When you show people your kitchen, they ask “Where’s the rest of it?” We get it. If you live in a big city, it’s not uncommon to find kitchens crammed into hallways and former closets. If your kitchen is so small you have to store bread vertically to keep it from sticking out into the living room, then this is the guide for you.
Maybe you’re having trouble fitting your chef’s knives onto your limited counter space. Maybe your beloved Dutch oven sits in the middle of the floor. If so, we have some creative storage solutions and fun-size cookware that WIRED writers have loved and tested. Do you need some inspiration once you have your setup perfected? Don’t forget to check out our other buying guides, including the Best Cookbooks and the Best Pots and Pans.
Updated January 2022: We’ve swapped out the Cooks Standard 36-Inch Pot Rack, which we love, for the Wallniture Lyon rack, since the Cooks Standard is currently out of stock everywhere. We’ve also added the Gneiss Spice magnetic spice jars, Hamilton Beach Mini 3-Cup Food Processor, Le Creuset Small Utensil Crock, Raddish Mini Cooking Tool Set, and Ebern Designs Aliecia hanging fruit basket.
Maximize Storage Space
- Start with pot hanger shelves. Getting those pots and pans onto the wall will free up precious drawer and cabinet space. If you don’t have room for a shelf, a hanging bar will get skillets, saucepans, and woks out of your way.
- Mount a wooden knife bar to your wall. The magnets that grab the knives are hidden beneath the wood, so it’ll be less likely to chip or dull your knife blades than an all-metal bar. Skip the countertop knife block — not only does it take up counter space, it’ll dull the blades of your knives more quickly.
- Wall-mounted spice racks also free up a lot of cabinet space. Buy a bare rack and stock it with good spices, like selections from Burlap & Barrel. Spices are one area where you should spend money; the difference in quality is noticeable. WIRED product reviewer and writer Louryn Strampe sticks magnetic spice jars to her refrigerator. She likes Gneiss Spice, which comes in a ready-made kit. You can also specify the spices you want.
- If you’re low on drawer space, store your cooking utensils in a utensil crock. This Le Creuset Utensil Crock ($ 55) has enough room to hold all your spoons, spatulas, and tongs.
- Hanging fruit baskets mean you won’t need to use precious counter space to store fresh fruit and vegetables. Leave your tomatoes, potatoes, and stone fruit out of the refrigerator.
Consolidate (and Downsize) Your Cookware
- How often do you really use that quesadilla maker or steaming basket? One multicooker can replace a couple of less often used machines. The Instant Pot for ($ 89) is the most famous, but there are other multicookers worth a look.
- A Dutch oven, like this enameled one from Lodge ($ 80), can also replace several single-use pots or machines. I’ve used my Dutch oven to steam oysters, bake cornbread, slow-cook stews, and make barbecue.
- WIRED product reviewer and writer Louryn Strampe makes most of her meals in the Great Jones’ Deep Cut ($ 90), a hybrid pan that’s a cross between a skillet, a frying pan, and a sauté pan. “It doesn’t shine in one area over any other,” she says, “but it’s sturdy, it heats up evenly, and the stainless steel surface cleans up easily in the dishwasher.” WIRED food writer Joe Ray recommends a similar multi-use option from All Clad.
- You don’t need that many knives. Ditch the 10-inch knife set: An 8- or 9-inch chef’s knife, a smaller paring knife, a bread knife, and maybe a pair of specialty blades will suffice. Or consider replacing them all with a general-purpose Chinese caidao. For more information, check out our chef’s knife buying guide.
- If the drawer space is limited, you can even downsize your hand tools. Senior associate reviews editor Adrienne So got a pair of tiny tongs in a mail-order cooking kit for her six-year-old daughter, but she quickly found them useful for everything from flipping sausages to tossing noodles and serving salad at the table in tight confines. “I also use her tiny whisk for salad dressing, her tiny stirring spoon, and her tiny spatula much more often than I’d like to admit,” So says. “Tiny tools forever!”
- Consider a small food processor if you don’t have enough prep space to handle a knife safely. The Hamilton Beach Mini Food Processor ($ 19) can slice and dice up to three cups of ingredients at a time. WIRED product reviewer and writer Medea Giordano has had hers for three years now and particularly loves using it to make fresh pasta sauce.
Add Prep Surfaces
- Cutting boards take up a ton of room when you’re doing meal preparation. Buy one that’s made to fit over your sink, like this Catskill Craftsmen Maple Cutting Board ($ 27). Hardwood, like the maple used here, is easier on your knives than bamboo.
- Mount a drop-leaf table to a nearby wall. The IKEA Bjursta ($ 45) is 3 feet of counter space that swings down and away when not in use.
- Burner covers can add space to your cooktop. Use them to make a place to set down an extra cutting board or utensils. This Prosumer’s Choice Bamboo Workstation ($ 60) can cover half of your stovetop — get two for a continuous flat surface over all four burners.
- Buy a rolling cart. Most tend to be 48 inches long, but if you’re in a tiny kitchen you’ll be better off with 36 inches or less. You can tuck it into a corner of your kitchen-adjacent room and wheel it over when you need more counter space, then roll it away when you’re not using it. Utility carts can also move where you need them to go.
How to Move in the Kitchen
- Here are some tips from WIRED senior writer and product reviewer Scott Gilbertson, who has worked in the restaurant industry for six years and knows his way around tight cooking spaces:
- You don’t need to lay everything out like you’re presenting a cooking show. “I think there’s this notion that you always need to cook via mise en place, where everything is all spread out and ready to go,” Gilbertson says. “Take what you need off the shelf, use it, and put it away.”
- Clean up as you cook. Got a spare minute while you’re waiting for a sauce to reduce in the skillet? Wipe down that counter. Toss out those eggshells. It’s not just a chef’s and line cook’s secret to making cleanup less intimidating and soul-sucking later on. It’ll also cut down on the clutter that builds up by the time you’re finished making your meal.
- If you’re sharing your cramped kitchen, it’s important to communicate whenever one or both of you are handling food, pots, or cooking utensils. Just say “behind” loudly when you’re passing somebody in the kitchen who’s wielding that cleaver or handling that colander of hot pasta.
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