Organization & decor tips for a small urban kitchen

Dear Friends & Readers,

Many of you living in urban areas have a small kitchen. I, for example live in an apartment and my kitchen, while normal for the New York standards is definitely small for all that I would like to accomplish in it. But a small kitchen should not be the reason why you reach for the chinese takeout menu! You don’t need a kitchen as big as on TV to cook a meal, even a complex one. What you need is a fool proof recipe (and you can see mine here and some organizational tips.

1) Decluttering is key: Look at your kitchen with a critical eye and be ready to purge it of anything that you don’t need. Let’s start with the ingredients: remove all the raw materials that have passed their prime. See that Oysin Sauce you opened 3 months ago? If you haven’t made that recipe again you probably did not like it, so toss the bottle because it is only a waste of space. Anything that has expired should go too because it is not good for you and may even be poisonous. Make a mental note to toss ingredients that have passed their prime before grocery shopping so you can replenish only the supplies that are worth your time and space. For the tools and equipment see item 2 below…

2) Multitaskers only: In the words of Alton Brown don’t ever buy a unitasker, all the tools you have in your kitchen should be able to perform more than one task otherwise toss them! No matter how fun it is to browse stores such as Williams Sonoma and Sur La Table, before you buy anything make sure you can use that tool for more than one purpose. If you are a sucker for kitchen gadgets visualize yourself drowining in a pool of useless kitchen “stuff” – I hear it works wonders to curb your kitchen gadgets addiction.

3) Clean as you go: Cooking a great meal won’t be fun if you have to clean up a huge mess afterwards. One of the pros of having a small kitchen and few kitchen tools and appliances is that to use them again during the same cooking session you will have to wash them. So take this habit, while your onions are caramelizing in the pan, take 2 minutes and wash the cutting board and knife that you used to chop them.

4) Get the right appliances: Pick only the appliances that you can use for your everyday cooking and toss all the rest. The appliances should be multitaskers too so, please, don’t buy an icecream maker that will take up counter space unless you plan to make gelato very often. You can opt for appliances such as the KitchenAid, which has some amazing attachments that will not invade your kitchen but will help you maximizing what you can do with the food processor. Another great multitasker is a Vitamix because it is more than a blender and a food processor. With the latest model you can make soups and gelato very easily and efficiently (I can’t wait to get my hands on one of those and then I can make homemade nutella to feed a battalion).

5) Use all your space: look at your kitchen with a tridimentional approach. Don’t be limited by the counter space – those are just 2 out 3 dimensions. There are pot/pan racks that can be safely attached to the ceiling or the wall. The same applies to glasses and dishes or to the most common vertical structures, wine racks. A friend who lives in Milan in a small apartment in the Navigli Area (which is like saying Milan’s Soho) showed me a great use of space: she anchored a folding table to the wall so she can cook all she wants and then open the table to set the dishes on it. You should use every surface you have even if it is traditionally used for something else. Let’s say that you have a small kitchen sink: you can buy a cutting board that is larger than the kitchen sink and position it on the sink basin when not in use so that you have more space to chop your veggies. If you try this, make sure to buy some of that anti-slip material to avoid the board from slipping. You can glue it to your cutting board in the areas that are in contact with the sink.

I hope these few organizational and decorating tips are useful. Next time we will be talking about appliances/tools that you absolutely need to efficiently cook in a small urban kitchen.