Setting out to cook a meal can often feel like going to your first day of school or first day at a new job; it is crucial to come prepared and properly outfitted. For any lifestyle, whether on the Paleo Diet or not on any diet at all, a well-stocked kitchen can make the world of difference in eating well and cooking tasty paleo meals. I’ve broken down this article into two sections: essential kitchen tools, and those kitchen tools which are not necessary but can be very helpful in certain situations. Use these lists as a guideline to help you achieve health and happiness while on the Paleo Diet.
The first two items on my “must have” list go hand in hand, and I consider them the most important: a cutting board and chef’s knife. Cutting boards come in many styles and materials, including wood, bamboo, and plastic. Many boast the advantages of plastic cutting boards (less porous, thus easier to keep clean). After significant use, however, plastic cutting boards can form ridges and indentations which can harbor germs and be difficult to clean effectively. Additionally, some plastics can introduce substances into the body which have been proven to cause health issues later in life. Wooden cutting boards can be extremely durable and gentle on your knives, but must be seasoned occasionally and can be quite expensive. For a more practical choice, bamboo cutting boards are affordable, Eco-friendly, and a cinch to maintain.
In choosing a chef’s knife, it is important to find one of high quality and one that fits well in your hand. Chefs consider their knife an extension of their arm, and a good knife can last you nearly a lifetime when properly taken care of. Forged steel is the best way to go when buying a knife, and it is a good idea to purchase a honing steel with it (this will keep your knife sharp between sharpening, and “how to” tutorials can be found easily on the internet).
For cooking, a cast-iron skillet is indispensable. Though one of these skillets may seem pretty pricey at first (pre-seasoned, usually $20-$40), it will more than make up for it in time. Cast-iron holds and transfers heat extremely well, and over time (if properly maintained/seasoned) will build a safe non-stick surface, perfect for cooking all of your meats and veggies. They are durable (can be used on the stove top or in the oven) and should not be washed with soap, but rinsed, dried, and rubbed with oil.
A few other basics that are crucial in a well-stocked kitchen include: a high quality wooden spoon, rubber spatula, and a pair of tongs. Crock pots can prove to be quite handy, as well, and will help transform cheap, tough cuts of meat into tender and nutritious (and cost-efficient) meals.
With all of the above tools, maintaining a healthy and effective Paleo Diet is quite possible. With a few more tools, however, living the Paleo way can be much easier (and tastier). A few little things that are not completely essential but are more duty-specific and can make quick work of food preparation include: a vegetable peeler, food processor, and a pairing knife.
A chef knife can do the job of a peeler and a pairing knife, but for more detailed jobs and less waste, these two tools are affordable and very helpful in the kitchen.
Food processors can be fairly expensive, but for small jobs, a petite 4-cup food processor can be found for as little as $40. This can make purées and powders quickly and with little effort. A blender can work in place of a food processor, but will not be as thorough or fast.
If you are on the Paleo Diet and have some extra money to spend on your kitchen, a dehydrator is definitely worth considering. Dehydrators can take most any foods and remove the moisture without removing nutrients (like cooking with fire often does). Dehydrate fruits and vegetables for a healthy snack or to add texture and flavor to a dish.
Armed with a new recipe and kitchen outfitted with at least half of these kitchen essentials, there is nothing stopping you from cooking a healthy, Paleo Diet abiding meal for you and your loved ones. Whether you are completely rebuilding your kitchen to Paleo Diet standards, or are simply in the market for a new kitchen tool, this list should provide a good starting point for you. Though needs vary from person to person, these essentials and not-so-essentials will make food preparation and cookery simple and enjoyable.