Master your meal prep with these 9 kitchen essentials

Cooking experts reveal the essential tools any aspiring chef needs for a complete kitchen

the kitchen essentials you need to ace your meal prep
(Image credit: Garden Trading / Future PLC / Cuisinart)

Meal prepping is a great way to plan out your meals for the week and ensure that you’re eating healthy home-cooked food. However, nothing is more frustrating for a chef, whether amateur or professional, than realizing you don't have the right equipment to prep and execute the meal you have planned. 

To meal prep effectively, you need to have the right tools in your kitchen. Whether you are preparing to cook for guests or restocking your kitchen and want to ensure you have the items every home cook should have in their kitchen, we've got you covered. 

We asked cooking experts what they thought were the kitchen essentials needed to master your meal prep game and make the process as easy and efficient as possible. Here's what they said.

Kitchen essentials to master your meal prep

When it comes to meal prep, having the right tools and equipment can make the process much easier and more efficient.

1. Utensils

kitchen drawer and countertop

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Kitchen utensils are top of our list, with a range of different essential tools being the key to exactitude and control when prepping meals. These will make your meal prep process faster, more enjoyable, and less frustrating.

  • 'A sharp set of kitchen knives is a must-have in the kitchen for a successful meal preparation,' says Gabrielle Yap, senior editor and culinary entrepreneur at Carnivore Style. 'Precision is key when you're slicing and dicing, and trust me, a good-quality knife can make a world of difference. I personally prefer a chef's knife, a paring knife, and a serrated knife to cover all the bases.' So, consider investing in a set of high-quality knives with different sizes and shapes to cater to all your cooking needs.
  • 'For flipping, stirring, and serving, keep a set of spatulas, tongs, and wooden spoons handy,' advises Robert Smith, private chef at Culinary Collective.
  • A quality grater works well for zesting citrus fruits, grating vegetables, and shredding cheese.
  • A can opener is a necessary instrument for removing contents from cans.
  • 'A detachable garlic press will help save time on garlic preparation,' adds Jeanette Kimszal, owner of The Radiant Root.
  • A sturdy vegetable peeler is ideal for a range of veggies, and a brush cleaner for thorough cleaning is also essential.

Before beginning your meal prep, consider if you need any particular utensils beyond those listed to complete the task.

2. Food storage containers

fridge storage solutions

(Image credit: A Place for Everything)

Another crucial aspect of meal prepping is food storage.

'Having a variety of containers with different sizes and shapes for leftovers and prepped ingredients helps keep things organized,' says Gabrielle Yap. 'Choose reusable containers that are microwave and dishwasher-safe to eliminate waste and save money. I'm a fan of glass containers because they're durable, microwave-friendly, and, let's be honest, they just look so much better in the fridge.'

Bamboo options are also great eco-friendly food containers that can enhance your kitchen aesthetic or be used as a pantry organizer. We recommend this four pack, from Amazon.

'I recommend taking measurements of your freezer first so you know what you have the capacity for before you buy,' advises Amy Hand, professional chef and writer at The Skillful Cook. 'Then buy containers that are the perfect size for one serving. This way, you just need to take out one container per portion per day.'

KOMUEE 24 Pieces Glass Food Storage Containers |$39.99, $29.98 at Amazon

KOMUEE 24 Pieces Glass Food Storage Containers |$39.99, $29.98 at Amazon


Bite&Eat Nesting Silicone Containers |
$24.95, $21.95 at Amazon

Bite&Eat Nesting Silicone Containers |
$24.95, $21.95 at Amazon

Amy Hand
Amy Hand

Amy Hand is a professional chef and writer at The Skillful Cook.

