Tips for cooking in small kitchens

Aug 5, 2008 at 12:47 p.m. ET

Cooking in small kitchens can be frustrating and, at times, even overwhelming. It may be tempting to eat out to simply avoid the hassle, but cooking in small kitchens can truly be fun. Look on the bright side; at least everything is within easy reach! Before you give up on home cooked meals, read on for ways to optimize your small kitchen space.

Woman in Small Kitchen
Growing up in South Florida, I always had plenty of room to spread out when cooking. My mother, my sister and I could all be in the kitchen at the same time and not get in each other's way. Imagine my despair when I first attempted to cook in my new closet-sized Manhattan apartment! It definitely took some adjusting. To make your cooking easier, here are some tricks and tips I've picked up along the way. And be sure to click on the links throughout the article for great deals on kitchen appliances and gadgets available on the Shopping Channel.

Buy a folding table

A folding table is a great and inexpensive way to immediately add more prep space to your kitchen. Keep a TV table or card table behind the fridge or in a nearby closet and break it out when you need a little extra room to chop or set down ingredients for a large meal. However, be sure the table you buy is sturdy – the last thing you want to do is chop your ingredients on an unstable surface.

Save counter space

Instead of setting all of your nifty appliances on your counter, save room by strategically placing them somewhere else. For example, set the microwave on top of your refrigerator or mount it under the cabinets. Also, get a magnetic knife strip to eliminate the need for a wooden knife block. Invest in a pot rack that hangs from the ceiling or mounts to the wall to give you more cabinet space for things on your counter. Ditch the countertop paper towel holder and use a holder that can be mounted on the wall or in a cabinet.

Buy fresh or frozen pre-sliced or diced ingredients

Though this doesn't increase your counter space, per se, it does eliminate the need to use the counter for chopping. Buying pre-prepped ingredients saves you prep time, and eliminates the hassle of clean-up. Even better, many items come in re-sealable containers, so you can use the leftovers later.

Clean up as you go

This is one of the most efficient ways to improve your cooking experience. Not only will cleaning up - while you cook - make room for more prepping, it will also allow you to reuse bowls, spoons and other utensils that may have otherwise sat in the sink for a while (this means even less clean-up after your meal is eaten).

Invest in small, space-efficient appliances

A George Foreman grill is the ideal appliance for when you are in the mood for grilled food, like hamburgers or chicken, and you don't have room for a grill. In minutes flat, this machine grills meals to perfection, and clean up is a few wipes away. Small kitchens can get very warm, very quickly when you are baking something in the oven. Beat the heat by using a convection toaster oven to make foods like garlic bread, quesadillas and even cookies! (You can also beat the heat with these oven-free entrees and no-bake desserts.) A crockpot is a great investment that will save you a lot of time in the kitchen! Simply add the recipe ingredients to the pot and set the timer. In a few hours, you'll have a slow-cooked meal that tastes like you've been slaving away in the kitchen all day.