Kitchen Basics: Appliances

An important part of this blog is talking about dealing with a small kitchen, like those found in most bachelor, or single’s, apartments. It’s usually a galley kitchen, meaning everything is pretty much on one side along a wall. On a boat, the kitchen is called a galley, while the dining room or area is called a mess. Galleys usually are a model of efficiency and compactness because there isn’t much space available. I don’t know why the dining area is called a mess, except that’s probably what you get when people are finished eating on a rocking ship on the open sea.

An array of small kitchen appliances some cooks say they can't live without.
An array of small kitchen appliances some cooks say they can’t live without.

In more of our back-to-basics reposting of earlier blog entries, today we’re considering the most valuable real estate in your kitchen — the countertop. It’s so easy to clutter it with useful, useless and sometimes unnecessary appliances. These dust collectors can take up a lot of room. But there are some that are worth the space.

There’s no one pattern for a galley kitchen because how things are laid out will depend on the available space. It also depends on the layout of the building, where apartments often are arranged like Tetris pieces.

The one common element in a small kitchen is a lack of counter space and cabinet space. That means you have to make careful choices, not only about what sits on the counter, but what gets stashed in the cabinet.

We asked readers what appliance they had gathering dust in the back of a cabinet. Diane in Texas wrote, “My Braun hand mixer. Occasionally I will use the chopping attachment with it but not much. It sits at the top of my pantry gathering dust.”

That’s typical. Most people do have an appliance they don’t use. So, what do you do when you only have a small amount of counter space?

Our rule is never have more than three appliances on the counter at any time. In this stage of our discussions, we’re talking about Kitchen Basics, the minimum things you need to cook a meal and eat it. That means there are lots of useful appliances we won’t discuss until later.

Remember your ideas and comments are always welcome.

So, what three appliances do we think should take up that valuable counter real estate? A lot is going to depend on your own lifestyle and the things you like.

At the top of our list is a microwave. We know people did without this modern convenience for a long time. But the microwave is great for cooking frozen items or quickly heating water for almost anything. It can freshen up baked goods, heat leftovers, melt cheese on dishes and sandwiches and melt delicate things like chocolate without a double boiler. There are also some things it does not do well. Eggs can become rubbery, the meat turns gray, meat can explode, baked potatoes get hard, and so on. We recommend getting one with a turntable and large enough to contain a medium-size bowl.

As a coffee drinker, our next choice is a coffee maker. We’ve had the fancy ones, the programmable ones, and the very, very simple ones. We even remember the days of the percolator. Coffee has become big business and gone from a diner staple to a gourmet experience. But there are some of us who just want a simple cup of coffee, fresh and well-brewed. You can spend a little or a lot, depending on what features you want, size, and whether brand names matter to you. But we think the Bachelor is more interested in a cup of coffee than impressing anyone with a fancy contraption that takes up a lot of space with features that are never used.