I’ve been cooking a lot for the last month and I wanted to round up my personal kitchen “must haves”. All of our meals have been made from scratch following paleo guidelines: no grain, no sugar, no dairy and no legumes. I’ve been cooking lots of vegetables guys, sooooo many vegetables! And lots of meat, but mostly veggies. Here is a list of the things I use almost every day in no particular order (all amazon links are affiliate links, most things can probably be found at Target or BB&B):
Cast Iron Cook Wear
We were lucky enough to get a collection of cast iron for our wedding and we use it every day. If you don’t have any and aren’t quite sure where to start the two pieces I recommend are the largest skillet you can afford (or lift! That stuff is heavy!) and a dutch oven. If you aren’t used to cooking with cast iron there is a learning curve, the pans stay hot for a long time, before they are fully seasoned they really soak up your oil and you can’t throw them in the dish washer. It’s really important that you NEVER put your cast iron away wet.
So why cast iron? First off, they are non-stick without being full of terrible chemicals. Did you know that you shouldn’t use nonstick cookwear if you have pet birds? Do you really want to be eating off of something that can kill a bird via fumes alone? Didn’t think so! I also love that they go from stove to oven to stove to oven back and forth with no issue. You can use them for roasting, broiling, sauteing baking, frying and any other method you can think of. The liberal use of coconut oil (and bacon) in paleo cooking works well with cast iron. I usually roast my squash and carrots in the dutch oven then put it on the stove top and make my butternut-carrot-ginger soup all in one pot. Also, you get pretty buff arms.
If you’re looking for one more piece I have to recommend the pizza pan. Don’t the the name fool you, this pan is perfect for crisping up right under the broiler. How do you think I get my carnitas so perfectly crispy?
Stainless Steel Mixing Bowls
My mom bought me a set of these for Christmas. I use them for everything, stainless steel mixing bowls are considered non-reactive so they can be used to mix up all sorts of acidic marinades and vinaigrettes. They are great to have on hand for holding chopped up ingredients before cooking. I like to mix up a salad in the biggest bowl and toss everything around with the dressing without spilling lettuce and cucumbers and dressing all over. When I make chicken wings I mix up the sauce in the biggest bowl while the wings are baking then toss the wings in the sauce. The smaller ones can even be used for a double boiler in a pinch (be very careful and wear an oven mitt the whole time!). They can be stacked in the cupboard to cut down on space and are dish washer safe! They are also really light weight which is nice because you need to save your strength for the cast iron.
(This isn’t the one I have, I couldn’t find it on Amazon) Mike bought me an immersion (stick) blender with a variety of attachments two years ago for Christmas and I use it constantly. I make a batch of mayonnaise about every other week, I like to do the whole thing in a mason jar and I can hold the stick blender in one hand, pour the oil with the other and it always turns out perfect. Remember the butternut squash soup I mentioned above? That’s a great place to whip out your immersion blender to make a silky smooth soup. I use the whisk attachment for small things when I don’t want to get my mixer dirty. I use the mini-food processor likewise for small jobs that don’t require digging out the big food processor like making my own coconut milk.
Mini Silicone Spatulas
I admit this is an odd one (and this picture is comically tiny!). I have at least half a dozen large spatulas but I always find myself reaching for the mini ones. As I explained above we make our own mayonnaise and salad dressings and I love to use these for getting the last bit out of the jar. The small size comes in handy for cleaning out measuring cups, mason jars, sauce pans and bowls.
If you’re good with a knife and like to chop you can skip this one. Personally, I’m pretty miserable without my mandolin slicer. We eat lots of cabbage (it’s cheap, healthy and filling) and most of it is sliced up pretty finely. I make a big cabbage salad every Sunday and take it to work to supplement my leftovers. I can uniformly slice up a large cabbage and an onion in a few minutes for my favorite cabbage and onions side dish. They aren’t toys and the blade is very sharp so always be careful and use the
stupid finger guard.
I had plastic ones but they melted and melting plastic just isn’t too appetizing. This is another tool I use just about every day. I use my silicone tongs to flip meat (no melting plastic on your seared steak is a good thing!), flip my broiled cabbage wedges, serve salads out of my giant bowls and a bunch of other things from prep, to cooking to serving. The nonstick silicone makes it easy to go from main course to side dish without making a huge mess. I’ve even used them like pot holders for small dishes. Make sure you get a pair that lock, it’s so much easier to put them away when they aren’t flipping open as soon as you close the drawer.
Double Duty Storage and Baking
Pyrex, pyrex, pyrex. I love the stuff. We got a huge set from the Jack and Jill shower and I’ve picked up a few more. I love that you can freeze and bake in it. It comes in tons of sizes so you always have the right size. I like to set up meat to marinade the night before then take the pan from the fridge to the oven. If I don’t cook it in cast iron it’s baked in Pyrex.
The glass doesn’t hold flavors like plastic and you can microwave it if you so choose. I try to get a lot of prep work done on the weekend so weeknight dinners aren’t too late so our fridge is usually full of prepped, partially cooked or finished dishes and leftovers. The lids fit amazingly well, I regularly flip my salads upside down and all around without ever spilling. I’ve even thrown containers of soup in my purse when I’m in a rush with no ill effects.
So there we have my kitchen essentials, I could probably double this list but I’ve got to stop somewhere! I’ve adapted my kitchen to work with the paleo framework but these tools should fit in any kitchen (especially if you’re interested in any type of clean eating!).
What do you use the most in your kitchen?