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

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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  • ooh, i love honey! i tried to make coconut+cherry icecream last year without an icecream machine and it froze into one very solid, icy chunk. it was a delicious chunk, but still… a chunk. using coconut cream was still too far too watery to freeze and to hope for a creamy, soft texture. however, nigella lawson swears by adding a splash of alcohol to her non-fussy icecreams. because it alters the freezing point of the cream mixture, it tends to stay softer and creamier even without churning in a machine. i’m still keen on the honey idea, though!

  • I usually adore you Jules, and I appreciate your minimalism, but I have to say that over half the things on the list I feel extremely attached to and have revolutionized my life! I really have to disagree here. Especially if you give away your spice grinder AND mortar and pestle simultaneously. I love both and grind spices, mash up garlic, make pastes, etc and the mortar and pestle is the most minimalistic thing I can think of. It dates back to ancient times in many cultures.

    As for the stand mixer, I love it. It’s not very minimalistic, no, but I bake at least once a week. And I love the meat grinder/sausage stuffer which my fiance gave me for Valentine’s Day last year (how romantic).

    Even so, I understand your point and appreciate your cutting back. It’s so easy to think you need everything when people have been cooking for thousands of years with nothing more than a knife, spoon and pot. And the ice cream looks lovely.

  • Oh I must have an anti minimalist kitchen. I am a serial offender scoring 19 taboo items off your list. Oh well I love them all and cannot pat with them. I do promise though to not buy too much more stuff.

  • I had a quick question about the honey ice cream recipe… It says 5 ingredients at the top, but there are only three listed. Is there something missing? I just wanted to be sure, because I am so making this soon! I’ve been craving honey ice cream since I first tasted it in Germany, but haven’t been able to find it where I am in the US. Thanks for the recipe!

  • It’s funny I was thinking of this same thing just yesterday. A kitchen really doesn’t need so many things in it to produce some wonderful and tasty meals. Why is my kitchen minimalist? As my youngest likes to take everything out, and scatter them throughout while playing. The bread maker however, I use that one 2nd daily :-)

  • My stand mixer was in repair for a couple months – didn’t stop me from baking bread. My kneading skills improved, and probably lost a couple pounds from the exercise to boot! Thank you for the machine-free honey ice cream recipe. I don’t have an ice cream machine and cannot afford to add yet another small appliance in my not so big kitchen. Can’t wait to try it!

  • Fabulous post, Jules. Really enjoyed reading it and definitely identified with a few of your points. Love my mortar and pestle though. Working on the other half to get rid of the microwave. Your story gives me evidence that it can be done!

  • Not sure if I agree with you, I own a breadbaking machine and I love it. From time to time we make a nice ruccola bread from mix we buy in the supermarket for 2euro.

    I don’t own many of the other things, hell I don’t have things like shoe collections ;) I don’t even have a bed to sleep on, just a mattress in the corner of my floorspace. But the bread baking machine will stay! :D
    I don’t own a mortar and pestle, I see that as a luxury as I cut my herbs ( pesto) with a knife and just not make it as small as possible as a mortar and pestle. But I think that that is a basic tool and would be good to have. Things like electric knives or all kind of sets and whatnot is defenitly unnecessary.

    Looking forward to read nice recipes!

  • Yeah! A good knife, decent pan, big pot, small pot, strainer, cutting board and whisk can do 90% of what you need in the kitchen.

    My wok gets a lot of use but when Melbourne had it’s gas crisis years ago I discovered you could do most things in an electric fry pan, including a decent stir fry. I really struggled with accepting that fact! Most home cooktops don’t get hot enough for a wok to give the food the smoky edge you get from a good Asian restaurant.

  • Hey Jules
    My name is Rob and I am an alc…Kitchen Hoarder
    We currently have 4 vintage mixmasters on display in our kitchen along with a nice new Kitchenaid stand mixer.
    However for a few extra $$ you can get an icecream bowl for the Kitchenaid ( just pop it in the freezer the night before your icecream escapades) and kill two birds with one stone

  • You’ve made your point with a number of electric doo dads, but — sacking a morter and pestal? I’m with Elizabeth and Erin — barbaric! (Actually, that’s just what these time-honored tools are. How else to grind sea salt and pepper corns?)

