The Perfect Minimalist Kitchen: How To Have A Professional Quality Kitchen On An Amateur Budget

The Perfect Minimalist KitchenIn the wake of The 4 Hour Chef, I’ve decided to share the tools that make up my own kitchen. I have what you could call a Pareto kitchen.

Clutter sucks. Most people have a tremendously cluttered kitchen. Especially if you’ve ever been to a Pampered Chef party, you know that there exist gadgets for everything. The problem is the gadgets only do one thing.

I’ve fallen into that before. Some of my one-hit wonders include:

  • an egg slicer
  • an apple slicer
  • and more

There is room for things that can only do one thing. For example, you really should have a thermometer. And a thermometer can’t be used for anything else. But a paring knife will not only help prepare your every day foods, it’ll also slice eggs and apples just fine. That’s the difference.

The following is my list of kitchen tools that will do 80% of the work you need to have done in your kitchen.

Two Knives

You really don’t need more than two knives: a big one and a small one. Or in more technical terms, a paring knife and a chef’s knife.

You don’t need to spend hundreds on knives, but don’t skimp on on them either. They’ll last you forever if they’re good. A cheap knife is a dull knife, and dull knives are far more dangerous than sharp ones. As an example, I’ve had a Farberware knife set for a while that I thought was OK. Until I got a Wusthof knife. It doesn’t even compare, and the only reason I still have and use my Farberware is because I already had it (and it has a sharpener).

These two knives are the most used kitchen utensils I own.

Paring knife
For all the small cutting, peeling, coring, etc.

My recommendation: Wusthof Classic 3-1/2-Inch Paring Knife

Chef’s knife
For chopping, dicing, slicing, shaving (meat, not your face), and all the big stuff.

My recommendation: Wusthof Classic 8-Inch Cook’s Knife


Say to no salmonella!

The fact is, especially if you’re relatively new to cooking, it’s just plain super hard to cook meats perfectly without a thermometer. There are some tricks, but it’s still invaluable to have a guide.

I used to have problems under and overcooking chicken. Either it would still be pink or it would be dry. Once I started using a thermometer, it comes out perfect every time.

If you and your S.O. like your steaks at a different doneness, a thermometer will make that precise.

I also use my thermometer when I smoke ribs on the grill. I don’t have one on the grill itself, and you lose so much heat opening the lid. The thermometer lets me make sure it’s always right.

Get one with a timer. That way you can pop it in the meat, walk away, and not worry that it’ll over cook.

My recommendation: Polder Digital In-Oven Thermometer/Timer, Graphite


I’ve gone back and forth on this one, but I have finally settled on a hand-held blender. The reason is that you can do everything you could do with a carafe blender PLUS stuff you can’t do with a carafe blender.

Most of the time I’m using a blender to make soup or just quickly mix wet ingredients together. This is easily done with a hand blender. It’ll actually be easier to blend veggies with a hand blender because you won’t have to blend it in batches.

To impress your friends, a hand blender can be used to hyperdecant (rapidly aerating) wine. The right one will even act as a food processor (which makes chopping and dicing a breeze).

My recommendation: DeLonghi DHB716 380-Watt Tri-Blade 2-Speed Handblender

Microplane grater

When I first bought this tool from Pampered Chef, I thought it was simply a luxury item. It’s possibly the best grater ever.

I’ve used it for grating cheese (duh), but it’s also the best lemon zester I’ve ever used. I’ve also used it to shave chocolate, cinnamon, and other spices. It’s small, and it does a lot.

What I love about the microplane grated cheese is that you get all the flavor of an amazing cheese but you use A LOT less of it.

My recommendation: Microplane 40020 Classic Zester/Grater

(A note about that cheese I mentioned: if you want the best cheddar-like cheese you’ll ever try, pick some up. Kerrygold makes cheese and butter from pastured cows, and it tastes extremely fresh. I never knew a hard-ish cheese could taste so creamy! You can get it on Amazon, many grocery stores, and Sam’s Club.)

Two skillets and a pot

You really only need three containers in which to cook things. A small saucepan is not a bad idea, but it’s not super necessary. Here are the tree things you’ll want to have no matter what else you have:

Small non-stick skillet
Every day I make my breakfast on one of these. When I was single, almost every meal was cooked in one (the meat portion, anyway). A good non-stick skillet is essential.

