Millions of city dwellers live in tiny apartments with even tinier kitchens. When you have only a couple of cabinets and drawers and a sliver of counter space to work with, you have to be smart. There are many ways to do this (magnetic spice racks! Cutting boards on turned-off burners!), but it can be especially tricky when it comes to appliances — the big guys you have to plug in, turn on, use, and then put away somewhere. To help find the most powerful appliances with smaller-than-usual footprints, we spoke to several experts that are used to (and even thrive on) making small kitchens functional. Read on to find their recommendations for food processors, blenders, refrigerators, and more that are as good as, if not even better than, their full-size counterparts.
Best compact food processors
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.
Former Strategist writer Nikita Richardson bakes a lot, so she needed something slightly bigger than the Proctor Silex above. “The Cuisinart Mini-Prep is small enough to keep stored away underneath my sink when I don’t need it,” she says, “but large enough to take on significant tasks like grinding down pecans for my favorite apple-honey-pecan muffins or making homemade almond butter.” Strategist writer Emma Wartzman has also had one for ages and uses it on the regular for pesto, breadcrumbs, dressings, and more.
Best compact microwave
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.”
Best compact waffle iron
Richardson has owned the Dash Mini Waffle Maker for a few years now. It’s a small but mighty device that helps her whip up a picture-perfect brunch for 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.
Best compact espresso machines
Laura Fenton, a journalist and the author of 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.
If you truly have no counter space to spare, consider this stovetop model, which comes recommended from Alison Carroll, co-founder of Wonder Valley. She calls it “a perfect marriage of functionality and design,” brewing two espressos at once on top of a burner.
Best compact drip coffee maker
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 Strategist 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.”
Best compact coffee grinders
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, Elliott Foos, director of coffee at Daymoves café in Brooklyn, says you should consider a handcrank grinder that’ll fit in your silverware drawer. This one was recommended in our roundup of the best coffee grinders.
Best compact blenders
“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.”
Best compact pressure cooker
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.
Best compact refrigerators
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.
Carroll, who is currently renovating a small beach shack she and her husband bought in Maine, turned to this bright-orange model for the kitchen. “There’s a trade-off in space compared to a typical fridge, but it’s incredibly well-designed and works perfect for a small household or part-time home,” she says. At less than 24 inches wide, it’s certainly a space-saver — and a good-looking one, at that.
Best compact dishwasher
Alyse Whitney, now the managing editor of Cravings by Chrissy Teigen, wrote about her countertop dishwasher for the Strategist last year. It’s truly tiny (meaning it won’t be particularly helpful if you have a big dinner party), but she found that it worked perfectly well for one person who cooks regularly, cleaning about four plates, two glasses, one food-storage container, and eight pieces of silverware at a time.
Best compact grills
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.
The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best acne treatments, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, natural anxiety remedies, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.