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how to setup a minimalist kitchen part 1 – things to avoid

honey semifreddo-4

I’ve been meaning to write a post about setting up a minimalist kitchen for a while now – actually since I stayed in my fabulous little one bedder in Barcelona last December. But something has been holding me back. The other day I realised what it was. You see, I need to come clean – while I fully embrace the principles of minimalism and have challenged myself to not buy any new stuff for the whole year of 2010, I haven’t been able to actually get rid of all the non-essentials in my kitchen (or my shoe collection for that mattter).

I have had a few clean outs and even sold a few things on ebay but there are still plenty of items I haven’t used in the last month that I have no intention of parting with – yet.

So as the first step in my guide to setting up a minimalist kitchen I thought I’d share the things I have in my kitchen that aren’t minimalist and a list of things to avoid. Next week we’ll get into what I would include in a true minimalist kitchen setup if I was kitting out a kitchen from scratch.

Before I get into list mode, remember that I know that kitchen equipment is a very personal thing. This is just my guideline and its based on the things that I like to cook. So please take this as a starting point and adjust to suit your own preferences.

things to avoid in a minimalist kitchen

1. icecream machine
It’s no secret that I LOVE my icecream machine. But since it’s on its last legs and it’s pretty un-minimalist to own one, I’ve been looking around for good frozen desserts that deliver on the heavenly creamy texture of icecream but don’t need special equipment. Still not ready to part ways but one step closer with my machine-free honey ice cream recipe below.

2. microwave oven
I’ve gone with and without a microwave over the years and I’ve decided that while it can be helpful for defrosting things at the last moment and possibly melting chocolate, that’s not enough to justify all the space they take up. I haven’t had a microwave since November ’08 and haven’t missed it one bit. But if you’re using yours every day by all means give it pride of place.

3. stand mixer
A shiny, red kitchen aid mixer used to be high on my kitchen wish-list. Then I inherited my grandmothers gorgeous, retro sunbeam mix master which only runs at one speed – full blast. I haven’t been able to part with it for sentimental reasons but I am finding myself using it less and less. If I want to whisk egg whites or whip some cream these days I use a simple old whisk and think of it as a chance to give the old arm muscles a work out. For creaming butter and sugar I use the food processor which seems to work fine but probably does lack a little in aeration. If you’re a die hard baker or pavlova maker a stand mixer might be worth the cost and the space but for the rest of us mortals it’s not.

4. knife sets
While they can look totally styling, and it can be handy to have a couple of good knives in the house if there’s more than one of you cooking at a time – there aren’t many people that actually need 7 knives of varying sizes. Save your money and invest in one excellent sharp cooks knife for each cook in the house and spend the rest on a good sharpening system – like the furi fingers. If you’re a fan of rustic sourdough loaves like me, a bread knife is the only other one you’ll need.
This is one area where I’ve always been a minimalist.

5. bread machine
This trend should be well and truly past but I can’t imagine there are many people out there who actually get much use out of their bread machine. If you have an oven and a pair of strong arms to knead you have everything you need to make excellent bread – and it won’t be in a weird square tall loaf shape.

6. rice cooker
OK OK. If you’re cooking rice once a week or more – skip this point. But for the rest of us what’s wrong with a good saucepan with a lid.

7. pasta maker
I am guilty here. I go through phases making pasta but it’s never more than once every few months. If I had my time again I’d be struggling to justify my shiny, Italian designed pasta machine. Fresh pasta is pretty readily available to buy now and it’s not that expensive. If I feel like making ravioli I could always use chinese wanton wrappers or cut down some fresh store bought lasagne sheets to size. And I I really wanted to channel my inner Italian nonna – I could always use a rolling pin or make something designed to be formed by hand like these cute orrechette

8. toasted sandwich press
When I was in college I had a little breville toasted sandwich maker in my room and pretty much used it every day. I found that there was usually something in the uni dining room that could be half edible if put between a couple of slices of bread and given a whirl in the ‘jaffel’ maker. Roasted vegetables were a big favourite. I’d also use it to ‘fry’ an egg on the odd occasion. Since then I’ve hardly used one. If I want to make a toasted sandwich I employ my trusty frying pan and cook one side at a time, squashing down as I go. I find that toasted sandwiches may take a little longer this way but are just as delicious – even a little crispier because the steam is escaping as you cook – not being trapped.

9. any other ‘single purpose’ small appliances
Juicers, deep fryers, hot dog warmers, popcorn makers, milkshake machines, chocolate ‘fountains’. No explanation needed really.

