The homestead kitchen is a busy place. It hums with the sounds of life and activity. You will often find baskets of freshly harvested vegetables spread across the dinner table. Crocks and pails of wild crafted food, vinegar and wine ferment on counters and in different corners of the room. As you move around the kitchen you can hear the symphony of life forming as these concoctions gurgle, bloop and blurp happily. Herbs, garlic and onions hang from rafters to dry. Big pots simmer on the stove and jars sit cooling on the counters letting off the occasional ping, their telltale sign of having sealed successfully. This is the heart of our homestead.
Discover what’s involved in running an efficient and organized homestead kitchen. This article shares insights into the tools used to preserve food, off grid appliances, wood stoves, cast iron cookware, pantries, sinks, cold storage and much more!
As always we suggest either borrowing (to try before you buy) or searching online for used or manufacture refurbished equipment when possible. We link to various items so you can look at them and see what they cost, but do your research – sometimes there are big deals to be found. We’ve found that as we grow into our homestead life, our needs also change. We often find ourselves selling or trading equipment to explore new methods.
Rustic Charm & Frugality
Our homestead is comprised of a small log home, 90 acres of mostly wooded land, several fields, large vegetable gardens, a greenhouse, a pasture and a chicken coop. A lot happens in a small work space.
The home is heated with wood and we rely mainly on solar energy for power. When selecting tools and appliances for the kitchen we are very mindful of how much electricity they use, and when possible opt for manual devices. This is a fine balance. Although manual tools seem charming at first glance, sometimes manual tools are extremely labour intensive, tedious and time consuming to operate.
The Kitchen Features
One of the key features that we value is having a large panty. When you grow a lot of your own food, you use your kitchen a lot differently than what many have been designed for. Our kitchen cupboards don’t actually store any food. We reserve them for equipment and keep all the food in the pantry.
There isn’t a microwave or dishwasher in this house. I have to tell you, I love doing the dishes by hand. Once my hands are are moving in that hot soapy water, I find that I relax. It provides me with an opportunity to reflect on the day or simply look out the window and enjoy a quiet and relaxing scene.
Utility Sinks and Washtubs
In addition to the kitchen sink I rely on a big wash tub. Ours isn’t in the kitchen but it is conveniently located. A wash tub comes in really handy if you have a lot of apples or vegetables that need to be scrubbed before preserving, or for washing really big pots and carboys that just don’t fit in a standard sink.
Put your Fridge In the Pantry
We often get asked, “where is the fridge”? Our refrigerator is tucked away in the walk in pantry and although uncommon, I would never change this. There is something really charming about having the fridge out of sight and having it in the same room that all the other food is stored is quite convenient. If you happen to be planning/building your home, this is an interesting idea to consider.
Homestead Kitchen Food Storage & Pantry
The pantry is attached to the kitchen. It’s not a big room but we maximize the space with floor to ceiling shelving. Both the deep freezer and refrigerator are stored in this room. We don’t have a cold cellar but I have found a way to improvise. We keep the pantry cool and dark at all times. There is a tiny window in this room covered with a heavy curtain and we control the temperature of the room by opening the window. Paired with the concrete floors this keeps the room quite cool. The carrots, beets and potatoes keep for about five months stored in this pantry.
Dry Goods Storage & Pest Control
We shop in bulk whenever possible and keep a lot of food on hand. If you want to learn some interesting way to stock your pantry you might enjoy reading: Pantry Essentials: Stock a Pantry like a Pro
All food is stored in either glass jars or we vacuum seal it. If it’s in packaging we organize it into plastic containers. I put a lot of our bulk dried goods in vacuum sealed packs in our freezer so they keep for as long as possible. There’s nothing worse than the bitter taste of beautiful organic oats that have gone bad and I hate wasting food.
We aren’t preppers and don’t store years of food, so we cant advise you on that, but we do like to keep enough food that in an emergency we could eat for at least 6 months in the wintertime when we can’t grow anything.
If you are building a house, don’t overlook the value of a good old fashioned root cellar. It is truly the best way to cold store your garden bounty. We don’t have a basement but I wish that we did!
Cast Iron Pots & Pans
At our homestead we use cast iron and enamelled cast iron for all of our cooking. A few people have admired my cast iron collection assuming that they were just for decoration but we use them every day. There really isn’t anything that you can’t cook in a well seasoned cast iron pan. Eggs, waffles, bread: you name it and a cast iron pan can handle it.
