Equipping A Minimalist Kitchen: Essential Equipment List For Cooking

The kitchen is a prime target for clutter.  Companies are inventing a gadget for every little thing – anything that can make cooking a little easier.  In the end, we find our kitchens filled with gadgets, multi-function counter top appliances and it all adds up to a whole lot of clutter.  Some time ago I realized one thing about all these things in my kitchen: they don’t add up to better food on the plate.  I realized what really matters are the initial ingredients and technique, very little relied upon the tools.

minimalist kitchen utensiles for cooking

How To Equip A Minimalist Kitchen With Essential Items

With this realization I began to declutter my kitchen using my tried and true box method (read about how to do it here).  As I needed things, I would pull them out and after a few months I still had 80% of my kitchen things still left in the box.  During this time I brushed up on some of my knife techniques, read up on how professional chefs cook, and focused on simple.

A few things to keep in mind.  I have this setup for how and what I like to cook, I don’t like to bake much, I’m mainly stove top or grill.  I also am cooking for myself, maybe one other person.

In the end, I was able to whittle down to a basic set of tools in my kitchen all the while increasing the quality of my cooking/food.  So what does a minimalist kitchen have in it?  Glad you asked…

Two knives and one steel

minimalist knives for a minimalist ktichen

I see this all the time, you walk into someone’s kitchen and there is a giant knife block that contains 10-15 knives.  If we are honest with ourselves, we don’t know what half them are for and we only use a few on a regular basis.  Most of your work will be done with your 8 inch chef knife, it’s the workhorse.  Next to that I have a 3 to 4 inch parring knife for smaller, more delicate tasks.  Finally a honing steel, this helps re-align your edge between sharpening because as you use a knife, the fine edge actually rolls over, creating a less sharp edge; using a honing steel quickly un-rolls that edge and gives you back your edge.

If you ask me, put your money here.  A check knife in the $100-$200 price range with a full tang and good steel is something that is worth spending money on.  A paring knife for $50-$100 and a honing steel for $25-$50.

Ryan’s Recommendations:


Two rubber spatulas and two tongs


These two items are pretty much my go-tos when it comes to actually cooking on heat.  It keep two of each so that if I have to make things that can’t mix, I’m covered, or if I’m doing something with meat, to reduce risk of salmonella.  My tongs are a rigid silicone tipped, so they can be used on coated pans and on the grill.

Ryan’s Recommendations:

One metal spatula


I use this for grilling or if I ever use cast iron. This is a heavy duty metal spatula that is rigid enough to scrape, but flexible enough to wiggle under a piece of meat.  I’d use this a lot more if I was a big fan of cast iron. Cast iron isn’t my favorite, but if you cook a lot with cast iron, this will be a go to.

Ryan’s Recommendations:

Break apart scissors


Sometimes scissors are the right too for the job, including cutting up chicken.  A solid pair of scissors that come apart so you can thoroughly clean the joint is very handy.  These can play double duty for a bottle opener.

Ryan’s Recommendations:

Pot strainer (or colander)


I use this style of a pot strainer, its very small, compact and doesn’t take up a lot of space.  If I was more of a pasta guy, I’d upgrade to a colander, but this suits my needs.

Ryan’s Recommendations:

Pots and pans


This is the pot set that I choose for my kitchen, it was the second place that I sunk most of my money into.  When you live a minimalist life, it makes sense to spend some real money on the few things you have.  For this set, I did my research and ignored prices. This set cost me $600 at the time, now it’s much less.  I rarely use the large soup pot and the high side saute pan, but they are worth keeping on hand.  While I still keep these two, I don’t actually keep them in my kitchen of my tiny house, I keep them in my bulk storage area.  90% of what I cook is done in the small fry pan, the large fry pan or the medium sized pot.

Ryan’s Recommendations:

Cutting Board


The last thing on my list is a cutting board. I prefer a butcher block style myself.

Ryan’s Recommendations:

Your Turn!

  • What else would you add?
  • What is your favorite kitchen item?
  1. Citrus juicer – got to have fresh squeezed lemon and lime juice for cocktails!

    BUT … instead of a dedicated citrus juicer, I’d keep a wooden reamer and a small strainer. Keeps the setup from being for only one thing. I fry often – and I strain and reuse the oil.

  2. I would add a can opener, grater, measuring cups, whisk, potato masher, slotted plastic spoon, soup ladle, and vegetable peeler.

  3. Need a really good bread knife and at least one baking pan. If you have a cast iron frying pan or one with a metal handle it can be used for baking too.

    • Yes! A bread knife and pans for baking. I don’t have an oven (do have a toaster oven).

  4. If you get a decent baking pan/tray with a rack to fit you have something for roasts, lasagnes, etc. Something you can bake bread on and a cooling rack for bread, cakes etc.

  5. An instant-read digital thermometer is essential no matter what size your kitchen.

  6. As someone with disabilities, I need a few more tools. A one hand can opener and a one hand jar opener that screws onto the bottom of a shelf. I also use a Vitamix blender because smoothies and creamed veggie soups are easier for me to digest, and a food processor because pain in my hands sometimes makes it impossible to do grating and chopping manually. I also love having a good solid whisk, and a Caribbean hardwood mortar and pestle for crushing garlic, peppercorns, herbs and other things. I also do have a hand grater for the good days.

