A recession is looming. Rents are skyrocketing. And that means more of us are having to contend with tiny kitchens, sometimes fighting roommates or family members for a slice of countertop large enough to make ourselves a bowl of cereal. Especially if you live in a major city, you know the reality of making it work in a small kitchen. Unfortunately, we do not live in a Friends or Sex and the City economic climate any longer, and as a writer, I can assure you that very few of us are making enough money to forgo the use of our ovens in the name of extra shoe storage.
Don’t get me wrong—I actually love cooking. But when you’re working in a tiny space, making more than a simple pasta dish can seem downright overwhelming. However, I’ve found that having the right appliances (and not having too many of them) makes it easier for me to cook exciting meals that I actually want to eat on the regular. That’s why I’ve rounded up some of my favorite kitchen appliances for small kitchens. Forget your mom’s slow cooker that fits enough soup to feed your whole extended family. These time-efficient tools will make even the smallest kitchens more functional. Of course, these appliances may not work for everyone; it all comes down to how you use your kitchen on a regular basis. However, these are the appliances I’ve personally found to be the most helpful in my small kitchen.
When you have limited space, the last thing you want are several small appliances that only do one job. Those small gadgets take up a lot of room quickly, and they can be difficult to store on already cluttered countertops. This is why I think a multi-cooker is one of the best appliances you can have. Of course, there are products like the Instant Pot and its off-brand cousins, but I also love a tool that includes an air fryer, like the Ninja Speedi Rapid Cooker & Air Fryer. Some of these multi-cookers can be on the larger side, but when you consider that they do the work of several appliances in one, it makes sense to allocate more space to a multi-functional tool.
Okay, hear me out here. If you don’t drink sparkling water on the regular, then a SodaStream might indeed be a waste of space. But if you’re like me and you drink it all the time, having this machine can actually save you quite a bit of space in the kitchen. I used to stock up on canned sparkling water every time I went to the grocery store, and the boxes would occupy an entire corner of my small kitchen. Then there was contending with the pile of recycling I would slowly build up over several days. Using a SodaStream means I’m using less valuable kitchen space and throwing away less aluminum in the process.
Is it tempting to outfit your kitchen with a nice Nespresso machine with all the bells and whistles? Of course. But if you want to make your own coffee at home without losing a quarter of your counter space, you may be better off with a pour-over coffee maker. These small coffee makers can easily be stashed on a shelf when you’re not using them, and they actually make really amazing coffee once you figure out how it’s done. Plus, they’re generally pretty affordable, which is a bonus if you’re on a budget.
If you want to make the most use of your space, do not, I repeat, do not buy a traditional slice toaster. You’re way better off opting for a toaster oven. These machines can generally toast, broil and bake, which means that you don’t even have to turn your oven on when it’s too hot outside. Plus, you’ll still be able to toast those larger pieces of homemade bread without leaving one corner awkwardly hanging out of the toaster. The Breville Smart Oven isn’t exactly cheap, but it does include multiple different functionalities so you don’t have to invest in additional appliances.
You’ve seen it on infomercials for what seems like a century at this point, but I have to admit, my Nutribullet is one of the appliances I use most regularly. It’s substantially smaller than most average-sized blenders, which makes it easy to store in a cabinet instead of on the countertop. Although it may not be the most powerful blender in the world, it’s done pretty much anything I need it to do, from making smoothies to blending my autumnal soups to velvety perfection. You can even drink your smoothie right out of the blending vessel, which means there’s less cleanup to do after your snack.
Samantha Maxwell is a food writer and editor based in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @samseating.