  • it’s amazing what we can do without in the kitchen if you think about it. i have hardly any food processing things/gadgets. i generally avoid buying single use appliances as they are mostly used once or twice and then left to gather dust. :-)

  • I confess that I have not got a minimalist kitchen – although I don’t have quite everything on your list.. I have never had an icecream maker however, but I have a recipe for vanilla icecream which is incredible – it’s a longish recipe (would not fit into your 5 ingredients, 10 mins..) but I can email it to you (is too long for a comment I fear) if you’d like. I’ve never had a stand mixer – but have a hand held one as we love meringue and I don’t have the patience of my grandma who would beat eggs on a plate with a fork!! And I drink wine out of tumblers rather than wine glasses – just to pretend I’m in the south of France you know! Does that make up for the rice cooker/griddle pan?? (oh, and as for oven mitts, I agree in principle, but oven mitts make the best crocodile jaws – just ask the kids!). :-)

  • Awesome post! I rant about this very topic at least once a week :) I refuse to buy anything called a “something”-maker.

    The only thing on your list that I’m attached to is my bamboo steamer, I use it about 3 times a week.

    It killed me to have to buy a new electric benchtop oven this week. The place I just started renting has a bung oven and I realised that it would be better for a singly to be cooking with a smaller oven anyway. I don’t have a microwave, and I don’t ever want one.

    Spot on with the coffee theory too.

  • Great list! I notice that in almost every comment above, if there has been an objection, it has been to a different item, so in general it’s a list most people mostly agree with.

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. I’m young and cook a lot and will probably be getting married within the next 18 months. I’ve cobbled together a kitchen as most young people do, though through saving and well-placed birthday wishes also have some big-ticket kitchen items like a KitchenAid mixer, a Vitamix (definitely not an essential in an everyday kitchen but I use mine so. much.), a good cook’s knife, and so on. With the whole wedding registry thing in mind I’ve been analyzing my cooking habits and trying to figure out which high-quality tools I am missing and which I will never have to ask for, many of which are on your list.

    I will say, though, that I love my cherry pitter. However, I only use it during cherry season, so maybe it deserves to stay with the canning equipment in the garage rather than in a kitchen drawer.

  • Great post!!! I lusted far and then got a big stand mixer for christmas this year, and now I’m like “gosh, this thing is HUGE, Do I really need this big of a contraption to mix up a batch of cookies.” I try to keep things simple and minimalist, but sometimes I just plain forget!

  • Fantastic post! Wow, I’m glad to see we are not the only crazy one’s moving away from kitchen appliance gadgets. What size knife (blade length) do you have for your all-around uses? We have found that about a 4 inch knife blade works great for everything. Any bigger than that and we have a hard time using it as a pairing knife and any smaller we have difficulty chopping.


  • Finally! I’ve been waiting for an ice cream recipe that does not need a machine for a long long time. I also don’t like 1-purpose gadgets in the kitchen, and I pretty much agree with your list, except the microwave – I could not give mine up!
    By the way, what is a “single” cream? I never heard this one before. Is it like half and half?

  • our microwave gets a ridiculous amount of use and I am constantly wishing I had more than the 3 saucepans and stockpot set (well I do but I love my set) – I am no minimalist – love my display shelves above my bench where things I don’t use much go – they are just so beautiful but I think having a small kitchen/house means that I have to limit my intake – in fact I have been swithering over buying a wok but I just don’t know I can find the space

  • wow – thanks for the comments everyone – and sharing your kitchen equipment preferences. I guess you’ve proved that both kitchen equipment and what people think of as minimalist is a very personal thing. one persons kitchen treasure is another persons kitchen trash.

    cooking rookie – single cream is just normal pouring cream about 30% milk fat.

    logan – I think my knife is about 20cm which is about 8in

    courtney – thanks for asking the question – the isn’t anything missing in the icecream – the 5 ingredients should probably say 5 ingredients or less.

  • love your post Jules; I just did a clean out of my essential second drawer of tools and gadgets. I have two of most things, the result of two individuals coming together, and have been feeling the need to de-clutter my kitchen too

  • Wow, I don’t have any item from the list.