10. wok
I have a lovely heavy cast iron wok that my mum gave me years and years ago that I hardly use but keep it for sentimental reasons. I tend to do my stir frying in my large frying pan because I find the heat transfer better than the wok – I don’t have one of those flashy gas wok burner thingies. Of course if you are cooking lots of Asian food a wok might be a better option than a frying pan.

11. griddle pan
Before I had a BBQ I got myself one of those cool cast iron pans with the ridges in the middle. I know some people swear by them but I always found myself with a kitchen full of smoke waving a tea towel in front of the the fire detector. I’m pretty sure I didn’t use the griddle pan ever again once I had the BBQ option. Sold the poor thing on ebay last year. Great decision.

12. saucepan sets
I have a 3 saucepan set with a matching pasta cooker sized pot and a larger stockpot. Now, I like to make stock and often cook for a huge crowd so can justify the stock pot. I love my pasta pot and it is easily the most used saucepan in the kitchen. But the 3 saucepan set – I only really need one of them – probably the middle child – but it feels weird to be splitting up a family like that. Save yourself the guilt and buy your pots individually.

13. cake tins and tart shells in every shape and size
Along with little ramekin-like pots, and white plates and wine glasses this is probably my weakest link in the minimalist kitchen. I’ll come back to you next week with my thoughts on what a minimalist baker would need but for now I’ll share what I have – this could take a while – 1 large metal muffin tray, 1 large silicon muffin tray (hardly used), 1 cupcake tray (was my Mums), 1 large rectangular tart tin with removable base, 1 26cm round tart tin with removable base, 1 20cm deep tart tin with removable base, 1 round cake cooler, 1 rectangular cake cooler, 8 individual pie tins, 8 medium individual tart tins with removable bases, 16 small individual tart tins with removable bases, 1 20cm springfrom cake tin, 1 x 24cm springform cake tin, a pair of sponge tins, a set of square cake tins in small, medium and large, 1 long skinny loaf tin, 1 fat (actually it’s more big boned) loaf tin, I also have 3 flat baking trays, 2 round ‘piza’ trays and 2 metal high sided roasting trays along with a cast iron enamel le creuset roasting tray that is my latest love.

14. anything that is only to be used on ‘special’ occasions
I grew up with multiple dinner sets and crystal glasses that were only used on a handful of occasions. Life is too short people if it’s good enough for Christmas day it should be good enough for a random rainy Tuesday.

15. mortar & pestle
Call me a mad scientist but I love owning a mortar & pestle as much as I love saying ‘mortar’ and ‘pestle’. The truth is that it mostly holds the matches and doesn’t get used often – it probably averages out to once every two months or so. I might keep it while I ditch my spice grinder (see 17.) when you feel like a home made curry from scratch – there’s nothing as good as a hand bashed curry paste.

16. anything purely ornamental
Useful kitchen equimpent can be beautiful and decorative in its own right – I love my jar of stainless steel utensils sitting on the windowsill. But it’s a working display.

17. a coffee grinder for grinding spices
I know I have raved about the beauty of freshly roasted and ground spices and it’s true – they are more fragrant and flavoursome. But I can’ t remember the last time I roasted and ground my spices. Unless you’re a hardcore curry head I think it’s better to just buy quality preground spices in small amounts so that you’re buying fresh. A big fan of herbies.com.au.

18. toaster
Potentially controversial but I much prefer to toast my bread under the grill so I can toast one side for the warm toasty flavours and leave the other nice and soft. If you’re using your toaster everyday of course it deserves place in your kitchen.

19. expensive coffee machines
They always seem like a good idea at the time but most people I know go through their home barista phase and then realise that part of the joy of coffee is the ritual of going out and getting it made by a professional and their expensive machine sits gathering dust. Although if one lived in the country it would make sense. Which reminds me when I shared a house with an ex-barista in the Barossa years ago. He had the real deal machine and grinder that took up a heap of space but I did get quite addicted to my morning latte and didn’t mind it hogging my bench space at all.

20. oven mitts
Oven mitts are for sissys – use a tea towel.

21. single use utensils
Apple corer, egg frying rings, lemon juicer, nut cracker, strawberry dehuller (no- I didn’t fall for that one) there are thousand upon thousands of little kitchen gadgets that may make life a little easier every now and then but in the scheme of things aren’t worth the clutter.

22. electric carving knife
OK so It has come in handy, but since I’ve been keeping my cooks knife sharp, I’ve found that I usually couldn’t be bothered digging through the drawer to find the blades and the base and put it all together and just use the cooks knife to carve.

