However you decide to do your Meal Prep, you need the right equipment. There are many different ways you can portion your foods for the freezer or pantry, so whatever works best for you is just fine. Here is a list of some of the most common and useful essential equipment for Meal Prep:
Pots and Pans: If you don’t have good pots and pans, you can’t cook as well as you would like. A good set of pots and pans can mean the difference between turning out a perfect meal versus burning the kitchen down! Also in this category is baking pans and sheets. Avoid dark metal baking pans and sheets at all costs; they are of a poor quality and will more readily burn your food. Choose lighter metal pans and sheets for baking; they bake more evenly. Glass and ceramic are also good choices for things like your 13×9″ and other standard baking pans. If you have a convection oven, do not use glassware for baking; you will have doughy bottoms that don’t brown properly. Also, when using a convection oven for baking, turn the temperature down at least 25 degrees from what the recipe indicates.
Measuring Cups and Spoons: A good set of measuring cups and spoons is a necessity. Get measuring cups and spoons that are in the widest range of measurements possible. For liquids, there are a variety of pitcher-style cups that are really handy and come in a wide range of sizes. Some of the best measuring spoons are narrow so you can fit them into small jars of spices. Look at what’s available both in stores near you and online before you invest in measuring cups and spoons. Focus on functionality and durability. Also, get at least 2 sets of anything you buy so you can have extras in the measurements you use most often, such as 1 cup, 1 teaspoon, 1 Tablespoon, etc.
Food Storage: You can use just about anything as food storage, so long as it can go in the freezer and microwave. I use resealable plastic bags in snack, sandwich, quart, and gallon sizes. I also use the fold-close baggies. I haven’t used freezer bags in almost 20 years, and I never have problems with freezer burn; however, if you like using freezer bags then go right ahead. I just find they’re unnecessary for my needs. There are a number of reusable resealable bags; however, the cost may be prohibitive for some.
You should also get a variety of sizes of plastic or glass lidded containers. They are helpful for things that are particularly sloppy, such as soups or sauces. I’ve been trying for a long time to find the *perfect* lidded containers, but they just don’t exist for my specifications. I portion my food into one-cup servings almost exclusively, so I need that size most; many containers aren’t exactly one cup, but rather “1.2 cups” and that’s just not good enough for me. If it’s not exactly one cup, I don’t want it! I’ve found a few storage containers that had exactly one cup, with varying levels of success.
Gadgets and Utensils: There are a variety of gadgets and utensils that come in handy for Meal Prep. You’ll need several spoons, spatulas (some people call them “turners” or “flippers” but they’re actually spatulas), rubber or silicone scrapers, and scoops. There’s a new kind of cooking utensil available at several stores and online purveyors such as Amazon. They’re called spurtles, and they’re the best things for stirring. I use them for just about everything; I threw away almost all of my old utensils the very first time I used a spurtle. They come in wood or silicone, so if you want spurtles that are dishwasher safe, you’re covered. I got all of my spurtles from QVC.
Whisks are good to have, too. If you have nonstick cookware, use whisks that are coated. You’ll need whisks for stirring sauces and gravy so they don’t get lumps while simmering. Get a variety of sizes of whisks for different uses. One of the biggest problems I see with those TV chefs is that they consistently use a HUGE whisk in a TINY bowl. It makes no sense; if you have a small bowl, you need a small whisk, spoon, etc.
Scoops are important for portioning out the foods (see my post titled “Disher, Disher, Who’s Got the Disher?”) and they come in a variety of sizes. You’ll at least need 1 Tablespoon (size 60), 2½ Tablespoons (size 30), and ¼ cup (size 16), but they come in sizes all the way from 2 teaspoons (size 100) to 1 cup (size 4). They’re usually color coded. If you want to order dishers/scoops through a restaurant supply that sells to the public, refer to the number size; the larger the number, the smaller the size.
You should also have a variety of slicers, graters, and peelers, as well as small citrus juicers. Again, look for functionality. Some gadgets look like they’re really cool, but when you go to use them, they fail miserably. Look at the reviews before you go to buy the latest gadgets.
Bowls: You can never have too many bowls! Look for sets of bowls in a variety of sizes. You should at least have a set of small, medium, and large bowls for mixing or storing foods in the fridge. You can prep all of your ingredients and put them into bowls in the fridge until you need them for cooking.
Small Appliances: You’ll need both a hand mixer and a stand mixer; stand mixers are best for mixing heavy batters and yeast doughs. You’ll also need a stick blender. A good appliance to have is an air fryer; they come in a variety of styles and sizes. A lot of websites that have air fryer recipes will tell you to use parchment paper in the basket; the main reason they tell you this is so you don’t have to clean the basket and its holder. The easy solution to this is to make sure both the basket and holder are dishwasher safe. The actual unit should be wiped clean with a damp cloth and allowed to air dry.
A multi-cooker is very good to have, but not necessary. Get the biggest one you can afford, even if you don’t think you’ll need the capacity. Think about the functions that you want in a multi-cooker as well. Most multi-cookers come with both pressure and slow cooking, but most don’t have a pressure canning function. If you want to can meats, vegetables, or other low acid foods, you need a pressure canner; not just any pressure cooker will do. I have a 10-quart multi-cooker that has a canning function, and I live alone. I mainly use the cooker for making the tons of rice I eat.
Of course you need a food processor. You can even get a small one and a large one. Get a food processor that has a good sized bowl that is easy to clean, as well as a variety of blades for different uses including mixing, grating, and slicing. Get the best one you can afford. You can also get one of those fancy blenders if you know you’re going to use it on a regular basis; otherwise, a traditional blender works fine.
This is just a partial list of equipment you may find helpful in Meal Prep. Let me know in the comments what your indispensable equipment is!