    A few moths ago I moved into a new empty flat. I was a little short of money for the first moth and thanks to that I realised, how many stuff I don’t really need…

  • Hehe I absolutely agree with you on things like microwave oven and stand mixer! We have a small kitchen so we have to think twice every time we decide to buy a new frying pan even!
    I’d love to try your ice-cream recipe this weekend (as I don’t have an ice cream machine), but if you say single cream is 30% fat, than what is heavy cream?! Is it like eh, butter? O_o I actually thought single cream was 10% and double was like 30-35% :D do you think I could try making this ice-cream with 35% cream only?

  • hey alina
    In australia single cream is 30 or 35% milk fat and double or heavy cream is 45 or 48%. and butter is around 80%. sorry for making this confusing – am sure it would be fine with 35% cream only – just might not be as creamy – let me know how you go if you do make it.

  • I’m very new to this minimalist thing so some of your post freaked me out :) but I also thoroughly enjoyed it. I need to give away some of my cake tins, tart pans, etc….but that will be a good test because I know it will be hard. I think I can separate with my dehydrator. I have my arms wrapped tightly around my ice cream maker right now!

  • I have exactly half of the list in my kitchen. But knowing my appliance addiction ways, I will probably end up with all of them at some point. I make up for it with being minimalist with the rest of the house (kind of :), ok, not really). Anyway, your photos are gorgeous and the recipe is very tempting (I don’t have an icecream maker but I am actively coveting them :)

  • Electric knife…. well, if you can a lot, and plan on doing 400 ears of corn at a time, the electric knife sure saves on the hand pain – especially on us older folks :) It also is good for carving poultry and roasts up for canning :) Yes, you can do it with a good knife, but those with wrists and repetitive moment issues would prefer the electric knife :)

  • hey alina

    In australia single cream is 30 or 35% milk fat and double or heavy cream is 45 or 48%. and butter is around 80%. sorry for making this confusing – am sure it would be fine with 35% cream only – just might not be as creamy – let me know how you go if you do make it.

  • Oh i’m excited to try this out! I dont have an ice cream maker and this looks simple and delicious. Plus I’ve been obsessed with honey ice cream lately

  • I find this post very funny as I am reminded of my own quirks of items I can’t/don’t want to get rid of in the kitchen. I even wrote a blog post of my 3 crockpots, how they are like children, you really can’t pick your favorite one! Yes I still own 3, but I may be willing to get rid of 1. I promise!

  • I’m with you on the griddle pan! I waste too much water washing the thing after cooking a simple steak. Too much grit gets stuck in the grooves!

  • Oh Jules I just wanted to say thank you so much for this amazing recipe – I did try it today (with 35% cream) and I can’t believe my eyes – it really looks and tastes like ice-cream!.. I’m going to post some pictures of my ice-cream with a link to your recipe tomorrow so that everyone can try it! Thank you!!

  • I am now going to hide this post from my husband as he thinks I have too many things in my kitchen. I can’t seem to part with even the stuff that I hardly use! It’s the hoarder in me! :)… maybe you can instead give us a list of what should be in a minimalist kitchen rather than what we should do with out? :)

  • Not sure I agree with #20. If you have a tea towel to use as an oven mitt, you can’t dry anything on it, because a damp tea towel on a hot surface means you will instantly burn your fingers. And if you can’t use the designated towel as a towel, for heaven’s sakes, why not just own a mitt? :)

  • I enjoyed this list, a lot. And there were a few things on there that I would never part with (Vita-Mix for grinding onions/garlic/ginger and spice grinder, hello, I’m of Indian/Paki descent… you may as well ask me to get rid of my STOVE, heh), I do get the subtext and general idea. The idea is to rid ourselves of the things that aren’t actively contributing to our cooking on a consistent basis, and this is def. essential to simplification. And, not to sound horribly judgmental, but I’ve always found the whole idea of a device aimed at coring an apple absolutely hilarious. I mean, what’s the matter with using a plain old knife? It’s not brain surgery… it’s *coring an apple*. :)

  • I love this list. In the last month I have been doing a major declutter in the kitchen and have got rid of, well, most of the objects on your list as it happens! I’ve also put a box of casserole dishes and salad bowls away so I can ‘shop’ from those as the ones I have break … only a few though as I had probably 20 … the legacy of our wedding! I am a breadmaker addict though, I use mind a couple of times a week and have for five years!

