Hello and welcome to Flawed yet Functional! I’m Emily, and I’ve chosen to take control of my Type 1 Diabetes and other autoimmune diseases through the Autoimmune Protocol and now the Paleo diet. Embarking on a dramatic diet change can be daunting, and it can feel like you need to buy a completely new kitchen. Not true! I’m a minimalist at heart. You don’t need to buy all the things! Let me show you the top Paleo kitchen tools that will make your kitchen complete but not stuffed with gadgets.
Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links which just means if you purchase from the links provided, I may get a small commission at no additional cost to you! At Flawed yet Functional, I only reference products that have real value that I actually use.
I am an Alton Brown fan, and I love watching old re-runs of Good Eats on Netflix or YouTube. Any other Good Eats fans out there? If you’ve watched the show, you know he loves to downplay kitchen tools he dubs “unitaskers.” Meaning, a tool that is good for one and only one use is of little good in a kitchen.
I have taken this idea to heart in my kitchen, and I try to avoid any chopping/stirring/mixing tools that claim to be the end-all-be-all but really prove to only have one use. I’m looking at you “As Seen On TV” items!
This list is the kitchen tools that I use every day, and I believe to be essential to a streamlined kitchen. No unitaskers in this list!
A Good Sharp Knife
A knife is the first thing on my list because it is the one tool, along with a cutting board, that I use every single day for almost every meal.
First of all, you need a good knife, meaning high-quality. Buy the highest quality you can afford. My favorite type of knife is the santoku blade. I’ve owned a Calphalon and currently own a ZHEN. Both can be resharpened which is critical in a good knife. The price difference is significant in the two, but so is the quality. Don’t sweat it if you can’t afford a $150 knife right now (that’s huge, I know!), a $30 one will suit your needs for a long time.
Second, keep the knife sharp by either learning to sharpen it yourself or find someone in your area who sharpens knives. A sharp knife will improve your speed and accuracy of cutting and will result in fewer injuries! Do you find yourself getting tired pushing your knife through sweet potatoes or squash? Your knife is dull. Do you push on your knife only to have it slice sideways, nearly cutting you?? Again, your knife is dull! Save your fingers and your muscles, keep your knives sharp.
The second kitchen item on my list is likely the second most used item: thermometers. You might be tempted to think these are unitaskers, and you are partially right, they only read the temperature of something. However, you would be amazed at how many things need an accurate temperature!
Use an instant-read thermometer when making pour-over coffee, green tea, testing the doneness of meat or baked goods, candy, and so much more. The uses of a thermometer in the kitchen are much more far-reaching than you would imagine.
Although I don’t use it as often, I do recommend a good quality leave-in thermometer for cooking larger items for long periods of time. We use the Smoke system from ThermoWorks for all of our barbecuing, turkey dinners, and anything that cooks low and slow.
A thermometer is invaluable. Save up and purchase a good quality one, like the ones I’ve linked above. I have gone through so many thermometers that were purchased at the supermarket, and they don’t last nor are they very accurate. When you are able, buy a good thermometer!
High Powered Blender or Food Processor
Food processors can get a bad rap and can sit in the cupboard or pantry for years without use. However, if you are eating paleo or AIP, you will be chopping many vegetables and creating purees or sauces from scratch. It will be a great help to you to have a food processor or high-power blender to help you.
When making mashed root vegetables, a high powered blender is essential to cut up all the fibers of the vegetable. No one likes stringy or lumpy mashed vegetables! Only the white potato mashes easily without the strings or lumps, all the rest of the mashed root vegetables require a knife for a smooth puree.
I own a Vitamix, and I would say I use it once a week. In previous years, before the diabetes diagnosis, I would use it almost every day as we ate smoothies for every breakfast. However, smoothies tend to be high in carbohydrates which are hard for my diabetes to handle. For that reason, we don’t use the Vitamix daily, but it is in weekly use.