23. mandoline
OK I’m not about to throw out my v-slicer because I do use it frequently. But is it essential? definitely not – a sharp knife and a bit of patience will usually do just as good a job.

24. kitchen blowtorch
I LOVE that I have the ability to make a real creme brulee but to be honest I wish it had more power. If I could I’d swap it for a real blokey, full-strength blow torch that I could then use to brown meat and all sorts of things.

25. bamboo steamers
They were cheap. I’ve used them exactly twice since I picked them up in a pork bun steaming frenzy in 2003. I know, it’s time for them to go.

26. multiple sizes of wine glasses
Sure, it can be nicer to drink white wine from a smaller glass, or even go crazy with different shapes for different grape varieties – fun for a restaurant but not essential at home. I’m on the path to having a set of champagne flutes (just because I’m a big sparkling fan and drinking it out of normal wine glasses just isn’t the same) and a set of wine glasses that are on the bigger red wine side but I still have some stray white glasses but their days are numbered. I’m looking at a dozen of each because I sometimes have that many guests but you could just have enough for each wine drinking member of the household.

27. paella pans
They look so cute, but seriously, unless you are Spanish or desperately trying to become so, a large frying pan will do the trick.

28. tajine dishes
I do have a set of three terracotta tajines from Morocco. I did use them until the lid broke of the biggest one. Then I realised that the whole steam-swirling-in-the-conical-lid-and-condensing was a subtle difference I’m not sure I could detect. I now make my tajines in my Le Creuset dish and am happy to keep my tajines in the lounge room as a decoration.

honey semifreddo-2

[5 ingredients]
machine-free honey icecream

serves 6

If you’ve always been a bit disappointed by icy semifreddo and other machine-free frozen desserts I feel your pain. But trust me – even after sitting in the freezer for 24hours this baby is creamy, smooth, soft and seriously good – not an icicle in sight.

Delicious as a desert on it’s own, it would also be brilliant in all those places that icecream works so well – with hot chocolate pudding, apple crumble, bread and butter pudding. Yum. The only thing is that it is quite strongly honey flavoured which is great in most cases but could be a little overpowering as an accompaniment to something like a passionfruit souffle.

When I find a vanilla machine-free icecream that lives up to real icecream texture, i’ll ditch the machine. Until then – enjoy this little treat.

1/2C (180g or 6oz ) honey
300mL (1 1/4C) double (heavy) cream
300mL (1 1/4C) pouring (single) cream

Place honey in a small saucepan and warm over a medium heat until really runny. Remove from the heat. Stir though double cream until smooth.

Whisk cream until it starts to thicken and form soft peaks. Fold whipped cream through the honey mixture and place in a freezer proof container. Freeze until you’re ready to eat – give it at least 4 hours.

For individual portions line 1/2C capacity little glasses, ramekins, or cups with cling wrap and divide mixture between. Freeze for at least 3 hours.

chocolate mousse-2


SBS snippet

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{ 144 comments… add one }
  • xander 7 February, 2012, 11:31 am

    just as a thought- i’ve lived with only a wok and a bamboo steamer for ten years now, in fact, my wok is the only pot i have ever owned. Granted, i’m single, live on my own, but when you think about it, what can’t you cook in stove top that won’t go in a wok?

  • coffee ice cream recipe 9 February, 2012, 6:32 am

    Great blog. Its nice to see that I am not the only one who hates the clutter that come with all the gadgets. I just went to my kitchen and discarded 4 extra oven mitts. I make a lot of ice cream at home. I wrote down some good ones feel free to come by.

  • Bz 12 March, 2012, 1:39 am

    Xander’s wok is the equivalent of my dutch oven. I use it for roasts, braising veggies, cooking rice and steaming by using a pie tin punched with holes that just fits. It’s a three quart Lodge pot & I never even put it away. I can also bake bread in it, ‘tho I haven’t tried it yet. I’m cooking dinner in it right now – braised cauliflower and tomato with steamed corn on the cob.

  • Ezra 15 March, 2012, 12:43 pm

    Nice blog.Upon this information it will helps a lot of people.Many would still searching for this information.

  • Teresa 17 August, 2012, 1:15 am

    As one just starting on the minimalist journey I find some of your ideas, well, extreme. I don’t think the point is to be as minimal as possible, but to remove the excess from life that serves no purpose. For example: removing the refrigerator seems like it would induce a lot of extra work to shop more often! Something that I want to minimize! I agree with removing the one use machines, the multiples, but when I’m cooking I want to have certain tools on hand. I guess the point is that everyone’s lifestyle is different. Thank you for your blog and for making me think.

