Setting up your kitchen before beginning the Autoimmune Protocol? Or trying to cultivate a clutter-free kitchen by purging the kitchen gadgets you never use? Check out this guide for the essential AIP kitchen tools you’ll actually use for quick and easy AIP meals. None of the fluff.
As a busy person, I am all about limiting the amount of time and effort I spend in the kitchen. I’m also all about limiting the number of dishes I use, so there’s less to clean up. But I also know that having the right tools reduces the amount of time I have to spend in the kitchen. And let’s be real: AIP requires a lot of time in the kitchen. So how can we make AIP simpler and easier? With the right AIP kitchen tools!
If you search the internet for “kitchen essentials,” you’re likely to find a million lists that include 20 different types of knives, 10 different pots and pans, and 40 different kitchen gadgets that collect dust in your cupboards and drawers for years, before you eventually decide to give them away.
This is not that type of list. This list is the bare minimum kitchen items you need to cook simple AIP meals at home with minimal mess and minimal clean-up. This list helps you do more with less. Start with these basics, and if you find that you’re consistently wishing you had that one, specific tool in your arsenal, then by all means, go buy that tool! To start, though, make sure your kitchen is stocked with these essentials:
AIP Cookware Essentials
1. Sheet pan(s).
First on the list of essential AIP kitchen tools is the kitchen workhorse: the humble sheet pan. Sheet pans (aka baking sheets) are my preferred cookware for roasting vegetables and/or small cuts of meat (which I do multiple times a week in the form of sheet pan meals). They also work for baking AIP cookies or other treats. And if you line them with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat before cooking, clean-up is a breeze. I have two, so I can cook as much food as will fit in my oven at once, without over-crowding the pan. Then I can save the leftovers and save the effort of cooking another meal.
Skillets and sheet pans may have to duke it out for the number one spot on this list of essential AIP kitchen tools. After sheet pans, my large skillet is the number one pan I use in the kitchen. It’s great for sautéing vegetables, making stir-fries, searing meats, frying eggs (an AIP reintro), one pot meals, or pretty much anything else you can think of. You can even make AIP pancakes and crepes in it! If you have room in your kitchen (and money in your bank account), get a few different sizes. If you don’t have the space or the money, one 10-12″ skillet should be enough. Be sure to get ones with lids, so you can hold the heat in when needed, and prevent splatters.
The best material for skillets depends on the types of dishes you’ll be preparing. Stainless steel is a safe, non-reactive option that is very versatile and great for high-heat cooking. It also works on induction cooktops. But it may be tough to clean, as it is not non-stick. Ceramic is a fantastic, safe, non-stick option, but if you use too high of temperatures, it can ruin the coating. It also generally does not work on induction cooktops, if you have them.
3. A 12-inch cast iron skillet.
I debated whether to include a cast iron skillet as an essential item, but ultimately decided it should be in everyone’s kitchen. It’s perfect for high-heat cooking, searing meats, sautéing vegetables, making stir-fries, etc. Plus, it can be used on the stovetop OR in the oven. And it gets extra bonus points because cooking with cast iron adds a little iron to your meals. So, if you are deficient in iron (as many women, especially those with autoimmune disease, are), cooking with cast iron can help increase your iron stores and actually give you more energy.
4. A medium saucepan.
Saucepans are great for making AIP pastas, sauces, and small batches of soups and stews. A medium-sized saucepan (two or three quarts) should work just fine for these tasks. Make sure you get saucepans with lids, to help prevent splatters, reduce cooking time, and keep your food warm while you attend to other dishes. Like with the skillet, if you feel like you need a few different sizes, go for it. If space is tight, one medium saucepan should be just fine.
5. A large dutch oven.
A large stockpot is essential for cooking big batches of soups, stews, broths and braises. Make your stockpot a cast iron dutch oven and it can do double duty on the stovetop or in the oven. Again, make sure to get one with a lid.
6. A food processor.
I use my food processor for quickly mincing, slicing, shredding, or ricing vegetables. It’s also great for making AIP hummus, pestos and salsas, tigernut butter, and even kneading dough (it comes with attachments!). It’s so much faster than doing any of this by hand, and I can throw all the parts in the dishwasher when I’m done. Plus, you can make delicious AIP-friendly Bliss Balls and other no-bake AIP treats!
7. A high-speed blender.
My Vitamix is perfect for making smoothies, plant milks, etc. If you only have room for one thing, a good high-speed blender can sometimes replace a food processor, but not necessarily. Blenders, well…blend…things more, for a more smooth consistency. Whereas, a food processor is great for making things a little more chunky, like salsas and pestos, and the other things described above.
8. An Instant Pot.
My Instant Pot is hand-down my most used kitchen appliance. It’s perfect for making bone broth, soups and stews, and “set-it-and-forget-it” meals. It’s a super versatile gadget to have in your AIP kitchen tool arsenal, as it works as a pressure cooker, slow cooker or a yogurt maker. And it’s perfect for summer evenings when it’s way too hot to turn on the oven, or stand in front of the stove.
AIP Cutlery Essentials
9. A good chef’s knife.
Now this should be at the top of every essential AIP kitchen tools list! A good quality, sharp chef’s knife makes chopping, slicing, dicing, and mincing so much easier – and so much safer! If you’re trying to chop vegetables with a dull knife, or using the wrong knife for the job, you are making it so much harder on yourself. And you’re much more likely to end up cutting yourself.
