Tiny Kitchen Essentials - Pots and Pans

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Setting up a tiny kitchen can be tricky.  With so little space, every item needs to be as compact as possible, but still do its job well.  Like Alton Brown, we have no room for unitaskers aside from the fire extinguisher.

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Part 1: Pots and Pans

You'll need a few good cooking pans.  We're not camping, so steer clear of things like camping cookware sets.  There are a few nicer nesting pan sets that can take up less space if you don't do much cooking, but if you cook most of your meals, you're going to want real pans. 

A 12" cast iron skillet is one of the most versatile pans you can have in your kitchen.  It's great for searing steak or sauteing vegetables, and can go straight from the stove top to the oven.  You can use it to bake pizza or cornbread, fry chicken, roast a whole chicken, braise a chuck roast, or cook practically anything else.  Fancier models are available with enamel exterior and matching lids, but a basic cast iron skillet is an asset to any kitchen.  I prefer the models with bare metal cooking surface rather than enamel inside, since that lets me build up a nonstick layer of seasoning on the cooking surface.

A 6-quart dutch oven is another incredibly versatile pan for the kitchen.  I use it for everything from making pasta to soup to braising meat.  You can even bake inside of it—it's called an oven, after all.  Since I'm usually using our dutch oven for wet cooking methods, I like models with an enamel cooking surface inside to protect the bare metal from acidic foods like tomatoes.  And even though the lid is a little smaller than my cast iron skillet, I'll often use my dutch oven lid to cover my food in my skillet while I'm cooking.

For frying eggs and sauteing small dishes, we like to use a small ceramic nonstick pan with a matching lid.  Most dishes requiring a larger nonstick pan like pancakes or a big pile of vegetables are better served by our cast iron skillet.

Finally, we like to keep a small and a large sauce pan for sauces, pasta, soups, rice, and steaming vegetables.  All-Clad sauce pans are a great choice, though they can be a bit spendy.  They're made in the USA, they're dishwasher safe, and they have a heat-conducting core that runs up the sides of the pans rather than just a disc at the bottom.  Keep an eye on stores like T.J. Maxx, Marshalls, and Homegoods for All-Clad sauce pans at much more reasonable prices.

If you plan to use an induction cooktop, make sure the pans you're purchasing will work with induction.  If the packaging doesn't tell you, check the bottom of the pan with a magnet.  If it sticks, it'll work.

If you've never used a steamer basket to cook vegetables, you're missing out.  Steamed veggies cook fast and effortlessly, and they retain more nutrients and flavor than some other cooking methods.  You can pull them out after a few minutes when they still have a little crunch, toss them with some seasoning, and you're done.  If you want a multitasker instead, you can use this collapsible colander as a steamer basket.

If you have an oven, you'll need a couple of basic sheet pans that fit inside.  Standard quarter sheet pans fit nicely inside most RV style ovens.  For the best baking results inside an RV style oven, I recommend adding a pizza stone on top of your oven rack (this one fits an Atwood/Wedgwood RV oven), using a silpat non-stick baking mat that fits your pan (these will fit a quarter sheet pan), and turning your food 180 degrees halfway through cooking.  If you have trouble with the bottom of your food burning before it's done, use two stacked sheet pans to create an insulated pan, which will help ensure even heating.

Keep Reading Part 2: Dishes and Glassware for Tiny Kitchens