  • I have to say, being a regular cake maker and designated dinner cook, I might agree with some of the things on your list being ‘pointless’, but certainly not all of them :) Still, it’s good to pause and think hard before buying anything that might potentially clutter your kitchen. I for one hardly ever use my blender!

  • Best investment was a Hamilton Beach crock pot/slow cooker. Beans, tempeh, vegs, grains cook on a gentle slow temp, sometimes overnight, or all day while at work. Has 3 settings, and often cook on warming temperature. Convenient and maintains integrity of food.

  • I really loved the list!
    There is such a lot of stuff you don’t need:
    Icecream maker – place your thickest pot (not iron) in the freezer and churn the icecream around with a large spoon – works every time. (Or you can just leave it outside in the snow ;) – remember the lid or make the cats happy)
    Pasta machine – washed winebottle filled w icecold water and corked or just your average cake pin (not roller???)
    We only own two sharp knives, one is sawtoothed for bread. We chop everything by hand. It is nice and quiet and you get everything the way you want it.
    I’ve never owned a wok. We still wok once a week in a large cast iron pot that we use for everything. It is 25 years old.
    As my children are approaching college age, I plan to never ever again buy a kitchen utensil, but then, I tend to be wrong ;)

  • Like everything else, this list is a matter of personal preference. I cook a lot of Asian food, and could not live without a wok or a my big granite mortar & pestle. And while I could live without a rice cooker, having one both frees up a burner on the stove, and saves gas. I use it at least 5x a week to make rice, and it is fab-u-lous, and I love it. I’d give up almost anything in my kitchen before my wok and m&p though – making Thai curries from scratch without them would be a disaster. And I use my small mortar & pestle to crush garlic (now there’s a specialized item no one needs – a garlic press), grind pepper, pulverize ginger, etc.

    On the other hand, I don’t own – and never will – a food processor. I can use my knives for most everything I’d need it for, and a blender or the m&p’s for the rest. The mortar & pestle is in fact the original food processor.

  • Oh – an a coffee grinder to grind spices. I use mine literally almost every day. I buy spices whole from the Indian store, and grind them to make my ground masalas. It’s way cheaper and fresher than buying ground spices.

    I think the list is a bit western-centric, no? Anyone who cooks a lot of Indian or Asian food would use several things on this list very heavily.

  • You lost me at bread machine. I think I could give up the rice cooker before the bread machine.

    I mean, sure I could make bread the old fashioned way. But the bread machine means I go to bed and when I wake up, it’s done. Or I set it up before I go to work, and when I come home, it’s done. We love bread, and with two working parents and a kid…yeah. I think I could give up the crock pot before the bread machine.

    I never use a stand mixer (but my hubby does), and I love the spice grinder for flax seeds…

  • Number 20 did me in – it should have read “Oven mitts are for clumsies”. I can’t remember how many times I burned myself using tea towels, until I finally caved and bought oven mitts.

    Good list though!

  • I live in dorm-style housing at the Grand Canyon National Park. I have “NO” kitchen at all…so whatever cookware people use in an oven or on a rangetop are un-needed by me.
    I get to prepare my meals with a crockpot, rice cooker, juicer & microwave.

    I do own 4 coffee-mugs though, but 1 of them is used to hold all my pens/markers

  • I use the dough setting on my bread machine and bake it in the oven. I have two reasons for keeping the bread machine. 1. A coworker gave me the bread machine because she didn’t use it. 2. I have three small children so kneading dough for ten minutes is nearly impossible for me!!!
    Thanks for the ice cream recipe I can’t wait to share that with my family.

  • I have to disagree with you on the coffee machine, but that’s because I am actually a barista. Also it has saved me sooo much money.

    I used to cook so many things on my sandwich press but not so much now. It’s on its last legs as a result.

    I have a popcorn maker and a pasta maker. Both hardly ever get used and I really should get rid of them…

  • [enabler alert!] On the mortar/pestle subject, you *do* kind of need someplace to keep the matches, right? So why not something you find so appealing and, who knows, *might* actually use someday?