Vintage Versus Modern Cast Iron
Before you go out and buy a collection of cast iron you should know that they are not equal in quality. The best cast iron pans are often vintage. Modern manufacturing just isn’t done with the same care. Vintage pans are lighter and have a smooth cooking surface. They are wonderful to cook with. New cast iron pans are usually heavier and have a rougher surface. I do have a set of “modern” Lodge pans that we use every day and I am happy with them.
You can hunt for old pans at flea markets, antique stores, auctions, and in friends and families basements! Start asking around. If you can’t find old pans, there are a small number of companies that are producing cast iron pans the old fashioned way. They are quite expensive compared to finding them used but they look wonderful and considering the pan will last forever, it’s a pretty good investment to consider. I have not tried them, but if you want to find out more here are the websites: Smithey Iron Ware & Field Company.
Cook Anything, Anywhere, With Cast Iron
Cast iron is really versatile as well, You can use it over a fire pit and on a BBQ. A cast iron pan can easily become a family heirloom lasting centuries. One thing I love about cast iron is how well they hold the heat. I can take them from oven to table providing piping hot meals. I The smaller individual pans are perfect for serving individual Shepard’s pie, stews, baked omelettes and waffles.
Cast iron is easy to care for. Simply wash with hot soapy water and a lightly abrasive cloth if necessary. Dry and rub with oil. I have seen amazing examples of horribly rusted cast iron pans being restored and they truly look like new again. They really are economical because you will never need to replace them.
Homestead Kitchen Wood Cook Stoves
We have a wood stove right in the kitchen. It really was one on the few places we could have installed it. It has a cooking surface and warming area that helps in the winter with raising bread, keeping warm water, and cooking meals. Honestly, I really wanted a true wood cook stove but we wanted the security of being able to to use the stove for heating the house should the main wood boiler stop working.
Most cook stoves are not rated for use as a primary heat source. We needed the heat more than the cooking functionality so we ended up buying a wood stove with a small cooking surface. Our stove works great, it keeps the house nice and toasty and we can boil water and cook small meals on the top. I would LOVE to be able to bake with a wood fired oven though. When we need to replace our wood stove we will replace it with an extremely practical (not built for beauty) Amish Kitchen Queen.
Off Grid Kitchen Stoves
A few years ago we purchased a gorgeous looking off grid stove from Unique Off Grid. The burners works great, the grills are easy to remove and clean and they are very sturdy. The oven on the other hand, has been a disappointment. It is not very responsive, and can be frustrating to start. The igniter is just not that good. The broiler sometimes goes out for no apparent reason, and you have to wait for the stove to cool down before trying to fire it up again. I am sure if you are someone who cooks, you can imagine the frustration when you’ve got a room full of people to feed. The design also limits you to using either the broil function or the standard bake function because the oven has to cool down a bit before you switch from one to the other.
Regardless of which oven you choose, if you are going to be canning and loading your stove up with a lot of weight like we do, you should avoid glass top ranges completely. It is also best if you has a heavy duty top with grates rather than rings. A lot of canners find that the rings on their stoves eventually break down and collapse under the weight.
In North America there are less than a handful of models to chose from when you really narrow the list down for a durable all gas stove “off grid” stoves: Unique Off Grid & Premier Pro are a few companies that we’ve come across. Feel free to leave a comment if you know of others. I love the look of Big Chill and they have an all gas option but they are out of our price range.
When you run a homestead and have to break down chickens, chop a mountain of veggies and other things, you need good quality sharp knives. Dull knives are far more dangerous to your precious fingers than the sharpest of knives will ever be. Every time you go to use your knives you should take a quick moment to sharpen them with your honing steel.
Good Quality, Reasonably Priced
You don’t need the ultra expensive knives and you really don’t really need to buy a full set. I own some fairly pricey knives but I honestly prefer less expensive Victorinox knives. A good Victorinox chef’s knife is around $50 and will last decades if treated properly.
Knives That You Actually Need
Note: if you butcher your own meat you will want a saw and a boning knife and butcher knife.
Wooden cutting boards are a lot better for your knives that plastic and glass. They are also far safer for your fingers. Clean with hot soapy water and rub down with bees wax or a food safe oil and your cutting board will last forever.
