A Truly Minimum Viable Kitchen

published Feb 24, 2014

I read Matt Maroon’s Minimum Viable Kitchen post (and the ensuing Hacker News discussion) a while ago, and I’ve been thinking about it off and on since then.

Not about the post per-se, but about what a minimum viable kitchen was, and whether there was anything interesting in the concept.

In the original post, Matt goes into great detail on a huge list of things that are needed for a Minimum Viable Kitchen. It quickly becomes obvious that Matt is not a minimalist. The list includes things like a stand mixer, a scale, and a 10-piece pot and pan set. Nothing wrong with that. I own a stand mixer and a scale, and I use them all the time, but I certainly wouldn’t put them on my “dessert-island kitchen list”. I don’t own 10 pots and pans. I do agree that you need good quality ones, but 10 seems like a bit much, even for a non-minimal kitchen. I’d rather have the extra cupboard space.

Truly Minimal

So, let’s scale it back a bit. What is a truly minimalist kitchen, and what can you make with it?

I’m going to assume that you are living in a standard house that comes with a fridge, stove and oven. Let’s pretend you are just moving into your first place and have nothing else. What do you need to cook with? I’m going to ignore anything you use to eat, we’re just talking about getting food to the table here.

Okay how’s this for a first shot.

  1. A cutting board
  2. A chef’s knife
  3. Stuff to sharpen the knife (honing steel and sharpener)
  4. A 12” cast-iron frying pan with a lid
  5. A medium-sized pot
  6. A metal spatula and a metal spoon

With this and a few ingredients, you can make a lot of great meals.

  • A simple omelette with cheese, mushrooms and bacon
  • Broccoli and Beef Stir-Fry.
  • Roast Chicken surrounded by Onions and Garlic (Use the roasted garlic and drippings to make a gravy in the pan when the chicken is done.)
  • Chickpea curry with coconut sauce.
  • Rice pilaf
  • Fajitas
  • A frittata
  • This amazing Puerto Rican style Pork Shoulder
  • Pancakes
  • Home-fries
  • Corn Bread
  • Roasted beets on a bed of greens with fresh goat cheese, dressed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar

This is about as minimal as I can imagine. It’s almost viable, and probably would be fine for a while.

Why bother with a minimal kitchen anyways?

The whole point of this Minimum Viable Product (oops, sorry, kitchen) thing is to learn and learn quickly. So try this for a while and find out what you’re missing. Use all of your tools and listen carefully to yourself, and you’ll know what you’re missing. Think about what you’re making, what you can’t make that you’re craving, and what about your setup drives you crazy.

Do that for a while, and (carefully! cautiously!) buy a few things, and you’ll have a truly viable Kitchen.

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