  • Good list – enjoyed reading … though I love my snazzy oven mits and surprisingly I LOVE my strawberry dehuller!!! When I just cut the green leaves off for my kiddos .. I waste strawberry by cutting some of the top .. when I use my huller then it gets ONLY the leaves .. and I’m left with more strawberry to eat .. so I think it’s a great little gadget to have in a kitchen! :-)

  • Excellent list, but you’ll pry my big, red Kitchenaid mixer from my cold, dead fingers!

  • I have a rice cooker and a coffee machine but I use them both a lot. Until I moved a few months ago, I lived in places with NO oven. I have also noticed that the more cupboards you have in the kitchen, the more you feel the need to fill them up!

  • The rice cooker has to be my most minimalist appliance, I use it multiple times a week to cook white and brown rice, quinoa, millet, amaranth and breakfast porridge! What’s so minimalist about it is that unlike the saucepan with lid, it never ever boils over, so there’s no stove clean up and the device cleans up super quickly too. It allows for a lot of quick and easy cooking from scratch. You can’t get more minimalist than that.

  • I’m coming into this quite late, but a pretty darn enjoyable machine-free vanilla ice cream is Molly Wizenberg’s Vanilla Black-Pepper Ice Cream in her book A Homemade Life. It also has directions for those lucky enough to own an ice cream maker, too ; ). I made it without a machine and found it to have a texture that’s a mix between hard ice cream and custard. (Rather solid, but with a smooth, custard base).

  • I must agree with elizabeth. The rice cooker is a seminal part of the minimalist kitchen. My kitchen is so small I have to use a vanity for extra counter space, that being said, I will always make room for my rice cooker.

  • I have to say that many of your items listed I find quite necessary in my kitchen. My rice cooker, several different sizes of pots, oven mitts( I’m still suffering from a burn from using a tea towel), bread machine(only used on the dough cycle), strawberry dehuller are all priceless items in my kitchen. I have the steamers I could pass on. They were a purchase inspired by my Taiwanese friends that made the most delicious food in their steamer. My mortar and pestle (I have two) have hardly ever been used. And thankfully, I have not had a microwave for many years. Did you know that in the sixties, they were outlawed in Russia because of how dangerous they are. I would love to scale down on my kitchen gadgets but find that I use almost everything I own.

  • I agree with most of those points but there is no way I’d lose the oven mitts! Call me a sissy but I didn’t use them this one time and it took two week before I could use my mouse hand again for regular net surfing… Darned blisters.

    A good write up though, thanks for sharing!


  • It never ceases to amaze me how different everyone’s minimalist list is! Obviously, we all have different styles – but I find the oven mitts one funny. Hahaha! Our towels have never been thick enough, but to each his own. I don’t think two oven mitts is gonna kill me either.

    And a rice cooker is a necessity for us – a saucepan? Yeah, recipe for disaster in my house. We gave up and bought those dumb boil-in bags of rice. Rice cooker is still better than that.

    Slow cookers? Yeah, I hate those. With a passion.

    We also have a popcorn popper. Wouldn’t give it up. Cost something like $10, and it’s used 5x’s a week. I’d say a keeper.

    We have a microwave, but it’s built-in & we rent. so, it’s kind of stuck there. At least it isn’t taking counter space!

  • I don’t really need a rice cooker, lived without for a long time. However, they do save time and energy, which is the reason I purchased one in the first place.

  • You had me until popcorn popper… One thing i took away from my “Serious Home Theater” days was a commercial type 8oz popper wit a heated tray… is it overkill? DEFINITELY but i LOVE popcorn, and this thing makes it awesome… ANd if i feel like being super-unhealthy, I can use coconut oil and flavacol and clarified butter..

    My Kitchenaid would not be happy with the list, being red and covered in chrome flames, but sadly I must attest that it sits in the closet with about 5 other things that get no use… including my ice cream maker lol

    Great list!

