Meet Mark

Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

Tell Me More
Stay Connected
January 12, 2017

Primal Transition 101: Insider Kitchen Tips

By Mark Sisson
9 Comments

Inline_Insider_Kitchen_TipsTransitioning to the Primal Blueprint way of eating should be simple. There’s no need to invent the wheel at every meal. That said, it does likely mean shifting some of your routine in the kitchen. If you’re used to processed food, enjoy getting your hands a little messier. If you’re used to take-out, capitalize on the chance to use your creative skills. (Don’t worry, you’ve got an abundance of recipes and cookbooks right at your fingertips.) That said, all Primal cooks—beginners to old-timers—can make life easier with a few select tactics.

Cook Large Pieces of Protein

We could also call this “Learn to Love Leftovers.” If you’re turning on your oven and cooking something, you might as well make a lot of it. Instead of cooking a pork chop or a chicken breast, cook a pork roast or a whole chicken. Large pieces of protein (e.g. roasts, chickens, salmon filets, etc.) can provide several different meals over the course of a week. Check out this past kitchen tips post for a short primer on how to cook any large cut of meat.

Be Fearless with the Produce

Salads are great. Keep eating them. But don’t use the convenience of pre-washed salad greens as an excuse for neglecting the likes of Swiss chard, kale, mustard greens, collards, and other dark, leafy greens. These greens provide a wide variety of vitamins and minerals, and they’re easy to cook. They don’t deserve to get passed up in the produce aisle—or to die a slow death in the bottom of the vegetable crisper.

Here’s what you do: First, swish the leaves in cold water or rinse under running water. Shake the excess water off, but don’t worry about drying the leaves; the moisture will help them cook faster. If the stems are thick and woody, tear the leaves off the stems into bite-sized pieces. The leaves can also be cut into thin ribbons, making the greens less chewy and easier to eat. Add raw greens to soups and stews in the last 10 minutes before serving.

For greens as a side dish, heat a drizzle of oil (or bacon fat) in a skillet, add garlic and sauté 1 to 2 minutes. Add greens a handful at a time, letting each batch wilt slightly before adding more. Sauté only about 4 minutes. For softer greens, sauté 4 minutes, then add a ½ cup of stock and saute 5 minutes more. There you go.

Roast, Don’t Steam

Yes, steaming is an easy and healthy way to cook vegetables, but roasting will get you more flavor every time. Buy two rimmed baking sheets—the rims keeps things from dripping or rolling off the sides but are low enough to let air circulate, which means the outside of whatever you are roasting will brown nicely. Cover the baking sheets with parchment paper, which makes clean-up nearly effortless.

Cut veggies the same size so they cook evenly, coat lightly with oil, salt and pepper. Spread the veggies out evenly. This is no time to crowd the pan. Roast at 400º F for about 30 minutes, stirring once or twice (cooking time might be longer or shorter depending on the vegetable). Look for lightly browned and crispy on the outside and insides that are easily pierced with a fork. Cook large batches, and eat the roasted veggies all week as a side dish or on salads. You can even puree them for a soup if that’s what you’re in the mood for.

Cut Down on Cooking Times

Want to magically cook great tasting food in a half or a third of the time that it usually takes to cook? (Is there really anyone who would say no to this?) Buy a pressure cooker. A popular, user-friendly brand is Instant Pot, which can quickly make stews, bone broth, curries, short ribs and much, much more. These days, Primal and paleo pressure cooker recipes are easy to find, so you’ll have no shortage of recipes to try.

Meet Two Pots That Make Your Kitchen Life Easier

A cast iron skillet and a Dutch oven are worthy investments. Both will last forever—people pass these things on as heirlooms. Use either to sear meat on the stovetop, then go directly into the oven. A cast iron skillet can be used for any type of vegetable or protein, even a whole chicken. A Dutch oven is a go-to for stoups, stews, braises and roasts.

Never Over-Cook Your Meat

You don’t need a degree in culinary arts to cook a perfect steak. You just need an instant-read meat thermometer. This simple tool helps both beginner and expert cooks know exactly when meat is done. Buy one and use it regularly.

Expand Your Idea of Breakfast

Many a person has been undone by a breakfast rut. Smoothies, eggs, and bacon are great, but you don’t need to eat them every morning. Any and all leftovers in the refrigerator are fair game for breakfast. Sip a mug of hot soup or broth, grab a cold chicken drumstick on your way out the door, eat leftover salmon with a dash of hot sauce, or have a bowl of fresh berries and nuts.

