Simply an act of forward-thinking cooking, meal prep takes on many different forms. For some, it’s a refrigerator full of identical portions of chicken and rice. Other times, it might be a batch of Bolognese so large it will last through the week. It could even be overnight oats, sliced fruit, or tuna salad. Regardless of preparation, the value proposition remains the same: Make your meals now so you don’t have to later.
There’s money to be saved as well. Meal prepping encourages you to buy larger quantities of food, something that typically generates savings, but, of course, the real saving comes from avoiding takeout orders when you’re hungry but don’t want to cook. If there’s good food in the fridge, that $15 burrito (plus delivery fees) is much less enticing.
The TL;DR? Meal prepping could save you time in the kitchen and money in your pocket, so long as you have the right equipment and technique.
So, what’s the best way to make meal prepping both easy and delicious? We turned to private chefs for answers. Often responsible for stocking their clients’ fridges with enticing, pre-made dishes, private chefs are so good at meal prepping they get paid for it.
Here’s everything they recommend for executing the best, most enjoyable meal prep.
According to DyAnne Iandoli, the culinary director of private chef service The Culinistas, mixing bowls are the most overlooked piece of meal prep equipment. “If you’re going to be prepping out a bunch of different things that are going into smaller containers, you need mixing bowls for the meals to start their journey,” she said. “There’s been so many times where I walk into a client’s house and I wind up mixing a salad in the biggest Pyrex that I’m eventually going to plate it in.”
Basic Kitchen Supplies
When DyAnne and her team cook at a client’s home, they only require the kitchen to have the most basic cooking equipment. “We ask for a large saute pan, a small saute pan, and maybe a four-quart stock pot—just in case you ordered pasta,” she said. While the chefs bring their own knives, DyAnne insists that for the actual cooking component of meal prep, all you need are the basics.
Glass Food Storage Containers
When it comes to food storage, former sous chef and current Miami-based private chef Andrew Hornick believes there’s one option that stands above the rest. “Glass everything—always glass containers,” he said. As someone who came from restaurants—where plastic is the primary storage material—Andrew didn’t always prefer glass, but eventually made the change. “Glass is just easier to clean, it stains less,” he explained. “You throw cut strawberries into the plastic container, it’s almost like you put pasta sauce in it. It’s going to be red and junky. I prefer the clean look [of glass].”
According to DyAnne, the transparency of glass noticeably increases her clients’ excitement towards the food. “People definitely eat with their eyes first,” she shared. “When you open the fridge, if something is in a stereotypical blacked-out meal prep container that you can’t see into, it’s not catching your eye.” Glass containers also just feel and look better than plastic. “I like the weight to them,” said Andrew, “and I think it just looks nicer presented in the fridge when it’s all glass.”
For both chefs, aesthetics remain an overlooked component of meal prepping. For this reason, DyAnne trains her chefs to plate dishes in glass storage containers as if they were served in a dining room. “If you see a beautifully layered salad in a glass container, you’re grabbing that [instead of] mush in plastic.”
What do you use to meal prep? Let us know in the comments below!