Finally, I put the high powered blender and the food processor in the same category because, in a pinch, they can be used interchangeably. There are definite advantages to each one, but I don’t like to have both in my house because they take up so much room. So for now, I only have a high powered blender, and I make that work for all of my recipes.
Cast Iron Skillet
There is no type of pan that creates crisp delicious food like a cast iron pan! I have accumulated quite the collection of cast iron pans, and I use them every single day. There are days that all of my cast iron pans are dirty, which means five are dirty in one single day. Five!
Personally, I cannot attest to using them on an electric stove, as I have gas. My friends who use cast iron skillets though are able to do so on an electric stovetop with no problem. So don’t let your type of range hold you back from trying cast iron!
The best quality cast iron pans are antique pans and coincidentally are usually the best price. Look for cast iron pans at garage sales and estate sales. They may be full of rust, but that is easily removed at home and re-seasoned in your own oven. Look for tutorials on Pinterest or Google. It isn’t very hard!
If you don’t want the work of restoring a pan, look on craigslist or eBay for a Wagner or Griswold brand cast iron pans. These are the creme-de-la-creme of cast iron pans. They are manufactured differently than modern-day pans and have a smoother cooking surface. That smoother surface means less food sticking to it! However, don’t feel any shame with buying a Lodge brand new from your local supermarket. You will love that one too!
The Paleo and AIP diets require a large amount of vegetable consumption. If you’re going to eat lots of vegetables, you’re going to cut lots of vegetables, and if you’re going to cut lots of vegetables, you need a good cutting board. My cutting board was made at a local shop in West Michigan, and it is massive. It is 3 ft long, which is a tad excessive except that I fill it on a daily basis with various piles of vegetables, onions, fruit, and all other manner of meal prep items.
You don’t need to have a three-foot-long cutting board as I do, but you should invest in a high-quality wood cutting board that will stand the test of time. In fact, if you have autoimmune diseases you should purchase a new cutting board and get rid of all your old ones that may have gluten on them. Cutting boards get grooves from the knives, which can collect nasty stuff like bacteria and oftentimes bits of gluten. When I am traveling, the cutting board is the most likely place for me to get cross-contamination. So do yourself a favor when you’re starting out on the paleo diet, get a new cutting board.
Rimmed Baking Sheets
Rimmed baking sheets or sometimes called jelly roll pans are so versatile and a much-used item in my kitchen. Use them for roasting vegetables in the oven or as meat prep trays to sprinkled meat with salt and pepper before heading out to the grill. These pans are used every day, even when my kids play with slime or kinetic sand at the table! Seriously, every Paleo kitchen needs these great multi-use pans!
Multiple Sizes of Mixing Bowls
From covering chopped vegetables with oil and seasoning to mixing up a batch of egg-free pancakes, mixing bowls are endlessly useful. Make sure to have several sizes in your kitchen as large bowls are good for mixing vegetables with oil, but small bowls are useful too for mise en place.
I keep two sets of stainless steel mixing bowls and a set of glass mixing bowls. The stainless steel ones are my go-to everyday mixing bowls, but on the days we have company or are getting ready for a party, all of my mixing bowls are on deck! An extra set or two of these are never a bad idea, in my opinion. It seems that they always get used!
Vegetable Brush or Cloth
Going along with eating a lot of vegetables and chopping a lot of vegetables, you will be washing a lot of vegetables too. I have learned the benefit of a vegetable brush or cloth to quickly clean large amounts of vegetables. From carrots for carrot fries to apples or even beets, my vegetable brush is used on a daily basis.
The vegetable cloth from Norwex is another neat idea. It is an abrasive cloth that is easy to wet and just rub over the vegetables. It tends to be gentler than a brush so you could use it on softer flesh fruit or veggies like tomatoes or peaches and won’t pierce the skin.
Hard-working Paleo kitchen tools are vitally important to success with the Paleo diet. If it is hard to chop vegetables or if your pans just don’t cut it, you’ll be frustrated and want to give up in no time. Work with what you have and save up to invest in tools that will make your time in the kitchen easier. Bonus: they’ll last a very, very long time!