  • dave
    if you love your popcorn popper than that’s the main thing.
    you know it’s not the butter and coconut oil that’s unhealthy, it’s the corn…

  • Totally disagree with the stand mixer. But I LOVE my stand mixer. If I’m able to have it out (in a flux period so everything is packed :( ) then I use it daily.
    Plus…. kitchen aid mixers have pasta maker, and icecream maker attatchemnts… plus juicer attachments, grinder, stuffer… etc. etc…
    I think they are totally worth the space, because you can have all your “toys” and use less space :D but I’m also a baker…

  • I hate the great hole in the bottom of the bread when using the breade machine so I let the machine run ’til it it knocks the dough one last time. Then i put it into an old (black) bread tin, place it into the oven on about 60 degrees and watch til it reaches the lip, then turn the oven to 220 for 30 minutes. Works a treat, the colour of the crust is better – and NO HOLE in the bread. Oh, I spray it with water just before turnng up the oven heat.

  • Loved the list – especially the comment about the paella pans had me in fits of laughter.
    I recently was forced into a minimalist kitchen when I emigrated to the otherside of the globe to be with my fiance – where kitchen equipment is either astronomical in price or just not available. I had a 60kg luggage allowance and so I had to focus on my ‘essentials’.
    Crock pot
    Elec hand blender
    Wet-dry grinder
    9inch spring action cake tin
    8-inch sandwich pan x2
    Quiche tins – 2 sizes – x2 each
    Baking tray
    Roasting tin
    Pyrex dish – rectangle – 2 different sizes with plastic lids for food storage
    Pyrex bows with lids – 2 different sizes
    Knife block – ok so I was naive on this one – see comment below
    Salad spinner – We eat a lot of herbs and salad in my family which we grow ourselves – life is too short to be drying them with a tea towel.
    3 wooden spoons (different lengths).
    2 plastic spatulas
    1 palette knife
    2 ladels (one small and one large)
    1 slotted giant flat spoon (for skimming and serving rice)
    giant deep frying pan
    3 pots – various sizes – medium, large, extra-large
    Can opener
    Peeler – yes people say use a paring knife – I seem to be incapable
    Espresso stove top pot – no idea why I took it – but glad I did – saves oodles of space compared to those fancy machines and the coffee is just divine from it.

    Dining-ware I just bought when I came here – much to my heartache – thought about ‘shipping’ but the cost-benefit analysis just didn’t add up.

    Different cooking styles definitely warrant different ‘essentials’. As a middle-eastern you’d think a rice cooker should have pride of place in my kitchen. My husband was eager for one. My in-laws bought us one as a house-warming present. My parents kept trying to thrust me rice-cookers in different capacities throughout my life – counselling me about their essential nature. I still steam my rice on the stove top on a low heat. Perfect each time. Rice cooker currently gathers dust on top of the kitchen shelves. Can’t throw it out – would offend the in-laws.
    Agree with you on the knife block – Out of a 16 piece set – I use 3 daily.
    My crock-pot however, I wouldn’t part with – mainly because I’m a lazy cook who refuses to eat ready-made shop bought food. So I prepare it all the night before, and switch on my pot in the morning and have yummy food awaiting my return.
    Disagree with the pan set, agree with the microwave (although I now own one after 10 years – husband’s wedding present to self), toaster, elec knife, tagine set and oven mits.
    Still hankering after a kitchen-aid and the elusive icecream maker though. I wouldn’t be parted with my food processor nor my electric hand blender – owning those two should = no need for kitchen-aid – but they look soooooo nice. Sigh.
    Electric coffee grinder – I have a ‘wet-dry grinder’ and its the business for making curry pastes as well as grinding spices and the like. A definite essential in my kitchen!

  • Great post! I think one of the biggest causes of clutter in our kitchens isn’t just the unnecessary equipment, but the every day items that we have multiples of. Like a family of four that has 12 soup bowls, dinner plates, salad plates and dessert plates. That ends up being a ton of dishes in the sink. I’ve put all my extra plates and silverware up in a closet, and my husband and I just use 2 sets. It has just made life so much simpler! And we still have a few extras within easy reach for company.

    I also keep very few spatulas and wooden spoons… just enough to cook a single meal.