A honing steel: A honing steel is a long tubular metal rod. It is an effective way to help maintain your knife’s edge between sharpening. The more often you use the steel, the longer the edge on your knives will last. The honing steel is very simple to use. Hold your knife at a 20 degree angle and smoothly slide your knife across the steel six times on each side.
Sharpeners: There is an assortment of sharpening tools that can be a really beneficial investment. Some require practice and skill such as Japanese water stones and others are very easy and automatic to use. Proper sharpening a few times a year will provide you with a superb sharp edge on your knives.
My husband has a set of Japanese water stones but if he were to buy something new, or replace the stones, it would be the Edge Pro Apex Knife Sharpening System. It is a different level of quality when compared to all other sharpening systems but is also quite costly.
I used to be very minimalist with my kitchen equipment but in the past few years as the garden gets larger it’s no coincidence that the amount and size of the equipment we use has also grown. When I put this list together I was a little shocked to see just how many things we have come to rely on.
One decision you will need to make is: Manual versus Electric. In all honesty electric tools will nearly always be less strenuous and a lot faster to use. That said, when you are running on solar, living off grid or trying to reduce your energy costs, manual is something to consider. We use a mixture of both.
I love our dehydrator, it runs most of the time in the summer when we have ample energy reserves, but we also use a lot of mesh drying racks to air dry our herbs. You can also look at plans for making a simple solar dehydrator, I’d love one it just never seems to make the priorities list.
Large Stock Pots
If you grow a big garden, large stockpots are a must. Look for large 20qt heavy bottomed stainless steel pots, they will stand the test of time. If you have a range hood, you will want to measure to make sure that your pots will fit underneath it.
Standard Stock Pots
When you first get into canning the easiest place to start is with jams and jellies. Other than jars.lids, rings and a jar lifter, you can achieve perfect results using a standard stock pot. You just need a metal tray in or some dishcloths so that your jars are not touching to bottom of the pot. We like heavy bottomed stock pots so that when you are simmering something for a long period of time you have a more regulated temperature and don’t end up burning your stock.
A must if you want to preserve low acidic items such as water packed beets, water packed carrots and meat. There are several styles. We have two of the presto Aluminium 23-Quart Pressure Canners. It”s the more affordable style of pressure canner. After years of heavy use, they are still doing the job perfectly. If you buy a Presto make sure you also order one of these with it. You can splurge for the All American series as well. I have not used one but certainly wouldn’t complain if one arrived at my doorstep! Regardless of model, go for the larger 23-25qt size, pressure canning takes time so the larger size will reduce the amount of time you spend in the kitchen.
Water Bath Canner
For preserving jams, jellies and pickled items the water bath canner is a kitchen staple. Preserving with a water bath is easy to learn and most canners can double as large stock pots. A water bath canner is really just a big stock pack with a wire rack in it.
Steam canners are newer on the scene and I really love ours. We have the stainless steel Victorio model. It requires such a small amount of water that the canner heats up a lot faster than the water bath will. It takes the same amount of time to process jars as the water bath so you can follow the same recipe instructions. They are usually versatile in that you flip the canning rack and it then converts to a standard water bath canner.
Canning Jars, Lids & Bands
Canning jars are reusable and can last many years. We use them for storing leftovers in the fridge, for garden slug traps, for bathroom storage and of course for canning and preserving food. Canning lids are infinitely useful as well and when I find them on clearance I buy a lot of packages. You can also find them at Amish supply stores in bulk.
I can’t exactly recall how many jars of apple juice it was before we decided we needed to spend some money on a steam juicer, but eventually we took the plunge. It does a good job for small batches but does not solve the problem when you have bushels and bushels to process.
The old fashioned method of making juice is extremely labour intensive, and it can be messy. We have access to countless apples around here (free!) so making apple juice and other apple products is something we do often. I’ll admit, although the steam juicer works great, we don’t really use it much. A real fruit press is likely the way you’ll want to go if you are processing large scale, it is certainly the upgrade we are looking for.
Carboys and Bottling Equipment
Last year we discovered the joy in making small batches of wild crafted wine. Small 1 gallon jugs are so much easier to work with than the larger 5 and 6 gallon versions. Over time we have accumulated a lot of bottling equipment but we still use fairly basic supplies and they work well. You don’t need to spend a fortune to make your own wine and beer. We make country wine from carrots, parsnips, fruit, etc. You can check out some of our wine recipes if you’d like inspiration!