  • Colette 29 October, 2012, 2:48 pm

    Melbourne rentals being what they are (space at a ridiculous premium) I have an exceptionally cramped kitchen with a built-in behind the sink, housing a washing machine & dryer. For a while, I made like The Vapors and turned Japanese, taking inspiration from the Tokyo cupboard-sized apartment lifestyle. A rice-cooker was a staple at that time.
    Now, a professional espresso machine (kindly gifted from family) engulfs a good third of my bench space and I have to say that the shots I pull are comparable to blend 43. I have to say that its more of a fashion accessory than anything else!
    After reading your entries on minimalism in the kitchen, I’ll be drawing up a purgatorial list and giving my pantry/kitchen an uncompromising spring clean!

    • jules 5 November, 2012, 2:53 pm

      Enjoy the spring clean Colette!

  • Sarai 1 November, 2012, 8:39 am

    I have a bit of confusion on the recipe for the honey ice cream. The directions state: “Place honey in a small saucepan and warm over a medium heat until really runny. Remove from the heat. Stir though double cream until smooth.

    Whisk cream until it starts to thicken and form soft peaks. Fold whipped cream through the honey mixture.”

    Well, I heated the honey and stirred it through the double cream (heavy cream, as it’s labeled in the States). Then you say to whisk cream until it forms peaks and to add it to the honey mixture. I tried whisking the single cream, and it would not form peaks because it was too thin to whip. I tried whisking the honey/double cream mixture, but it also would not form peaks. I tried mixing the single cream with the honey/double cream mixture, and it would still not form peaks because it is so thin. I have a huge bowl full of delicious liquid, but nothing thick. The only way I can understand this is if you meant to mix the honey in with the single cream at first, then whip the double cream, then fold the honey mixture into the whipped double cream. Is that what the directions are meant to say? Help! I feel I’ve wasted a good bit of local honey and pasture-raised cream, since I don’t know what to do with it now.

    • jules 5 November, 2012, 2:47 pm

      Hi Sari

      So sorry for the confusion.

      Heavy cream in the US is what I would call single cream or whipping cream (it usually has 35% milk fat). What we call double cream here in Australia is more like 50% fat (it’s divine!) when I was living in California you couldn’t get double cream except for a specialist cheese store which stocked some cream imported from the UK.

      If your ‘single cream’ isn’t whipping then it doesn’t contain enough fat.

      So I think the problem is with the cream labels – I know it’s confusing.

      If you were brave enough to try again – just use heavy cream for everything and it will work.

      Good luck

      • Sarai 10 November, 2012, 7:03 am

        Thanks, Jules! We ended up with a very sweet ice milk type of drink, which still got consumed :). I think I’ll try it with just heavy cream as you suggested.

        Also, we scraped just a wee bit of vanilla bean into the mix- absolutely delicious!

        • jules 12 November, 2012, 4:29 pm

          So glad it didn’t go to waste Sarai!

  • noboni 8 November, 2012, 6:36 pm

    In our country everyone eat rice 2 times a day. And most of them don’t even own a rice cooker. So rice cooker is not necessary for cooking rice.

    • jules 12 November, 2012, 4:35 pm

      Thanks for sharing Noboni

  • Alison Casey 8 November, 2012, 6:59 pm

    I love the minimalist idea, I don’t have a food processor and only use a fork for all the baking I do. I’m not surprised Russia banned microwaves in the sixties, my great uncle has one from the seventies and I’m pretty sure you’d get badly burnt standing in front of it. They’ve improved the technology slightly since then. I’m putting in a word for the apple slinky maker, my kids use it all the time, and it gets them ready to chop up for muffins or cake. I just made a really creamy banana ice cream thing because I don’t have an ice cream maker and have just started to experiment with that kind of thing. It’s on my blog today.

    • jules 12 November, 2012, 4:35 pm

      Wow Alison
      I didn’t know they banned microwaves in Russia.. there you go :)

  • Patty 11 November, 2012, 2:42 pm

    The one ingredient Banana Ice Cream is really good. Healthy and truly minimal (I like to mix nutella in mine :)
    I use a french press for coffee, I have a plastic one and can have coffee while I am camping.
    My one thing I cant live without is my electric griddle I use it every single day, sometimes twice a day. I am about to ditch the electric griddle and buy a four burner steel griddle for my gas oven the save counter space. I have learned how to cook everything on a griddle ( weird right :P )

    • jules 12 November, 2012, 3:34 pm

      LOVE the idea of nutella in the Banana Ice Cream – thanks for sharing!
      You know since I wrote this list, my Irishman (who isn’t a minimalist) came home with a cast iron griddle pan one day and I do love it.