    There’s no way I’m ready to part with my breadmaker though! I haven’t bought bread since I was given it. We have fresh bread at least twice a week. I know I could go back to baking it in the oven, but maybe I’m just lazy ;)

  • Great suggestions Jessica
    And if you’re breadmaker is working for you… that’s awesome… and I don’t think it’s lazy at all.
    Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  • OMG – I think I’m a kitchen appliance whore – I own just about EVERYTHING on your NOT necessary list – argh!!! Whilst I practically know that some of these things are not necessary – I love every single one of mine and they make me enjoy cooking. Now as for the cleaning/ironing cupboard – that definitely needs a good cull….lol

  • I used to be completely with you on the oven mitts thing. A while ago, though, I had a dear friend of mine who is a nurse over for dinner. When she saw me pulling something out of the oven with a towel, she said, “I work in the burn unit at the hospital every day, and all I’m saying is the next time I come over here I better see you wearing oven mitts up to your elbows.” I bought them the next day. There is no way I am messing around with the hospital burn unit. haha

  • Ditch the oven mitts?? Those are basic safety equipment! You might as well save closet space by throwing out your shoes and going about in stockings.

    I never could get the hang of cooking rice on the stove (and my mother, tired of my moaning about the burned saucepans, finally bought me a compact little cooker-steamer which I love), but I learned the secret to making popcorn on the stove without burning!

    Here’s how you do it: use a few spoonfuls of oil with a high “smoke point,” like grapeseed (NOT butter or olive oil), drop a few kernels into the pot with the oil, and turn the heat on. Put the lid on the pot and listen. When those test kernels pop, drop in the rest (replacing the lid) and immediately take the pot off the heat and start shaking it. WITH oven mitts on, if you please. The kernels should pop; if not, put the pot back on the burner for five seconds or so, then grab and shake again. After a few repetitions of this, there will be no more popping; then they’re all done!

  • Just found your site and I am thoroughly enjoying it. I’ve just started planting my seeds (herbs, tomatoes, peppers, etc) for my container garden, and in my research for such a garden I came across a tip to use that (useless to me) bamboo steamer to plant my chives. One kitchen item down, many to go :)

  • In that list, I only have the microwave. I didn’t even know what a rice cooker was, i had to google it…

  • I have been on a clutter free mission for a few years now. I have recently tossed out my wok, rice maker, sandwich grill, hamburger grill, and waffle grill. Still to go is the microwave, coffee machine and bread maker. I would like to make my coffee the old fashion way, if anyone has something they use for making great coffee without the big clumsey machine Id like to know! The bread maker has not been used in years and I will have to make life style changes to do without the microwave.

    Thanks for the ideas!

    • I cold brew, using a gallon plastic jug, and a mesh coffee filter to strain out the ground when I pour the brew off. I store the concentrate in glass bottles (vodka empties) in the fridge. When I want a cup of hot coffee, I pour a bit of concentrate in with some boiling water.
      Easy, low tech, coffee! I do up a big batch over the weekend so I don’t have to mess with it when I’m bleary-eyed in the morning.

    • If you have a kettle, all you need is a french press & some ground coffee.

      You can normally buy one at your local coffee/tea specialty store in single, double, or triple cup sizes. (Maybe even larger – those are the common ones at mine) In fact, most large supermarkets should stock at least one of those. You can use regular filter coffee for this method, or ask for plunger ground coffee if you buy from the coffee specialists. It doesn’t make much difference, but you may find slightly less “silt” at the bottom of your cup as your plunger ages if you use the latter.

      It’s also really REALLY easy to use even half asleep, single scoop (usually a normal coffee scoop is the right amount, but if you like yours stronger or weaker you might want to choose your own specific size of scoop) of coffee in plunger pot, sugar in your mug/cup, boil kettle, add water to pot, put filter on top & slowly plunge it (ideally you want to put just the weight of your hand/arm on the plunger, while you hold the lid steady with the other hand & let it gently slide down evenly – the faster you plunge the more weak watery your resulting coffee, conversely if you like it strong, plunge it smoothly and let it stand for a minute or two after). Pour into cup/mug. Enjoy.

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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.

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

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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.

    • 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

      • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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 )

    • Patty
      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.

  • 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.

  • 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! :-)

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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!)

  • 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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