Since going paleo, I'm of course finding myself making a lot more food from scratch. I love cooking but am getting a bit tired of tedious prep work. The biggest source of this seems to be chopping. I have a mandoline which is great for slicing small things (zucchini, squash, carrots, eggplant, etc) or julienning, and a stick blender with a small food processor cup that works well for liquids/purees. But where I'm spending most of my time is chopping onions, tomatoes, nuts, garlic, herbs, hardboiled eggs, etc.
I'm looking at getting something like one of those quick "slap" choppers, maybe a chopper like this, or a manual food processor. For budget/power/space reasons, I'd rather not get a standard food processor but if popular opinion is that it's the only way to go, then I might be swayed :)
What kitchen tools have made your paleo meal prep easier? What would you recommend?
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Get a REALLY sharp, aesthetically pleasing (to you) knife and keep it sharpened. It becomes a pleasure to cut meat and veggies with a well balance, very sharp knife, and rather than a mindless chopping-chore, prep work can transform into a tactilely satisfying aspect of food preparation.
We also have an ulu which is good for dicing and mincing.
This isn't the answer you're looking for, but I don't go in for gadgets. All you really need is a decent chef's knife and some knife skills. I learned my food prep skills on the job but I bet there are local places near you that have basic knife skills classes. There are also videos on YouTube, entire books and tutorials on websites like seriouseats.com. It helps to learn these things when the deadline is "now" and the standard is "perfect" :) but I think the time and effort put into learning food prep is well worth it. Basically you need to learn how to prep by hand faster, which means having the correct tool, and learning how to do it safely.
An affordable knife option is a Forschner. I have found them at the local restaurant cash n' carry (open to the public) for about $20. They won't hold up as well as something more expensive, but good for learning until you're ready to invest more.
I do hate chopping garlic. This is expensive for a garlic press, but worth every penny--smash, rinse, and put it back in the drawer for next time. No peeling!
eight inch chef knife is the best. it has a curve that allows you to rock the blade as you slice, dice or chop.
check out some of the pamperedchef gagets they are great quality and are designed to cut prep time
We created a website with unique tools & goods for Paleo and other similar lifestyles. There are a lot cool kitchen tools to browse. Hope you enjoy it! www.LostGrok.com
For thin slices (think potato chips) I love my mandolin. Overall, though, all the gadgets I've tried involved too much wash-up afterward so, like Christopher Gagnon, I usually just use a knife.
I feel as if I've tried every gadget out there, and it always seems to come back to this: there are no real shortcuts. You either spend your time tediously chopping with a knife (which I happen to enjoy in an almost meditative way, sometimes while sipping red wine....), or you spend your time assembling, disassembling, and cleaning all the parts of the gadgets. And cleaning some of those sharp things can be downright dangerous! Even a garlic press often seems to be more work to clean than it takes to just chop the garlic with a knife. Also: the slap/chop things I've tried never seem to work very well.
The only chopper I ever used that worked was a big, all-metal industrial one at a restaurant. It was big, heavy, the action arm was weighted, and the whole apparatus was securely attached to the wall for maximum stability. It would also easily chop your hand into hundreds of little cubes if you messed up!
I use the Norpro Stainless Steel Vegetable Chopper. It's great for nuts and garlic or anything that needs to be chopped finely (or not). I just put that sucker on my cutting board and go for it. Easy rinse-clean.
8 inch Chef's knife + Rocking motion + tucked fingers, knuckle up against the blade. Choppa time!
I've tried a mandoline, a double-bladed ulu-like thing I got at IKEA, etc. and ended up just going back to my trusty ancient Henckels 10" chef's knife. A few swipes on a sharpening steel and it's razor-sharp again.
It also helps to learn a chopping technique that minimizes loss of fingertips :)
Pampered Chef Mini-Chopper...I finally wore one out (15 yrs) and just purchased a new one. I use it everyday!