My recommendation: As you know, cheap isn’t always fantastic, but it doesn’t have to be expensive either. Pick up one of these and you’ll be happy: Bialetti Aeternum 10″ sauté pan (the 8″ one is OK too, and a little cheaper).

Cast-iron skillet
Once it’s seasoned, a cast-iron skillet can’t be beat for cooking meat on the stove. It heats up evenly and becomes sort of like a mini-oven on your stove. They’re amazing, and they literally last for a hundred years. Buy one that’ll be passed down through the generations (I really wish I had my grandmother’s skillet).

My recommendation: You really only need a skillet, but the Lodge Logic Pre-Seasoned Combo Cooker is a great set to buy. You’ll get a skillet and a dutch oven, which would be perfect for hearty slow-carb stews.

Large stock pot

This is not for cooking noodles.

We often throw away a super healthy bit of animal: bones and marrow. But we should be eating bone broth! Not only does it make a delicious base for a never-ending soup, but bones are filled with nutrients that do our bodies good.

So get yourself a big ol’ stock pot, and get those broths cooking! A good aluminum pot will be just what you need. Pro tip: they’re also amazing for mixing kimchi together!

My recommendation: Winware Professional Aluminum 24-Quart Stockpot.

Tools for prep

There are just a few things left to round out your minimalist kitchen.

Mixing bowls
A few sizes are good to have. I’d go with a set of 3 Cuisinart CTG-00-SMB Stainless Steel Mixing Bowls. These come with lids, are super easy to clean, and stack like perfection.

Silicone spatula
Do NOT buy a rubber or plastic spatula. They melt (learned that the hard way). A metal one will scratch your beautiful non-stick cookware. A silicone spatula doesn’t melt and is really simple to clean.

To get the sturdiness of metal with the heat-resistance of silicone, get yourself a Kuhn Rikon SoftEdge slotted spatula. It’s a little pricey for a spatula, but it’s worth it.

Cutting board
I’ve heard that plastic cutting boards breed bacteria. I like my nice bamboo cutting boards because they look great, clean up really nicely, and from what I understand wood is much more sanitary than plastic. I’d go with the Concord CB-B02 Bamboo cutting board if I didn’t already have a nice set.

Spicing it up a bit

To really take your slow-carb kitchen to the next level, why not plant a small window herb garden? You can grow some really lovely herbs like chives, mint, oregano, and thyme right in your home. You don’t even need to get fancy. If you have a window sill and a couple of those plastic containers that lunch meat comes in, you’ve got a cute little herb garden waiting to happen.

You can buy kits, like this wooden planter box with seeds. An awesome resource for small-space planting is a book called Grow Great Grub by Gayla Trail. She specializes in container gardens, and has some fantastic ideas.

If you’re interested in the kitchen list found in The 4 Hour Chef, you can see most of it on my 4HC Amazon List.

Now I have a question for you: What’s the one tool in your kitchen you can’t live without, and why do you love it so much?

Photo by Steve Johnson

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  1. Jackie Trout says:

    Great article! I agree that those are all the tools are the best to have!

  2. I have a small, hooked paring knife that I can’t live without. We call it a “Granny” knife in my neck of the woods. Hard to find, and I’ve given one to several newlyweds.

  3. Ann Hewitt says:

    To add to your great input, Jason, I recommend glass storage containers with glass lids. I refrigerate cut up vegetables and leftovers in them. You can see what is in them and don’t have exposure to plastic. I have about 6 of the one-cup size and 6 of the two-cup size. I usually only have 2 or 3 that aren’t in current use. Here they are: I have had mine for about ten years with zero problems. However, from the reviews, it looks like today’s quality may not be great. Maybe try:

    I also love ramekins that are about the size of a cupcake for cracking eggs and making seasoning blends. 4 will probably be enough.

    Drawers beat cabinets. You don’t have to stand on your head to get things out. If you are remodeling, keep that in mind.

    West Bend stainless steel waterless cookware is pricey, but I have gotten my money’s worth and then some. They look and function like they are brand new even after 25 years of daily use.

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