensils organized and at your fingertips.

Maximize Your Space: Counter space is likely going to be more valuable in a compact kitchen, so utilizing space saving appliances and accessories is a must.

o Strainer/Colander: An over-the-sink strainer is a great example of a space saving kitchen accessory. While the style you purchase is very much dependent on how wide your sink is, look for a strainer with handles that extend a bit farther than your average strainer. The Expandable Sink Strainer from Polder, for example, features expandable handles to accommodate different sink sizes. It also includes a cutting board, giving you even more bang for your buck.

o Dish Rack: The dish rack is typically one accessory that takes up lot otherwise valuable counter space. Why not opt for a dish rack that fits perfectly inside or outside of your sink? The plastic compact disk rack from SimpleHuman was designed to fit the counter space adjacent to the sink perfectly. This particular dish rack features a pivoting spout which drains the water directly into the sink. It's also small enough that you can fit it inside most sink basins, allowing your dishes to drain overnight.

o Double Duty Appliances: Countertop kitchen appliances are continually evolving with an increasing focus on space saving technology. While some of these may seem a bit wacky, they are very practical! For instance, the Egg & Muffin 2-slice Toaster from Back To Basics is a combination toaster and egg-poacher - perfect for breakfast sandwiches. Sunpentown makes a similar product that actually combines a toaster, griddle and coffee maker, while another model combines a toaster and microwave.

Make use of mixers and food processors with optional attachments designed to make your appliances pull double duty. For instance the Universal Bosch Mixer features an optional food processor attachment for added versatility.
By making a few smart choices, you can get as much out of your compact kitchen as you can out a much larger space. You just need to be wary of how much space you actually have to work with, both counter space and storage space.