  • Ian 30 December, 2012, 9:58 pm

    Hi Jules. Thanks for your great site. I was directed here from a US site on Tiny Homes, so obviously the subject of gadget minimization and simple food preparation is a big topic for them. And I’m so glad to find this is an Australian site. No need to try and convert to metric and wonder what the names of ingredients are down here – but obviously for our American friends, they now have to translate our measurement and ingredient names.
    I moved into my new place, and there is just not enough storage. So the old Breville Kitchen Wizz will soon find another home. As will my 30cm Jamie Oliver giant (heavy) whopping wok, which for 1 person is just overkill. I just bought myself a smaller one and it’s far more appropriate and easier to handle. I have a rice cooker but it always seems to want to boil over so have to move the lid slightly off on so that extra steam escapes. It also seems to me that it operates better when it’s full rather than for 1 cup of rice. I do have a slow cooker which gets used some in winter. Also a turbo oven, which although I don’t use often, nor my main oven, is so much easier to clean. Use my micorwave a lot but would like to start cooking fresher. Regarding the Russians and microwaves, I think the health warnings were because they didn’t make them very well, so microwaves leaked out…
    Looking forward to checking out this site more extensively. Thanks for a good start.

    • jules 2 January, 2013, 4:21 pm

      Welcome Ian!
      And thanks for enlightening the Russian microwave situation…
      Good luck in your new small space :)

  • Sophie 11 February, 2013, 12:36 am

    Hello there! First of all I wanted to tell you I liked your article. I think your tips are indeed quite useful when one has a small kitchen. I have read a couple of the comments below and I think it would be useful to remember one of the rules of minimalism: if you DO use it often, if the item is perfect for you and your lifestyle, then it is unquestionably an essential for you. So keep it! :-) My grandmother gave me her bread machine last Christmas because it was collecting dust. I use it at least once a week. It helps me keep an eye on the ingredients we use, and it contributes to our zero-waste lifestyle because we no longer buy bread, pizza dough, and so on. Same for the coffee machine: we are saving loads of money, and sparing ourselves loads of chemicals and refined sugar by making it at home. Thanks for sharing your list with humor! :-)

  • meena 27 February, 2013, 8:27 am

    i enjoyed u r list.too tempted to get lot of kitchen stuffs we rarely use.

  • Susan Belrose 5 February, 2016, 12:57 pm

    Love your ideas. I recently started minimalism lifestyle including my kitchen. First I removed all plastics and replaced with wood and glass, I removed microwave and toaster for toaster oven, love my new simple kitchen!

  • Sean 12 May, 2016, 2:41 am

    Having been cooking for a while, would like to start with some simple tips: what equip. do I need, standard pantry items, simple to follow recipes – not restaurant style, just good solid food. Having just read your Part 1 Set-up Minimalist Kitchen, my hopes are soaring, finally someone gets it. Looking forward to your second part and beyond.
    Well done & Thank-you.

  • Mike 23 June, 2016, 1:52 am

    Nice blog.

    As for the tagines…the old ladies up in the Atlas mountains will tell you to get modern; they use pressure cookers and serve in the tagines (if they need to). A pressure cooker is a useful item but not an essential. I’ve had three studios and they really focus the mind when it comes to essentials. Life’s too short to have a breadmaker (and it’s easier by hand anyway!)

  • Eric Jackson 6 September, 2016, 5:06 pm

    Great article and very easy points mentioned to set up a minimalist kitchen. I would surely follow your ideas while setting up my new kitchen.

  • Jennifer 11 September, 2016, 1:21 pm

    The toaster? The microwave? I just couldn’t….

    • jules 12 September, 2016, 1:57 pm

      It’s only my list Jennifer! Yours will be different :)

  • Karen 7 March, 2017, 3:57 am

    Interesting to read everyone’s ideas about kitchen minimalism. Over the years, I whittled my essentials down to 34 items, not including dishware & utensils. Until recently, I had only one small appliance, an immersible blender, but I was gifted with an electric pressure cooker by a generous relative over the holidays. (It’s a godsend for a vegetarian family who eats beans like they’re going out of style.) The pressure cooker has now earned permanent cabinet space, pushing me up to 35 essentials, which I still think is fairly lean for a hard-working family kitchen. I’d love to have more specialty items, but I have to be choosy to fit everything in.

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