Deb Perelman launched her Smitten Kitchen empire from the 80-square-foot corner of her New York apartment that she calls a kitchen.
But New York City isn’t the only city in the world with kitchens no bigger than a closet.
From people living in micro-apartments to those working in a handful of restaurant kitchens whose size would surprise its faithful patrons, cooking in a small space isn’t just a virtue – it’s a necessity.
A small kitchen, either at a restaurant or at home, forces you to shop and cook efficiently, according to Texas chefs Albert Gonzalez and John Lichtenberger.
Without walk-in coolers, they have to order deliveries of produce, meat and dairy nearly every day, lending a freshness to the ingredients that restaurants with cavernous cold storage and an inattentive staff might not have.
“With big fridges, you feel like you have to fill it up,” Lichtenberger says. (Imagine the slimy, smelly horrors that Gordon Ramsay finds in those huge walk-in coolers in his show, “Kitchen Nightmares.”)
Having ingredients delivered fresh seven days a week doesn’t make sense for a home cook, but without much storage space, shopping more often is a necessity.
Paying close attention to what you buy and use can mean a cook with a 100-foot kitchen will waste far less food than someone with a cooking space the size of a small apartment.
When you’re planning your own meals or hosting a party, know every item you’re going to need and prep and cook as much as you can ahead of time.
Lichtenberger recommends making a one-dish entree that can be baked in the oven. Here are other tips:
Keep surfaces clear of clutter, including the sink. Even a toaster on a counter will make you feel like you have less space than you really have. Use as few dishes as possible, and clean them as you cook.
Edit, edit, edit. If you haven’t used a piece of equipment or a gadget in a year, get rid of it. Buy bowls, spoons and tools that have multiple uses.
Go vertical. Racks and magnetic knife strips can free drawer and shelf space, but you can also get taller cabinets or shelving on top of your current ones. Stacking containers for flour, sugar, rice, pasta and beans can also help. Hang spice racks inside the doors of your cabinets or pantry, if you have one.
Be choosy about appliances, and keep only those you use. A Kitchen Aid with the right attachments can take the place of a pasta maker and juicer, and you probably don’t need both a blender and a food processor.
Shop often and plan ahead. Meal planning doesn’t always work for everyone, but it’s even more important if you’re working with very little space.