We use a macerating slow juicer to extract juice from leafy things like kale. The liquid gets frozen into ice cube trays providing us with potent green power through the winter. We toss these cubes into smoothies and soups. A juicer is an interesting way to really maximize your harvests and store up as much nutrition as possible for the winter time.
Food Grade Plastic Pails
I am not a big fan of plastic but these pails really come in handy as a lightweight vessel for starting your wine, for transporting a lot of veggies from the garden, for straining and pouring large batches of juice or stock and even for storing larger quantities of dried goods.
When we ferment food we use old fashioned stoneware crocks for large batches and mason jars for smaller batches. Fermenting crocks and the weights are really useful to have. You can get a great starter set from1 gallon jugs or if you want something custom and beautiful everyone is raving about these ones on Etsy designed by Mark Campbell Ceramics. I find that for small batches I end up using large jars with Masontops Pickle Pipes Masontops Pickle Pipes a lot. They work great and unlike some other styles that I’ve collected over the years, they don’t have numerous parts which I either misplace or forget how to assemble. They are really inexpensive investment and perfect for learning how to ferment.
Other Essential Homestead Kitchen Tools
We do our best to research and find small appliances and tools that will last a long time and have a good reputation for quality. We only want to have to buy it once.
Hand Cranked Coffee Grinder
We really do love that morning cup of coffee – a lot! There is something purposeful, zen like in pouring some beans into a hopper and cranking the grinder until you have perfect, fresh coffee grinds. It only takes a minute or two, and really isn’t a hardship.
Stove Top Kettle
Do they even make electric kettles anymore? I hope not because stove top kettles are far more versatile and come in such cute colours and shapes. My husband likes to turn the kettle on, flip down the whistle and ignore it. He knows the sound will send me running from wherever I am to make tea.
A French press is something every kitchen should have. It’s the lowest tech, greenest way to make your coffee. It’s charming, inexpensive and convenient and fool proof and it is the final piece in the puzzle for achieving the perfect cup of coffee.
We also have a vintage meat grinder that came from my husbands, grandmother’s old farm. We treasure it. Teenagers are very helpful to have around when you need to operate it as it expends a lot of energy and it’s a slow process. Good music and frequent changing of arms and you have yourself a great upper body work out. In all honesty rather than grinding and cleaning the grinder I lean towards finely chopping the meat whenever I can get away with it. Perhaps this is one tool where electric might be better.
We bake all of our own bread and I’ve started to wonder about grinding our own wheat. I had a lot of questions so I looked to Pantry Paratus for answers.They really know their stuff when it comes to flour mills, different types of wheat, baking bread and the nutritional and health, gluten allergies, and so on. They offer a lot of information, resources and videos on their blog. We are going to be buying the wonder Mill Junior Deluxe Manual Grain Mill with the drill bit adapter that will give us the best of both worlds.
High Power Blender
Our Vitamix gets used at least once a day. We use it for making smoothies, blending sauces, puréeing, making natural skincare products and it’s just been a work horse. We’ve had other blenders before and they all ended up in the garbage just from light ordinary household use. I daresay that it is the best blender out there and well worth the investment because it should last a lifetime.
I could live without a stand mixer and was fine without one most of my life but do do find that it is handy and versatile tool. I enjoy being able to have the mixer working on kneading the dough or mixing the cookie batter while my hands are free to do other things. The pasta making attachment is really quite good. It saves time and is a lot easier on the wrists than rolling out pasta dough or kneading bread. I find that quickly get sore wrists, likely from my many years of working at a desk and computer. I think I will come to appreciate this tool more and more as I get older.
Outdoor Kitchen Space
Sometimes it’s just too hot in the kitchen to work. We have a makeshift outdoor canning kitchen that saves me from being in front of a hot stove all day when preserving food on hot days. It has a large table, portable propane burners, and a nearby watering station. We are thinking about screening this area in to keep the bugs out, and we’d like to eventually build a fully functional outdoor kitchen but for now this serves us well.
A homestead kitchen is a busy place. With some careful planning and organization along with the correct tools, you can run an efficient and organized kitchen that is functional but also enjoyable to spend time in