I used to have a small kitchen and very little cabinet space, so I had to manage my cooking with a small group of essentials. If I were to go back to that tiny kitchen, here are the 7 things I would absolutely need, as they are the foundation of good paleo cooking:
1. Ceramic cookware
I cannot cook (or live) without my 6 basic pieces of cookware: 2 saucepans (small and large), a dutch oven, a sauté pan, and 2 skillets. Usually I do not need additional cooking pans unless I am making something that requires a wok or other “special equipment.”
I’m a big fan of ceramic cookware. If you’re not familiar, it has ceramic surface, so that your food doesn’t come in contact with potentially harmful metals. Ever since I’ve started using ceramic, I also noticed an improvement in taste.
For me, it’s absolutely essential that my cookware is ceramic. You could also safely use glass, clay or stainless-steel cookware, but ceramic is the most practical and reasonably priced one of all. Whatever you do, do not cook in aluminum or Teflon because it will leak into your food when heated to high temperatures. Several studies suggest that aluminum is a neurotoxin that could be contributing to Alzheimer’s and other disorders. Teflon, containing polytetrafluoroetheylene (PTFE) actually produces toxic fumes when heated up (what genius thought of putting it on a frying pan?!) that can cause flu-like symptoms (they call it “Teflon flu”) with short-term use! Long-term use hasn’t been adequately studied, but I’m sure you can imagine how bad it could be.
Both a blender and a processor are in high-demand in my kitchen, which is why I recently bought a blender/processor combo. It saves space and I still get to make my favorite recipes! Paleo calls for so many veggies – a processor becomes a necessity when those need to be chopped or otherwise cut. I’m often too busy to sit there and cut everything manually.
The blender is also essential to a lot of paleo cooking: mashed cauliflower, soups, purees, sauces and smoothies – all come out better when perfectly blended. I used to think of processors and blenders as unnecessary kitchen clutter, but now that I cook every meal from scratch, I realize just how essential they are.
3. Steamer insert
A steamer insert is inexpensive and easy to use. You plop it on top of most saucepans and put veggies, fish or poultry inside for easy steaming. When the water in the saucepan boils, the steam will cook your food. It’s a very healthy way to prepare food because there is minimal loss of nutritional value, but beware: it can be bland. I have only managed to make veggies in mine – I prefer my meats cooked in a different manner. Nevertheless, the steamer has proven to be a kitchen essential for me!
4. Slow Cooker
Any busy paleo cook will agree: a slow cooker is a kitchen essential for sure! It takes up very little space, you can make a whole meal (meat + side) in it for the WHOLE family, there is very little preparation or cleanup involved, and finally – everyone loves slow-cooked meals. Sometimes I make something overnight and wake up to a truly hypnotizing smell of healthy and delicious food. A crockpot is something we use every week, so I would definitely say this is a paleo essential.
5. Roasting pan
I believe a roasting pan is an essential in any kitchen, whether paleo or not. It’s great for big dinners, roasts, lamb legs, and whole chickens and turkeys. They are also great for roasted veggies, which I have almost every night. The roasting pan is great for hassle-free dinners, which for me is a must.
6. Spiral slicer
The spiral slicer is a neat little tool that can turn your vegetables into noodles. It’s the best kitchen essential I’ve purchased since going paleo. Spiral slicers range from inexpensive and simple designs (pictured here) to automated and more expensive models. I bought this little one and have been very happy with it. The spiralizer made my transition to paleo so much smoother… Anytime I had to make a dish that is typically made with a side of pasta, I just spiralized some veggies for a perfectly healthy substitute. The best veggie noodles (in my opinion) are made from zucchini, yellow squash, sweet potato, carrots and cucumbers.
7. Mortar and pestle
A mortar and pestle is a device that has been used since the paleolithic era, so this may be the most authentic paleo kitchen essential you could find! They are used to crush and grind ingredients together, usually herbs, spices and pastes. I’ve used my mortar and pestle for marking my own spice rubs and for crushing seeds and nuts for various recipes. It’s cheap, yet adds traditional character to any kitchen – not to mention amazing flavor from freshly ground spices.