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Not every kitchen has the space for a whole cadre of full-size appliances. Take, for instance, mine. I am among the millions of city dwellers living in tiny apartments with even tinier kitchens — people who are often on the hunt for powerful appliances with smaller-than-usual footprints. That way we can have a fully functional space to cook while still being able to move around. While everything is certainly cuter when it’s mini-size, not everything’s as effective, so I spoke to a handful of small-space experts to find small-scale appliances — from food processors and blenders to toaster ovens and waffle makers — that are as good as, if not even better than, their full-size counterparts.
Alexandra Carfioli, who runs the Instagram account Tiny Apartment Kitchen (an ode to her 90-square-foot kitchen), loves her Proctor Silex. “This is definitely the smallest appliance I own, but it’s my go to,” she says. “I use it to make sauces, hummus, and dips, and even to finely mince vegetables. This smaller size is perfect so I can make the right amount for two people … and maybe some leftovers.” And it takes up only half the space of our favorite full-size best-rated food processor.
With all the baking I do, I need something slightly bigger. That’s why I purchased the surprisingly sleek Cuisinart Mini-Prep a few years ago. It’s small enough to keep stored away underneath my sink when I don’t need it, but large enough to take on significant tasks like grinding down pecans for my a favorite apple-honey-pecan muffins or making homemade almond butter.
Colin Chee is the founder of the YouTube channel Never Too Small and a full-time resident of a 37-square-foot micro apartment. “I have seen a lot of different compact appliances used in different tiny space settings when filming different tiny apartments in different cities,” he says. That’s why he can wholeheartedly endorse LG’s NeoChef as the best compact microwave. “It’s a pretty powerful little unit,” Chee says. “It generates heat evenly so you don’t have to stir the food half way through to heat it up properly.”
I’ve owned the Dash Mini Waffle Maker for two years now. It’s a small but mighty device that helped me whip up a picture-perfect brunch for four friends. How good is this mini waffle maker? Good enough to be Amazon’s best-reviewed waffle maker, with a 4.7-star rating after 61,000 reviews. At just six inches in diameter, this machine makes waffles that are slightly smaller than an Eggo, but two to three times as thick.
Laura Fenton, a journalist and the author or The Little Book of Living Small, recommends this espresso maker, which “has a slim profile and makes great coffee.” Although it’s “technically full-sized,” she says, it weighs only 9 pounds — compare that to the 23-pound Breville the Barista (our pick for the best-rated espresso machine on Amazon) — and has a smaller footprint.
We’ve written about the Aeropress before, as a great, space-saving way to make coffee. Travel writer Andrew Parks packs his up in his suitcase for trips, and deputy editor Maxine Builder uses one for camping. Chee is also a fan: “It’s durable and affordable,” he says. “It also comes with a travel mug with a lid, suitable for on-the-go morning coffee.”
As we learned in our story on the best coffee grinders, according to baristas, the best overall coffee grinder is also the most compact at just over a foot tall with a footprint of 5-by-6 inches. As Joanna Lareau, general manager at Blue Bottle in Chelsea Market, told us, “It’s simple to use and super-consistent.”
If that’s still too big, consider a handcrank grinder that’ll fit in your silverware drawer. Elliott Foos, director of coffee at Daymoves café in Brooklyn, likes this high quality yet affordable option from Handground Precision.
“The Magic Bullet makes perfect smoothies and juices, but I also use it to make great dips, sauces, marinades, and soups,” says Carfioli of Tiny Apartment Kitchen. “It comes with a few different-sized cups and lids for storing in your fridge or carrying on the go. This appliance is the perfect small and versatile appliance to have in your kitchen.”
Rae Lambert, founder of the blog Small Space, Big Taste, and resident of a 400-square-foot apartment in Manhattan, says an immersion blender is also a great space-saving option. “My immersion blender fits neatly in a drawer and does the heavy lifting in the mixing department,” she says. “I use it for mixing batter, whipping cream, making pesto/chimichurri, and blending soups. And it’s super easy to clean — I just blend it in hot soapy water, then rinse and dry.”
Carfioli calls her Instant pot “one of my favorite small(ish) appliances. “I keep it above my fridge to save counter and cabinet space in my tiny kitchen.” She owns the standard 6-quart version, which has a footprint of only a square foot, but if you’re living alone or simply don’t have the room, Instant Pot makes a three-quart version that isn’t quite large enough to make a meal for a dinner party, but definitely big enough for sides and solo meals.
If you’re looking to upgrade your fridge but don’t know where to start, consider Fisher & Paykel’s line of sleek, compact refrigerators. They’re a favorite of the luxury tiny home builders at Tiny Heirloom. “We like Fisher & Paykel appliances because of their finish, dimensions, and their customer service after the sale,” says sales manager Brian Meyer. “Their refrigerators are made with true counter-depth dimensions and have great overall storage.” It’s about three-quarters of the size of our favorite top-freezer refrigerator.
As we discovered on our never ending journey to make grilling accessible for people without backyards, Weber makes one of the best compact grills on the market. Mark Jenner, the editor-in-chief of barbecue site FoodFireFriends.com says the Go-Anywhere’s flat, rectangular design and foldable legs, which keep the lid in place, make it even easier to store and transport than a grill with a round top. It’s a little over a tenth of the size of a Weber Original Kettle, our favorite charcoal barbecue grill, and its cooktop is still large enough to accommodate two-zone grilling.
For indoor grilling, Chee recommends the incredibly attractive multifunctional, non-stick grill from British company Morphy Richards. “This is great when we have friends over for a Korean barbecue or Chinese-style hotpot night,” he says. “You can use it to stir-fry, steam, and grill and it’s easy to store.” And its footprint is just 16 by 9 inches.
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