The Best Kitchen Trash Cans, According to Professional Recipe Testers

Photo: Courtesy Simplehuman

Buying a kitchen trash can seems mundane. Your impulse may be to buy the cheapest version you can find online. But if you like to cook at home, the type of trash can you have can make a big difference in the way you transition from prepping your ingredients to cooking and serving. Having an easy-to-clean one that doesn’t take up too much space can also make it much simpler to keep your kitchen organized, especially if you’re working out of a small apartment. So to find the best kitchen trash cans, I talked with food bloggers and recipe developers — in other words, folks who do a lot of high-quality, high-volume cooking at home — about the bins they keep in their kitchens.

Most of the serious home cooks I spoke with recommended some type of step-open trash can, rather than a push-to-open one, and the gold standard, almost across the board, was Simplehuman. Two food bloggers — Elizabeth Stark of Brooklyn Supper and Vanessa Douyon of Cahier No. 1 — both recommended the same 13-gallon stainless-steel trash can with foot pedal. “It opens and closes silently, is easy to empty, and has an extra-wide opening, meaning that scraping messy plates is a breeze (even for my kids!),” Stark says.

It’s also easy to clean, according to Douyon. “The inside trash can pops out, so when my trash can is a particularly heinous funk, I can pop it out for an extra-deep-clean.” And though Douyon admits it’s expensive, the perks have been worth the splurge — especially the slow-close feature, which she describes as “clutch, because 90 percent of the time I go to throw something away, I see something I’ve missed three seconds later, but still have time to slip it in before the trash can closes.” There is one downside to this trash can though, according to Stark: “Standard-size trash bags fit, but they’re tight, so I usually spring for the Simplehuman-brand bags.”

If you’re looking for something that’s a little smaller, to fit in a tighter corner of your kitchen, or maybe just something slightly less expensive, John Kanell of Preppy Kitchen likes this Simplehuman trash can with a so-called “butterfly” opening. “It has a slim profile, so you can tuck it away, and the opening mechanism is both convenient and efficient,” he says. Like the much larger 50-liter Simplehuman trash can, this one is also easy to clean because of the removable interior bucket (and, unfortunately, also requires specifically sized bags). But the reason Kanell prefers the butterfly, especially for small kitchens, is because there’s “no giant lid clanging against the wall, just two little doors opening to swallow your trash,” which makes the whole process a little sleeker.

There’s no need to panic if you need to go even smaller with your trash can. In fact, two of the recipe testers I talked with actually preferred small kitchen trash cans for day-to-day use — and they made compelling arguments to go for these sub-five-gallon options, even if you have space for a larger one. “After a day of testing, I want to take the trash out and start fresh; in a smaller bin, the trash bag will actually be full,” says Caroline Lange, a recipe tester and private chef. Rebecca Firkser, culinary editor at Extra Crispy, agrees. “It encourages me to take out the trash every night, which helps avoid nasty smells (or worse, critters) in my smallish Manhattan kitchen.” Firkser likes this ten-liter Simplehuman trash can, which, unlike the larger options, doesn’t require specifically sized bags. “This size can actually allows me to make use of the dozens of plastic bags I get from drugstores and can’t bear to toss. They fit perfectly,” Firkser explains.

Lange, however, prefers a trash can with a lid that’s completely removable to a step-open can. That way, she explains, “I don’t have to fuss with opening and closing every time I have to toss something in the trash.” Weight is also a factor for her go-to trash can: “The bin itself has to be lightweight enough for me to move it around the kitchen, or carry it outside, or lift it while hosing something nasty out of the inside.” That’s why she likes this four-gallon steel bin from Ikea in her home kitchen, where she does a lot of recipe testing. “It meets all of the above criteria, plus it’s good-looking enough.”

For bigger cooking days, “like a photo shoot, where I’m cooking as many as eight to ten recipes,” Lange uses this 13-gallon trash can. It doesn’t have a removable lid, but it can be locked in place so that there’s minimal fussing while prepping and cooking. In terms of volume, it’s the same size as the first Simplehuman trash can — but $100 cheaper.

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The Best Kitchen Trash Cans, According to Recipe Testers