Making Meal Prep Easier
One of the most common questions we get is, I know I want to meal prep but how do I meal prep? Cooking multiple meals that need to be reheated and saved can be a very daunting task for some people and we completely understand that. Also, cooking multiple meals can be very time consuming which can also be very overwhelming for people. Fortunately, over the past few years, some kitchen gadgets have come to market that has not been available or were just really expensive. These tools can save you a ton of time and also make food taste much better when you need to reheat it later on in the week. They can also make it much easier to add flavor to foods without adding a ton of calories. Here we will list out some of our favorite items that we use pretty much every week when doing our own meal prep.
Disclaimer: We are not affiliated or get any compensation from any of the companies or products listed, they are just what we happen to use or recommend.
Sous Vide Immersion Circulator: This tool is a staple in high-end restaurants around the world and is the reason you can go to a restaurant and get a perfectly cooked steak almost every single time. French for water bath, the method is to heat water to a very specific temperature and then cook the meat in that water. It gives you incredible control over the temperature of the protein you are cooking and makes it extremely hard to overcook something. Back in the day they were several thousand dollars and took up a ton of room so no one had them. Now there are several that have come to market that essentially hangs on a pot of water and you set the desired temperature. You then put the meat in a bag (we highly recommend getting a vacuum sealer as well and seal the meat) and then set the temp and cook the protein. This can make incredible steak, perfectly juicy chicken, never overcooked fish, and eggs cooked to your exact tastes every single time you want. After you take it out of the water batch, a quick sear in a frying pan gives you the perfect finish. Talk to Steph, we have a bunch of recipes for sous vide as we use it pretty much weekly. Annova is the big manufacturer in this space but Instant pot also just came out with their own model as well (we don't have any experience with either one, the one we use unfortunately the company went out of business so we can't recommend it.)
Instant pot: You may have heard of this one as they have become quite popular over the past year or so. They are a pressure cooker that can also do so much more. The nice thing is these are not like the old school pressure cookers that have the chance to explode, so many people are afraid to use them. They really designed this appliance very well so it has many fail-safes. The main reason people like pressure cookers, it cooks food much faster than in the oven and since steam is used, it does not dry out food. What makes the instant pot so amazing is that you can pressure cook, saute, steam, use it as a rice cooker, slow cook and a myriad of other functions as well. This device will save you a ton of time and counter space as it can replace all the appliances I just listed. We use this to make rice, soups, proteins, and just about everything else. The other nice thing is you can walk away from this and it will keep the food warm which allows you to do other things while you wait for something to cook. We again have a bunch of recipes as this comes out of our cabinet weekly, also there are a ton of online resources/cookbooks specifically for the instant pot. The real choice here is what size you want which depends on how many people you are cooking for. Amazon sells them and puts them on sale pretty frequently.
Air Fryer: Again another appliance that has just started coming out that is gaining a lot of traction. An air fryer uses very hot air, essentially convection to "fry" food without using a ton of oil and actually deep-frying it. While deep frying food is delicious, it also adds a ton of calories which is something we are trying to avoid. Air frying gives you some of that crispiness and crunch that people miss with just cooking up a chicken dish or having some soggy, steamed or boiled vegetables. Air fryers are also very simple, spritz the meat or vegetables with a little bit of the oil of your choice, and put them in the machine, that is pretty much it. When looking for an air fryer, we prefer ones with trays or racks. This allows the air to flow all the way around the food which means it is fried on all sides. Some models just have an area where you throw the food in and it does all not get cooked evenly or you can only do a few pieces at a time. We use something a little different to air-fry, we got a Breville convection oven which air fries as well (along with a lot of different functions). This is a very expensive appliance, but if you need all the functions, it is a great appliance. We have not tried a traditional air fryer so we have no specific recommendations, but again look at the size and look to see if it has a rack for trays.
Le Creuset non-stick stir fry pan: This is one of the best nonstick pans we have ever used and it has been clutch for us for meal prep. It is a very big pan so it allows us to cook a ton of food at once. We have used this for all sorts of stir-fries, from vegetables, rice, chicken steak and just about anything else you can think of. It heats it all up great and again you can cook multiple meals at once. Clean up is a breeze and it can basically just be cleaned with running some water over it and using a sponge. We have only had this pan for a few months but we use this multiple times a week because it is just that easy to use.
Written by Stephanie Leonetti
Founder of Myplanutrition.com and Certified Sports Nutritionist