  7. I just have one rule for all my household items – each item must have more than one function (except the fire extinguisher). I like the idea of the cast iron skillet, can also be used to bake in (roasts or bread or pies) parchment paper helps in the cleaning to reduce water use. Pyrex glass pans can be used to bake in but not on stove top (direct heat) or broiler. Cast iron does give off iron so it is good for blood hemoglobin levels, but can get to be too much if acidic items are cooked. Stainless steal with metal handle will function the same but does not give off as much iron when cooking acidic items (like tomato sauce or apple pie).

  8. I enjoyed this post because I’m considering simplifying my kitchen. I love to cook. I cook 20 Paleo-ish meals a week for my growing family of 5 because of multiple food allergies/intolerance. You’re right that a lot of gadgets aren’t needed, especially when you consider that over-processing food is still processed food! I am going to use this list to purge now… but I will be keeping all the knives in my knife block. I use every single one of them frequently for different uses!

  9. Oh, and I have recently reduced my pots and pans too; I got rid off all non-stick and have a cast-iron skillet & dutch oven set, my large stock pot, and a small pot.

  10. Tabletop convection oven ( ilove my DENI), French press coffee/tea maker, nutri bullit, Pressure cooker.

  11. I love the pot/pan set. I have a giant set and I want to reduce. I thought I’d give my son the set I have now. Who makes your $600 set?

  12. This is the information I’m looking for! Just myself now and what do I need if I’m downsizing to a mini-kitchen? I keep thinking I need a toaster over. I don’t, do I? I love my toaster and use if often. That stays. Blender, crockpot, food processor, electric grill…. all go. You are awesome!

  13. Great ideas, keeping it simple. I do without a food processor, relying on two good knives and a cutting board. But, I did break down and purchase a few kitchen gadgets that make my life simpler: Zojirushi rice cooker, immersion blender, crock pots, and citrus juicer. A good rice cooker that cooks a variety of foods and steams them, too. It only comes out when I need it a few times a week. An immersion blender, for making hummus and blending soups. I use it a lot. Crockpots for long-cooking foods like beans, stews, bone broths, vegetable broths, chilis, and one-pot meals. I have two oval crockpots, where one is vegetable broth in progress and the other is split pea soup in progress. The citrus juicer made my citrus processing life a breeze. I buy citrus when it’s in season and cheaper, then zest, juice, and freeze everything.

    On the other hand, I don’t have a coffee maker (of any kind), or a blender, or microwave oven, or a can opener. I use a tea kettle to heat water quickly and economically for a lot of purposes. For coffee, I pour it over grounds in a pot and strain it. I keep extra brewed coffee in the fridge. The grounds are used for “beauty scrubs” and in the compost heap.

  14. I got rid of a lot of pots and pans, I keep my knife set because I use them. Besides, if someone wants to eat home cooked chicken with no knife, where would I send them? I don’t need a crockpot, but I have one, for beans and stock of any kind. I love my oven, but I don’t see the sense in using it when most of my meals can cook in the toaster oven. My computer is an Mac, I can listen to my music and watch my DVDs right here on the Mac. There isn’t a need for a TV or DVD player, or a CD player. I just use my TV for the cable news and weather, and for some shows I have recorded.

  15. A good set of glass bowl for prep.

  16. Steamer basket, mixing bowl, baking sheet & measuring set, whisk?

  17. Thanks for all of the posts on this. I wouldn’t however throw out everything based on this list unless I frequently moved e.g. traveled and rented often. If you use something fairly frequently, then don’t discard it just to be a minimalist. Each person has their way of cooking things and sometime you just gotta have a specific prep item. Food processors for some are just essential while others are excellent with just chopping with knives. You have to be sensible about it. The biggest problem I see in most kitchens are the duplicates of all kinds of items: pots, pans, utensils etc. Get rid of the extras and get used to washing the ones you have. Cleaning up is not the chore it seems to be. Just clean as you go.

  18. I use these nesting pots for everything and they are so compact. I like removing the handles while cooking and attaching them in when I stir or pour, keeps them out of the way. Their quality is excellenth been cooking on them for over 10 years. Mine are Stainless. They also have a nonstick version. Magma Products, A10-360L-IND, 10 Piece Gourmet Nesting Stainless Steel Cookware Set, Induction Cooktops https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00B99RJS2/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_i_RKx4Cb5WQ0KXA

  19. Wow! I totally dig those nesting pots! Thanks for the link!

  20. I like your box method. I have 3 drawers for utensils. I moved everything to the far left and some I thought I needed to the middle. I only put utensils I used, washed and dried into the the drawer on the far right. The far right drawer is still the most empty. Thanks to amazon for offering us such an easy way to improve our diets by selling things like avocado slicers and dicers. A couple bucks and better health seemed assured. Turns out I still just half my avocados and eat them with a spoon.
    I use an electric tea kettle that shuts itself off at the boil. I could learn to live with a standard teakettle, but that requires so much attention.

  21. Hi , perfect kitchen items .what about the baking tools and items? Please share them too .

  22. As Sean pointed out, get a good fire extinguisher! Mount it in a well-lighted place where you can grab it easily without having to navigate the room or storage.

    Depending on your electrical plan, it would be relatively simple to install a red LED above it, that’s always on so you can spot it in the dark. A separate low-voltage DC loop to power these sorts of “indicator” LEDs and night safety lights (such as on loft stairs) would be useful.

    Also remember to install a carbon monoxide detector. CO gas does not rise: it hangs out at mid-room level. So the detector should always be mounted at about chest level while standing, or head level while sitting.

    While we’re at it, a basic first aid kit can always be mounted below the fire extinguisher: all of your emergency supplies in one place. (Don’t keep your first aid kit in the loo: humidity & heat will degrade the supplies quickly.)

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