Long ago, in a land where many apartments had as much square footage as small houses, no one could have conceived of a unit without a kitchen. In fact, the apartments of old (less than 40 years ago) often had dining rooms, extra bedrooms and bathrooms, spacious decks and yards, storage space, and ample parking. Today, we’re faced with living in spaces sized more for a couple of large dogs, with no walls and, in more and more cases, no kitchens.
As apartments continue to get smaller, the small kitchen appliance market gets larger, which means you can now cook just about anything without an actual kitchen. Besides, the money you’d spend investing in one of these is relatively small compared to the cost of eating out or ordering in for every meal. You probably already have a few essentials, too, so you should feel good knowing you can slowly build your arsenal of stand-alone cooking options without breaking the bank.
Older microwaves are often limited to making popcorn, reheating leftovers, and cooking frozen foods packaged in plastic bags. But for $100-$150 more, you can upgrade to a model that can bake a pizza, roast a chicken, cook a stew, and even turn out average-quality baked goods. Invest in a good microwave cookbook, and before long you won’t even miss your old conventional stove.
Back in the 50s, electric skillets were all the rage. Home cooks readily embraced the concept of frying chicken, preparing full breakfasts of pancakes, eggs, and bacon, and grilling burgers all in one pan. Today’s models are deeper, have vented lids, and offer a wider range of temperature controls than ever. You can use them to prepare a pot roast, whip up a stir-fry, or create the best grilled cheese sandwiches ever. Best of all, electric skillets are usually totally immersible in water for easy clean-up.
This amazing appliance just keeps getting better. It gained popularity in the 70s for slow cooking meals all day, low and slow so dinner was ready with no muss or fuss when the family got home. Best known for soups and stews, you can now make everything from enchiladas, moussaka, and lasagna to cookies, cakes, and hot mulled cider in a good slow cooker.
A free-standing convection oven cooks foods faster and more evenly than a regular oven due to its fan and exhaust system. Even better, it makes roasting, braising, baking, and toasting easy and quick. Many upscale models give cooks options to bake on a tray, grill on a griddle, roast, toast, broil, and cook meat on a rotisserie. The only foods you can’t cook in a convection oven are dishes that require a moist baking environment such as breads, cakes, soufflés, custards, and flans.
This comparatively new appliance is seven appliances in one, so it’s ideal for an apartment without a kitchen. The best models serve equally well as a slow cooker, electric pressure cooker, rice cooker, steamer, yogurt maker, sauté/browning pan, and warming pot. You can’t make pies or cookies in it, but just about anything else is possible with this miracle pot invented in Canada.
Although this is one of the pricier options on here, it will not only cook almost anything evenly and quickly, but it also saves a ton of energy. Yes, an induction cooktop is 60 percent more energy efficient than a gas one, and it gives you 40 percent more savings than electric cooktops. Just remember that since it uses an electromagnetic field to heat up pans, you have to use cast iron or steel to cook on it. Aluminum, glass, and ceramic cookware just won’t work.
Countertop grills like the one popularized by the famous boxer do more than just cook perfect burgers and boneless chicken breasts. They also make great paninis, waffles, quesadillas, grilled shrimp, pork chops, French fries, tater tots, fried eggs, cinnamon rolls, bacon, sausage, frozen pizzas, and fresh fish fillets. Splurge on the model with removable grill plates for easy cleaning.
Electric countertop steamers with multi-level inserts can cook whole meals at the same time. To add flavor to the food, use stock instead of water for the steaming liquid. Marinate beef, fish, poultry, and vegetables before cooking. Season each layer with dried or fresh herbs and spices. Last but not least, avoid overcooking. Steam is a lot hotter than you think, and if you overdo it, even the most succulent foods will dry out and lose taste and texture.
This tried-and-true little burner has been around for decades. Invented in 1937, it’s just a one-pot gadget, so it may take a while to cook an entire meal on one. The good news is all you need is an electrical outlet and a pot or pan to use one, and they’re available new for under $20. Sounds pretty ideal for cooking a hot entrée and making a fresh green salad as a side dish.