The minimalist kitchen

The New York Times ran an interesting feature in which food columnist Mark Bittman explained how one could outfit a functional, well-equipped kitchen for less than $300. Even though this article was published in 2007, it is still relevant and helpful.

If you’ll be moving out on your own, you could turn this into a shopping list or a source for ideas for your wedding gift registry. If your kitchen counters and cupboards are overflowing, you might consider using this article as a reality check for the things you already own. If you have all kinds of kitchen accessories you don’t use, and they’re not on this list, you might want to consider getting rid of them.

Particularly interesting is a section at the end of the article where Bittman lists several “inessentials”:

STAND MIXER Unless you’re a baking fanatic, it takes up too much room to justify it. A good whisk or a crummy handheld mixer will do fine.

BONING/FILLETING KNIVES Really? You’re a butcher now? Or a fishmonger? If so, go ahead, by all means. But I haven’t used my boning knife in years. (It’s pretty, though.)

WOK Counterproductive without a good wok station equipped with a high-B.T.U. burner. (There’s a nice setup at Bowery Restaurant Supply for $1,400 if you have the cash and the space.)

However, if an item on this “inessential” list is one that you use regularly (be honest here), or saves you time and effort, by all means keep it.


This post was originally published in May 2007.

16 Comments for “The minimalist kitchen”

  1. posted by Eric on

    Do away with the stand mixer? Try mixing a double-batch of cookies with anything else, and see if that doesn’t change your mind.

    As for the boning knife, nothing debones a chicken breast faster, and besides, does it really take up that much room?

  2. posted by Jennifer on

    *Very* good points. I sell with a well-known home party company that deals with kitchen gadgets… and much of what we sell is just… fluff. I’ve started paring down my kitchen to the true essentials… and it’s just easier to cook now that I can just grab things.

    Everyone’s experience is different, of course, as Eric points out. I don’t make cookies, and I buy my chicken without bones, so even his points don’t apply to me.

  3. posted by Bob on

    That stand mixer makes good homemade mashed potatoes in a jiffy. Not just for baking! We use it all the time.

  4. posted by Adam Snider on

    I’d have to disagree about the wok. I love my wok, and I use it all the time. I don’t have a fancy stove, just the “regular” old range that seems to be standard in every apartment in North America, and it works great with my wok.

    As for the stand-up mixer, yeah, I have no intention of ever owning one of those, unless I end up living with a woman who is a hardcore baker. If you don’t use it frequently, it really is nothing more than a waste of space.

  5. posted by missdona on

    Even if I use it once a year, you can pull my Kitchenaid from my cold dead hands.

  6. posted by Anonymous on

    Don’t touch my KitchenAid stand mixer. It’s cobalt blue, a wedding gift, and the light of my life. (I WILL use it this summer. I will.)

  7. posted by Mugs on

    If you’re de-boning chickens you’re spending WAY too much time in the kitchen. I’m keeping my stand mixer though. Frees up my hands to shoo the kids away from eating the ingredients (eg. the chocolate buttons I need to add next).

  8. posted by Alex Fayle on

    Mr. Bittman is being very subjective. What each person needs in their kitchen is different from what others need.

    A simple way of knowing if you actually use things is to get removable coloured dots and stick one to each of your small appliances and kitchen gadgets. As you use your things, take off the dot (hence why you want to get removable dots).

    After six months look at all the things still with dots and decide if you actually want to keep them or not (some things only get used rarely but are totally worth their storage space).

  9. posted by Ruth on

    Hmm. I’m with the people who say this is a subjective list. Buy any old wooden spoons? Perish the thought! Try mixing cookie dough or cake batter with one that just doesn’t fit right in your hand. I find that if I grab one that’s too long for the bowl I’m using, the end of it starts to dig into my forearm. Ouch!

    I think he’s ignoring the fact that some people have other criteria for kitchen items. Two important factors in my decision making are ease of washing and cooking for one. I live alone. If I’m grating cheese, there’s no way I’m grating enough to justify the hassle of washing the food processor. (You can take my box grater when you pry it from my cold, dead hands!) I’m never doing anything with enough lettuce to justify getting out the salad spinner, using it, and washing it. (I think my salad spinner is next on my list of kitchen items to get rid of.) When I make waffles, which I do from scratch, I’m only using one egg, so a small whisk is much easier for me to deal with than one of the large ones. I often cook something large on the weekend and eat it throughout the week, so I actually do a lot of reheating, hence the essential microwave. (Are there people out there who actually make just the right amount and never have leftovers to reheat?)

    I also think he underestimates the value of nice looking kitchen items. I would much, much rather spend a little more money than have ugly mixing bowls. I don’t want anything ugly coming into my house.

  10. posted by Eric on

    “If you’re de-boning chickens you’re spending WAY too much time in the kitchen. ”

    Suit yourself, but I think it’s worth the savings when I can spend 1/4 the money on the same amount of chicken, as well as getting bones for the stockpot (not ditching that one either, Bittman) With a little bit of practice you should be able to debone a half-breast in less than a minute, so it’s well worth it.

  11. posted by Phil B on

    If I had to have just one pan in my kitchen, it would be my two-handled, steel wok. Just tonight I cooked a stir-fry in it (on a normal gas hob). It’s also been used in its time for stews, rice dishes, steaming, deep-fat-frying, soups…

    Not much good for fried breakfast or pancakes though…

  12. posted by Metrozing on

    So, it seems most of us agree that the mixer & stand will remain. The wok and knives are a bit more controversial.

    As one who deals with prodnography, I can’t resist jumping in with suggestions. Here are “no brainers” regarding uncluttering. Puleeze, add your ideas to my list…

    Ice Cream Makers
    Hangers from the dry cleaner
    Plastic stadium cups
    Sweaters with fuzz balls
    Dried up cans of paint
    Broken VCRs
    Dishes you never use
    Shoes that hurt your feet
    Trophies from your childhood
    Clothes with stains
    Florist’s vases
    Outdated computer equipment
    Outdated video equipment
    Expired coupons, warranties, contracts,
    Expired vitamins and medications
    Junk mail and greeting cards
    Receipts from the grocery store
    Schedules and invitations to past events
    Instructions to items you don’t own anymore
    Business cards from people whose name you don’t recognize
    Photos that you don’t love
    Charity solicitations (only keep the ones you plan on giving to)
    Recipes that are too difficult, too time consuming or too expensive to prepare
    Tourist brochures
    Paperback books that you will never re-read

  13. posted by Mugs on

    A trick I learnt at boarding school was that living with 30 other girls I had 30 times the wardrobe because we circulated our clothes. Why not do that with your kitchen gadgets? I jokingly refer to my stand mixer as the “community mixer” because it is constantly making the rounds of my friends houses, along wtih my (cardboard!) cupcake display stand. This way we can have everything we want, it doesn’t take up bench space and we create a community at the same time. Move along Freecycle – lets get circulating!

  14. posted by Mugs on

    Actually, I like Freecycling too!

  15. posted by angorian on

    I love baking and make bread, cookies, cakes, etc all without a stand mixer. I have no desire to give space in my kitchen to something that I can replace with a pretty mixing bowl and wooden spoon. Also, it’s expensive and annoying to clean. I do, however, love my pint-sized ice cream maker. It takes up very little space and makes it easy to make healthy frozen treats that would otherwise be a lot of work to make at home.

  16. posted by lelak on

    A wok not essential? Surely you jest.

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