Invest in a good chef’s knife and you can use it for everything from dicing onions to slicing up a whole chicken. It doesn’t need to cost more than your car payment, but don’t buy the knives at Ikea, either. (Trust me – I know from personal experience. I nearly chopped off my thumb in college when a dull Ikea knife slipped off the apple I was cutting). If you have the space, a whole knife set is great, but 98% of the time, my chef’s knife is all I need.
10. A large cutting board (or two).
If you’re only going to buy one cutting board, make it the biggest one that will fit in your cupboard. Trust me. The bigger the cutting board, the more room you have to maneuver the knife, and the more food you can fit on it without crowding yourself off the board. Both of those benefits lead to a third benefit: you’ll chop faster! Plus, it doesn’t take any more time to clean a large cutting board than it does to clean a small or medium one, so just go for it. This one is the one I use almost daily.
Get a second cutting board and designate it for meat, only. By keeping your meat cutting board separate from your produce cutting board, you reduce your risk for food poisoning. And trust me, you don’t want food poisoning. I use bamboo for it’s anti-microbial properties.
11. Spoons, spatulas and ladles.
To limit exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals, avoid plastics and nylons. Aluminum can also leach into your food. Stainless steel is safer, but it can scratch up your non-stick cookware. Stick with either silicone, bamboo or wood.
12. A whisk.
Great for flipping meats, stirring vegetables, serving, etc. I like mine with silicone tips, so I don’t scratch my non-stick cookware.
14. Dry measuring cups and spoons.
15. Liquid measuring cup.
It’s much easier to measure liquids in a liquid measuring cup than to try to use the dry measuring cups. It’s great for measuring various liquid ingredients to add to soups, stews, broths, sauces and marinades.
Miscellaneous Essential AIP Kitchen Tools
16. Mixing bowls.
Get a mixing bowls set with various sizes that stack together. I like the large ones for mixing things that splatter (i.e. with a hand mixer), or mixing large amounts of food. Small ones are also great for staging your ingredients before adding them to a dish.
17. Electric hand mixer.
Electric hand mixers are great for mixing batters or whipping coconut cream without wearing out your arms with a whisk.
18. Oven mitts/pot-holders.
20. Meat thermometer.
This may seem like an unnecessary item to the untrained cook, but a good meat thermometer takes the guesswork out of cooking meat to perfection. How are you supposed to know if your roasted chicken is done, if you don’t know what temperature it is? It’s even great for knowing if your smaller cuts of meat are done without overcooking them or cutting them open to check. If you always seem to overcook steak (welcome to the club!), get yourself a meat thermometer and never guess again.
21. Can opener.
22. Food storage containers.
For storing all the wonderful leftovers from your glorious meals! I prefer the individual portion-sized containers. They’re perfect for meal prep and/or grab-and-go lunches. A good set of wide-mouth mason jars is also great to have on hand. I store individual portions of soup in the pint size mason jars and I use 32oz mason jars to freeze bone broth and make mason jar salads. Mason jars work great for freezing leftovers and only taking out what you need, when you need it.
Food storage containers also work great for storing different ingredients you’ve pre-prepped. For example, I like to pre-chop a few veggies to have on hand to easily add to dishes I’m making throughout the week. That way, I only have to clean the cutting board and chef’s knife once. It also makes it more likely that I’ll actually use the produce, if I know each meal will take less prep.
Non-Essential AIP Kitchen Tools, But Great to Have
23. Salad spinner.
Make soaking, rinsing, cleaning and drying vegetables so much easier on yourself. Obviously, you can do these things without a salad spinner, but why would you want to? I use my salad spinner almost every time I prepare anything in the kitchen. It’s not only great for cleaning and drying lettuce and other greens; it’s also great for cleaning and drying nearly every other small vegetable or fruit.
24. Immersion blender.
I procrastinated buying an immersion blender for so long. I thought, “when will I ever even use that?” But then, as soon as I bit the bullet and bought one, I never looked back. You can use it to make pureed soups without having to make a mess transferring hot soup to a blender. Or stick it into a regular soup for a bit to help thicken the broth. You can even use it instead of a food processor to make pestos, sauces, batters, smoothies, salsas, whipped coconut cream, fruit butters…OMG you guys, the list goes on forever. Plus, it’s super easy to clean. After I use it, I just give it a quick rinse and throw it in the dishwasher!
A veggie spiralizer is in no way essential, but it’s super fun to have! Vegetables just taste so much better when they’re in noodle form, ya know? Use it to make a nutrient-dense veggie “pasta” dish, or even a cold veggie noodle salad.
26. Muffin pan
AIP Kitchen Tools You Will Actually Need & Use
I am a firm believer that an uncluttered kitchen begets an uncluttered mind. If your cupboards are overflowing with kitchen tools and gadgets, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and unmotivated to cook. When you clear out the clutter, invest in quality kitchen tools, and only purchase the bare essentials, it eliminates a lot of decision fatigue and makes cooking quick AIP meals so much faster and easier.
Hopefully this list of essential AIP kitchen tools will help you build a well-equipped, yet minimalist kitchen so you can feel more confident in your ability to prepare quick and easy AIP meals for yourself on a regular basis. Even if this list of 22 items are the only kitchen tools you have at your disposal, you can easily prepare breakfast, lunch and dinner every day of the week with minimal time and effort. You don’t need anything else.