When doing Meal Prep, there are a lot of different kinds of equipment to consider. You need to think about cookware and bakeware, as well as which kinds of containers to use for portioning your foods. In this post, I’m going to go over the equipment and utensils that have served me the best in my Meal Prep journey.
Pots and Pans: This is a given. Good pots and pans go a long way in your Meal Prep goals, but it’s about more than just buying the best cookware you can afford. Most home cooks will look for a set of cookware that has the sizes and varieties of pots and pans they need, and that’s perfectly fine. Consider this question, though: If I am going to do Meal Prep on a regular basis, do I really want to be washing the same pots and pans over and over because I use them so often? Remember my motto: Work smarter, not harder. Buy extra individual pots and pans in the sizes and styles you use most, so you can have three or four different things going on at the same time, in the same kind of pan.
Bakeware: The same holds true for bakeware. Go ahead and invest in a few extra 13×9’s, 8×8’s, loaf pans, and muffin pans while you have the money to do so. Those are the baking pans you’ll be using the most. If you like Bundt pans, go ahead and buy a couple of them as well. The 9″ round cake pans are also a good investment. Avoid so-called “nonstick” or dark metal pans; they’re not really of a high quality. Regular aluminum baking pans are the best.
Foil bakeware comes in handy, too. You can buy foil pans for casseroles that will go into the freezer. If you want to entertain, your regular bakeware is available, rather than being tied up in the freezer with lasagna, mac & cheese, and whatever else. I recommend the sturdier foil pans that are available in supermarkets nowadays. They have smoother sides than the cheaper ones that get bent out of shape easily.
Multi-Cookers, slow cookers, and pressure cookers: I’m a big fan of multi-use appliances. My current multi-cooker does it all: slow, pressure, rice/grain, sauté, and even canning. When shopping for a multi-cooker, consider the size and functionality. If you think you’ll only need a 6-quart cooker, then buy it. There’s no sense having a huge cooker when you’re not going to cook a huge amount of food at once. I opted for the 10-quart size because I like to make a large amount of something and pack it all away in the freezer. I make rice by the 5-pound bag on a regular basis, and the larger capacity allows me to do that without worry.
If you don’t think you’ll need a multi-cooker, then consider buying a stand-alone appliance, such as a slow cooker and/or pressure cooker. Again, the capacity and functionality are important. Some regular slow cookers and electric pressure cookers have a sauté function so you can brown your meat in the cooker rather than having to do it in a separate pan on the stove and transfer it to the cooker.
Air Fryer: This is one of the best new appliances out there. Air fryers are versatile, easy to use, and convenient. They come in a variety of capacities and styles. Again, consider the functionality and capacity when choosing an air fryer.
Extra Electric Burners: This is something not a lot of people consider. If you’re going to have multiple things bubbling away all at the same time, consider buying an extra burner unit. Beware of the induction ones; a good way to test whether your cookware can be used on an induction burner is to try sticking a magnet to the underside of the pan. If it sticks, go ahead with induction; if not, get a regular burner.
Extra burners also come in handy when entertaining. If you want to keep something hot for a buffet-style meal, having it on a burner on low heat will do the trick. All you need to do is stir it every so often to make sure the temperature is consistent.
Countertop Oven: I recently gave my countertop oven to my mom because I finally got my regular oven cleaned properly and I found a sort-of replacement. Look for a countertop oven that has a convection function. Convection is circulated hot air from a fan, and it is superior for baking. If you do use a convection oven for baking, avoid glass bakeware. The bottoms of your baked goods will never get browned with glass in a convection oven. Also, take the temperature down about 25 degrees Fahrenheit from what the original recipe says.
Utensils: As with cookware and bakeware, you can never have too many cooking utensils. Always consider investing in duplicate sets with these. You’ll need spatulas (they’re not called “turners” or “flippers”!), spoons, tongs, rubber or silicone spatulas, and a full set of measuring spoons and cups, including glass or plastic liquid measuring cups. Pot holders, trivets, hot pads, and kitchen towels also count as utensils, in my book.
In the last few years I’ve gotten to be a big fan of a kind of utensil called a spurtle. Spurtles are kind of a cross between a wooden spoon and a spatula. They were invented hundreds of years ago by the Scots to stir oatmeal, and they’ve recently come to the U.S. as a new spin on the ancient utensil. They can almost be used for anything: stirring, scraping, turning, spreading, you name it. The first time I used one of my spurtles, I decided then and there to get rid of almost all my old utensils, and I use spurtles almost exclusively.
Chest Freezer: In the interest of full disclosure, I do not have a chest freezer, but if I had my own home that’d be one of the first things I get. You can fill up your regular freezer, then have the overflow go to your chest freezer. When your regular freezer starts to get a bit empty, take things from the chest freezer and transfer them. Depending on the kind of refrigerator freezer you have (drawer type or front loading), you will need to label things for your chest freezer at least on the lids. Also, place any resealable plastic bags in either freezer flat, with the labels up. Anything that’s labeled on the lid, you can look down into your chest freezer and see what you have at a glance. If you have a front loading refrigerator freezer, you’ll also need a label on the side of the container, and you’ll need to put those containers in with the labels facing the front, again so you can see at a glance what you have.
This equipment is readily available and easy to afford for many home cooks. There are many other things you can get for your Meal Prep, depending on what you want to do. Let me know of the equipment you like to use and find helpful!