Small Appliances You Need in a Kitchenette — According to a Professional Pastry Chef

Lilly Milman

By Lilly Milman

Oct 19, 2023

If you’re moving into an apartment with a smaller kitchen or kitchenette, you may be panicking about the lack of appliances or space. Those worries aren’t unfounded; a lack of storage and counter space can certainly be limiting if you plan on preparing a lot of meals at home, and you probably won’t have room for that panini press, ice cream maker, or juicer. However, as long as you are smart with what you buy and use your space efficiently, it’s totally possible to live out your home-cooking fantasies in an apartment kitchen.

Just ask Emily Laurae Carter, a professional pastry chef and recipe developer who largely works out of her 1,100-square-foot Los Angeles apartment — without a working dishwasher. We asked for her advice on must-have small kitchen appliances based on her experience, on making downsizing decisions for her apartment kitchen, and on her storage solutions.

What are must-have appliances for a small kitchen?

If you are having trouble deciding which kitchen gadgets are necessary and which aren’t, try drawing inspiration from Carter’s list of must-haves.

If you want to bake, get an electric hand mixer.

While it’ll make it slightly more difficult to pretend you’re on Great British Bake-Off with a hand mixer, it’s a much more space-efficient option than a large Kitchenaid stand mixer. Hand mixers are the perfect tool for apartment bakers because they can be easily tucked away once you’re done using them, Carter says. (Plus, they’re much easier to wash — and if you have one with stainless steel beaters, they are dishwasher safe.)

If you are going to get a toaster oven, find one with many different functions.

One of the appliances that Carter can’t live without is her Breville toaster oven. “It's relatively small and it can replace a toaster,” she says, “But not only does it have the toasting capacity, it has seven to eight different options.” It’s a dehydrator, it’s a broiler, it’s a proofer, it’s a convection over. There are many options that are also air fryers, helpful for reheating and bringing life back into once-crispy leftovers. “Having all these different opportunities within one compact kitchen tool has been really helpful for me.”

If a blender takes up too much countertop space, try a food processor.

A food processor has many potential uses: It can chop up veggies for a salad, soups and stews, or other meals, puree frozen fruit to make a smoothie or puree vegetables to make a dip, or even help you whip up a homemade pie crust in minutes. A small blender, while certainly also an option, may struggle with some of these tasks — so in many ways, a small food processor is a more versatile tool.

If you’re a coffee or tea drinker, consider an electric kettle.

For daily coffee drinkers, a standard drip coffee machine seems like a no-brainer, but it can take up a significant amount of counter space. Not to mention, a drip coffee maker or an espresso machine tends to be a large appliance with only one use. If you opt for a pour-over or French press coffee set up and an electric kettle instead, you will have the added benefits of being able to use it to quickly heat up water for coffee or tea (or even cooking, if you hate waiting for water to boil on the stove). Carter loves her narrow Fellow kettle that can be easily tucked away on her counter, and a pour-over coffee maker or a French press can go in a cabinet or on a shelf when not in use.

How do you decide which appliances to keep and which to get rid of when moving?

When she was downsizing to a smaller kitchen in a recent move, Carter developed a system to help her decide which appliances she could part with. She divided all of her appliances into sections based on their functions, and if there were multiple appliances serving one function, she ranked them based on how often she used them. The ones that got used the least were the ones that had to go.

For example, prior to her move, Carter had an Instant Pot (a multi-cooker, that doubles as an electric pressure cooker and slow cooker, among other things), a Crock Pot (a popular slow cooker), and a Dutch oven (which is also perfect for slow cooking on the stovetop and in the oven, and can be used as a vessel to make homemade bread in, among other uses). In this situation, because of its limited use and large size, the Crock Pot had to go. Through this method, Carter was able to whittle down her collection until she had “one core item within each category” and then donate the rest.

How do I create more storage in a small kitchen?

When Carter is apartment hunting, kitchen storage is her priority. However, it’s not always possible to find a kitchen with a lot of storage space in a rented apartment, she says. In those cases, you may need to be a little creative and add your own storage solutions. When she lived in San Francisco, Carter invested in a piece from IKEA’s Knoxhult series, which offers various sizes and styles of modular kitchen units. She bought a smaller piece that matched her kitchen, and the payoff of extra drawers and counter space was well worth it.

Another less pricey solution may be to check Amazon or Wayfair for something like a console table where you can prepare your coffee or breakfast. Or, if you were considering getting a bar cart, try a bar table, which can also double as a food prep space since it is more stable than the cart.

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