3. A blender or food processor

Blender

(Image credit: Cuisinart)

'Let's not overlook the power of gadgets. A food processor is my secret weapon for chopping, pureeing, and making sauces in a snap,' says Gabrielle Yap. 'And, of course, a trusty blender for those smoothies, sauces or soups. These gadgets can save you time and effort, allowing you to focus on creating delicious meals. '

Ninja BL770AMZ Mega Kitchen System | Was $199.99 $169.99 at Amazon

Ninja BL770AMZ Mega Kitchen System | Was $199.99 $169.99 at Amazon

Ninja Professional Blender | Was $99.99, now $89.99 at Target

Ninja Professional Blender | Was $99.99, now $89.99 at Target

4. Cutting Boards

Cutting board

(Image credit: Dunelm)

Having plenty of cutting boards is essential when meal prepping, including separate boards for fruit and vegetables, meat, fish, and bread.

'It's all about preventing cross-contamination and maintaining those food safety standards,' explains Gabrielle Yap. Plus, this makes the cleaning process a lot easier.

Purchase cutting boards made of high-quality wood or plastic to ensure they are durable and won't break easily. Take proper care of them, and they will last for years. We love these Preston marble and wood boards from West Elm.

5. Measuring tools

rustic modern kitchen with glass fronted shelves and a butlers sink

(Image credit: deVOL)

'Having a set of measuring cups and spoons on hand is helpful for efficient meal prepping, as accurate measurements are key,' says Robert Smith. We recommend these measuring cups from Target

Digital scales can make measuring larger quantities – and using different units, such as grams – much easier. You can find these digital scales at Target.

6. A mixing bowl

Kitchen

(Image credit: Garden Trading)

'To mix ingredients and store prepared foods, a collection of mixing bowls in different sizes is always useful,' recommends Robert Smith.

You can find this HexClad mixing bowl set, with vacuum seal lids from Amazon, for easy meal prep.

7. Pots and pans

Metal railing at the bottom of wooden draw

(Image credit: Neptune)

'For cookware, a versatile set of pots and pans are essential,' advises Gabrielle Yap. 'I always keep a non-stick skillet for quick sautés and stir-fries, a sturdy Dutch oven for slow-cooked masterpieces, and a reliable saucepan for sauces and soups. 

'Investing in high-quality cookware is like giving yourself the gift of a seamless cooking experience.'

Stainless steel options are sturdy and reliable, while the non-stick coating adds a
smooth touch to cooking, ensuring a seamless and hassle-free culinary experience. The best option will depend on your cooking style and maintenance preferences.

Le Creuset Signature Dutch Oven | Was $339.95, now $300.00 at Walmart

Le Creuset Signature Dutch Oven | Was $339.95, now $300.00 at Walmart

Le Creuset Enameled Cast-Iron | Was $79.00, now $69.00 at Walmart

Le Creuset Enameled Cast-Iron | Was $79.00, now $69.00 at Walmart

8. Sheet pans

neptune neutral kitchen with shaker style cabinets and marble countertop and backsplash

(Image credit: Neptune)

'Sheet pans are a necessity for roasting veggies, baking meat, and cooking big batches of food,' says chef Robert Smith, making this another meal prep kitchen-essential. 

Additionally, other types of oven dishes, including china and glass are perfect for a diverse range of cooking techniques.   

9. A colander

Colander

(Image credit: Garden trading)

'Invest in a stainless steel colander for washing and rinsing produce,' advises Jeanette Kimszal. 'Choose one that is easy to clean in the dishwasher'. 

This item can also double as a way to stream vegetables if you can find one that can sit on top of a pot and has a lid. This is a healthier alternative to boiling vegetables.' You can find this CONCORD steamer set, from Amazon.


Remember, these are just some of the essential tools for meal prep. The specific tools you need may vary depending on your cooking preferences and the types of meals you plan to prepare.

Lola Houlton
News writer

Lola Houlton is a news writer for Homes & Gardens. She has been writing content for Future PLC for the past five years, in particular Homes & Gardens, Real Homes and GardeningEtc. She writes on a broad range of subjects, including recipe articles, reviewing products, writing ‘how to’ and ‘when to’ articles. Lola now writes about everything from organization through to house plants. Lola is a graduate student, who completed her degree in Psychology at the University of Sussex. She has also spent some time working at the BBC.