Add Umami in Three Easy Ways

Think of the condiments fish sauce, soy sauce, and coconut aminos as secret ingredients that amp up flavor. Keep a bottle of each in your fridge, and add a drizzle of one or more to soups, stews, chili, and tomato sauce. When you sauté or stir-fry vegetables, add a dash in the last few minutes. Add a tablespoon to marinades for bigger, bolder flavor.

Use One Simple Trick for Tastier, Healthier and More Appealing Food

Let’s be honest: visual appeal matters. And so does the perception of freshness. Herbs are perfect for this. It’s hard to think of a meal that won’t improve with a sprinkle of fresh herbs. Chefs don’t just sprinkle fresh herbs on dishes because the green color offers a visual “pop.” Herbs also make everything taste fresher and bolder (and they have some fascinating health benefits to boot). Use kitchen shears to snip herbs over almost everything you serve. Parsley is the most versatile herb and keeps well in the refrigerator. Thyme, mint, cilantro and basil are good all around choices, too.

Note Three Ingredients No Cook Should Do Without

There are many types of healthy fats you can, and should, cook with. But here are my go-to basics. Avocado oil is my hands-down favorite for cooking itself because of the high smoke point (and I happen to think it tastes great in salads, too). Two others I always keep on hand are high quality butter and olive oil.

Yes, “good” butter and olive oil are more expensive, but they can be used sparingly after a dish is finished. If your meal tastes a little blah, simply top it with a small pat of really good salted butter or a drizzle of great olive oil. It can make all the difference.

That’s it for today, folks. How’s your transition coming along? What are the kitchen tips you use the most and would offer to beginning Primal types? Thanks for reading.

TAGS:  cooking tips

Subscribe to the Newsletter

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!

Leave a Reply

9 Comments on "Primal Transition 101: Insider Kitchen Tips"

avatar

Sort by:   newest | oldest
Shary
Shary
5 months 12 days ago

Good read. I grew up Primal, but a lot of people didn’t. They grew up with take-out pizza, the Golden Arches, and boxes of chemical-laden Hamburger Helper in the cupboard. They can barely recognize a fresh vegetable, much less eat one, and cooking from scratch is unheard of. These how-to articles can be a huge help for people wanting to switch to a Primal diet but don’t have a clue how to go about it. Thanks, Mark.

Elizabeth Resnick
5 months 12 days ago
Yes to all of this! (Except the pressure cooker…haven’t tried that yet, but sure I’ll stick my toe in the pond soon.) Totally agree with the importance of having good quality fats….avocado oil and butter add so much flavor to my food. And roasting veggies is life changing. I bought a huge, restaurant quality baking sheet this summer to hold a ton of veggies. Roasting enough to last a few days is such a time saver. And roasting them in avocado oil = magic! Also the extra protein tip is great…if you have some protein and veggies already made, you… Read more »
rennievan
rennievan
5 months 12 days ago

Girl, I love my pressure cooker! Give it a shot. It’s a little scary at first, but I have a killer beef stew recipe that comes together in less than an hour and is too tender to believe!

wildgrok
wildgrok
5 months 12 days ago

I was a slow adopter of the Instant Pot (have had it for a year or so) but it is a really good thing

Shary
Shary
5 months 12 days ago

We bought an Instant Pot a few years ago. I don’t use it all that often but really like it for certain things. Sometimes I’ll throw in a small chicken, along with some celery, onion and carrots and sufficient water and/or broth for soup. Easy and delicious. It makes a great cold-weather breakfast. An Instant Pot is kind of a learning experience, but you can fill the pot fuller if you let the pressure reduce naturally instead of using the vent.

Nocona
Nocona
5 months 12 days ago

A stick-blender is my go to tool for sauces, soups, marinades, mayo, smoothies, etc.
Can’t live without it.
Just stick it in a glass full of soap water and it cleans in under 3 seconds. Full on blenders suk.

Naomi W.
Naomi W.
5 months 12 days ago

Oh, yeah, I love my stick blender. Steam your veggies in some sort of broth, blend it up, and ta-da! You’ve got soup. Then add more veggies and some meat.

Joshua Hansen
Joshua Hansen
5 months 11 days ago

Pressure cookers rule, even if only for stock.

I have got to do something to get more veggies in. I generally dislike cooking and eating them.

grant
grant
5 months 11 days ago
Some more tips: get a microplane zester and use it. its amazing how lemon zest can transform wild salmon, orange zest on green olives, lime zest on red meat and raw seafood, the list just goes on and on. get a french style “black steel” pan. they offer a similar cooking experience to cast iron, but they are a lot lighter, the handle doesn’t get as hot, and they are even cheaper. invest in really nice vinegars. i mean the stuff they have at zingermans or a local specialty shop, not at whole foods. the second you taste a dish… Read more »
wpDiscuz