I love just about everything about our house, including our small kitchen. While our kitchen is on the littler side there is still room for two of us to work in there and cooking together is one of our favorite things to do as a family. Having a small kitchen does mean that you have to prioritize and conserve your counter space as much as possible. We have really worked at pairing down our kitchen appliances to just what really use. Here is a list of our kitchen "must haves", our "nice to haves" and what we can live without.
At least one really good knife, preferably two. We have more than one knife but we only have two really good ones and they definitely get the most use. Our favorite knifes are our wonderful Santaku that was a wedding present and a small pairing knife. These have very different uses and there are lots of other knifes that are nice to have but we find you can do most of what you need to with just these two.
Emersion blender. If you have a regular blender you probably don't need this. However it is great for saving space in a small kitchen and eliminates the need for a food processor and a blender. The only exception is if you want to make smoothies since it doesn't handle ice well but for most of my blending needs it does just fine.
Mason jars. We use mason jars for pretty much everything. They are kind of a fad right now but there's a good reason for it, they are awesome! They are heat and cold resistant and keep air out so they are great for storage. eric also loves to drink out of them, especially his Scotch out of the teeny ones.
Wooden spoons and spatulas. These are great because they won't ruin your non stick cook ware. If you take care of them they last pretty much forever and they have a million uses. My little girl also likes to bang them on the floor which helps keep her occupied while I cook :-)
Enameled cast iron dutch oven. This is probably the single most used item in our kitchen. It is nonstick, you can cook on a stovetop with it, you can bake in it and it is pretty much invincible. I can't tell you how amazing this piece of cookware is, get one!
Coffee maker. Ok, I know this isn't essential for everyone. But for a sleep deprived new mommy it it sure is! We used to have a French press which we loved for many years but these days I find that it doesn't produce the amount of coffee I want (I tend to sip on it all morning, getting warm ups as needed). We got a cone filter machine a few years ago and love the quality (and quantity!) of coffee it produces.
A decent set of of basic pans. This includes at least one frying pan and a sauce pan with a lid. You really need these for sautéing things and for boiling water.
Nice to Have
Stand mixer. This is really only for someone who bakes a lot like me. I really resisted getting one of these for a long time, they are so big and take up so much room! However I saw one on sale and couldn't resist it and now I am rapidly falling in love with it. It is amazing for making bread and pie crusts!
Silicone baking mat. Again, if you are a baker this is something that will make your life so much easier. It replaces parchment paper so you don't have to buy that anymore. Literally nothing sticks to it, you don't have to worry about greasing your cookie sheet ever again. It's easy to clean and great for all kinds of baking.
Rice cooker. I realize this is a huge indulgence on my part, it's really not hard to cook rice in a pan. However we eat a ton of rice in this family and it is so nice to be able to turn this thing on and then forget about it. We have a small one that we keep in a cabinet when we aren't using it.
Good tupperware. It's great to have a nice set of tupperware for leftovers. If you really want to pair down you can do without and just use mason jars though.
Pot with a strainer lid. We love pasta and this pot makes it super easy. it is also a space saver since you don't have to have a colander handy anymore.
Slow cooker. Any mom will tell you slow cookers are the best! It's awesome to be able to throw you ingredients in a pot in the morning and not think about it again until dinner time. As an added bonus you can cook cheaper cuts of meat and they always turn out tender so it can be a big money saver as well. I use our slow cooker a lot on days when Eric works late. I can have a nice hot meal ready for him when he gets home and I don't have to worry about getting my timing just right.
Microwave. We cut this out of our kitchen years ago, we never miss it at all. Everything can either be warmed up on the stove top or in the oven. It tastes better that way and it really doesn't take that much longer. In my opinion the microwave is the most useless of kitchen appliances.
Toaster. A toaster is only slightly more convenient than an oven. I always just set my oven to broil and stick my bread in for a few minutes, it toasts up nicely and I don't need a special kitchen appliance.
Food processor. If you have an emersion blender you really don't need this. Everything you need cut up you can either cut by hand or use the emersion blender on.
Toaster oven. This is just like a toaster but worse, why does anyone need this?
Bread machine. Personally I am really not a fan of bread machines. To me the bread from them always comes out tasting funny. It's not hard to make bread by hand, it just requires a little patience. And now with all the no knead bread recipes out there you really don't have an excuse to not make bread by hand. it doesn't get any easier than no knead bread.
Popcorn maker. I'll admit that I do have a popcorn maker and I do use it. It's a little easier than making popcorn in a pan but not much. If I had it to do over again I would skip buying this and just do it the old fashioned way.
Special glasses for every kind of drink under the sun. For example, margarita glasses, red and white wine glasses, champagne flutes, martini glasses, the list goes on and on. Regular glasses will do just fine for most drinks. we regularly use our wine glasses and our pint glasses but that's about it.
I realize this list would probably be different for everyone since we all have different cooking priorities but this is how it goes down in our kitchen and we are pretty serious about our food. In an effort to avoid clutter we have pretty much cut out unessential kitchen gadgets. You should try it sometime, you won't believe how nice it is to have the extra counter space!