Whether you’re looking to make your mid-week lunches easier or want to eat a little healthier, batch cooking will provide you with nutritious meals whenever you need them. CookServeEnjoy spoke with top chef and MasterChef contestant Raheel Mirza to find out the best tips for prepping like a pro.
- What is batch cooking?
- What are the benefits of batch cooking?
- What tools and equipment do I need to batch cook?
- Top tips for how to batch cook
- How to meal prep for the week
- What are the best meals to batch cook?
- How long does meal prep last
- How to store meal prep
- How to reheat meal prep
- What are the best tools for batch cooking?
What is batch cooking?
Batch cooking is a food preparation method that involves — you guessed it — cooking in batches. Meals are cooked in large quantities, divided, and stored in airtight containers in the fridge or freezer until ready to eat.
What are the benefits of batch cooking?
If you’ve never done batch cooking before, you may be wondering what all the fuss is about.
“Batch cooking allows you to prepare and plan your meals for the days and week ahead, saving you time and money,” Raheel says: “It means you can eat tasty meals when you want them.” It’s also a simple yet effective way to eat well when you’re on the go!
As well as saving time and money, food prepping can also:
- Ensure you are eating healthy, nutritious food 一 It can be difficult for people to enjoy nutritious food when they’re short on time. Meal prepping means you have access to healthy meals every day of the week 一 no matter how busy your schedule is.
- Reduce your food waste 一 Batch cooking involves planning your meals and therefore only buying specific ingredients that you need. This means it is less likely for food to go off and be thrown away. For advice on how to be more green in the kitchen, check out our guide on How to Reduce Food Waste.
- Cut down on time spent cleaning the kitchen 一 We all know how messy the kitchen can get while cooking. With batch cooking, you will only need to cook once or twice a week. Cleaning the kitchen regularly will be a thing of the past!
What tools and equipment do I need to batch cook?
The good news is that you don't need any specific equipment to get started with batch cooking. However, there are a few pieces of equipment that can be very helpful.
Raheel advises: “I would recommend a large non-stick stockpot or casserole pan, a blender or food processor for blending sauces in large quantities, and strong storage containers."
Of course, cooking in large quantities means you’ll need large saucepans and lids to hold all your food! Make sure the recipe you plan to make will fit in the pans you have available; or check out our saucepan guide for tips on how to pick the right pan.
A food processor
Chopping vegetables, blending soups, and creating sauces can take a lot of time, especially when there’s lots of them. That’s where food processors come in. They can act as an extra pair of hands to help you in the kitchen 一 we won’t say no to that!
Investing in high-quality, airtight containers will ensure that your meals are prepped to perfection. Browse our range of storage containers, with a variety of sizes to choose from. Or, read our Best Meal Prep Containers Guide to find out more.
Meal prepping normally requires cutting up lots of meat and veg, meaning chopping boards will come in handy. You may even need a few if you are cooking in large quantities or prepping with meat to avoid cross-contamination.
Top tips for how to batch cook
1. Plan ahead
“Have a good think about what it is you might want to eat in the coming weeks. For example, if it’s coming up to the winter months then you might want to batch cook curry-based sauces and pasta sauces for hearty dishes,” Raheel explains.
By planning what you want to eat in the coming weeks early, you can check your cupboards to see what you already have in. This will give you time to gather your ingredients before you start cooking. You’ll also have time to make room in your freezer!
2. Store in portion sizes
“When storing batches of sauces, store them in quantities that are suitable for one
meal for the number of people in your household so you don’t have to defrost the
whole amount and cook it all in one go”, says Raheel. This is a simple way to make things easier for yourself!
3. Cool before freezing
When food is frozen while it’s still warm, moisture will rise, get trapped in the dish, and form a layer of ice on the top. Also, this can cause surrounding frozen items in your freezer to partially thaw and refreeze, altering the texture and taste.
4. Serve your side dishes fresh
Raheel says: “Rice tastes better fresh, so it’s best to make it on the day of cooking.”
Top tip: for dishes like curry and bolognese, don’t pre-cook the rice or pasta. Instead, cook it fresh; it won’t take long and the taste will be much better!
5. Organise your freezer
There’s nothing worse than rummaging through your freezer trying to work out which container is the meal you’ve been looking forward to all week. An easy way to avoid this is to label your food so you can keep track of what everything is.
Put newer food at the back of the freezer and bring the older ones to the front so nothing gets forgotten about. This way you can avoid food waste and know what needs to be used up next.
6. Use ingredients that won’t dry out
When cooking in batches, ingredients can become slightly dry when they’re reheated, or from being left in the fridge for too long. Raheel advises: “Use a cut of meat that doesn't dry out when reheating, such as the thigh.”
Yes, even your side salad can be made in advance! “Store it in the fridge portioned into sensible serving sizes that can be eaten in one sitting,” Raheel says.
Remember though 一 salad will only stay fresh for a few days, so aim to eat this at the start of the week.
How to meal prep for the week
Batch cooking can be a kitchen saviour if you meal prep for the week, and it’s much easier than you think!
Taking 30 minutes to plan your meals for the week and what ingredients you will need can take the stress out of cooking. Prepping at the weekend is always a good idea so you can go shopping and get your meals made for the week before Monday morning. If you’re busy, getting your groceries delivered can speed up the process.
What are the best meals to batch cook?
In need of some inspiration? Raheel says: “Curries are good meals to batch cook, as are pasta sauces to be used in dishes like lasagna. Pulses, like lentils and beans, are also great options to batch cook.”
A one-pot curry is one of the easiest meals that can be made in huge batches, frozen in portions, and defrosted whenever you fancy. Remember to enjoy it with some fluffy rice and naan bread.
Low on freezer space? Pasta sauce takes up little room and can be used for a variety of dishes such as bolognese, lasagne, and simple pasta dishes. Just bulk up with vegetables and sides once you’re ready to eat.
Batch cooking chilli never gets old. With this dish, you can throw in whatever veggies you have sitting in your fridge. Adding pulses, such as lentils and beans, is a great way to get your protein in!
How long does meal prep last?
“Depending on what you’re cooking, it can last up to 2-3 months in the freezer,” says Raheel. “Just make sure you’re batch cooking the base sauces, as these freeze the best, and pop them in suitable containers.”
If you’re planning to store meal prep in the fridge, most dishes can last up to 3-5 days.
Top tip: if you want to meal prep for your whole week, you might want to schedule in two days to do so (such as Saturday and Wednesday) to keep food fresh.
How to store meal prep
Raheel says “Store food in a suitable container, allow it to cool, and pop it in the fridge. If you’re planning on freezing your food, do it on the same day that it’s been made to preserve its freshness.” The quicker food freezes, the better it will taste once thawed!
Remember 一 try not to crowd the freezer. Giving containers space will allow air to circulate around them, quickly freezing the food.
How to reheat meal prep
If pre-cooking food is new to you, knowing how to reheat different types of dishes can be tricky.
Raheel says: “If reheating from the fridge, always bring the food to room temperature first. Then, reheat gently on the stove until piping hot in a good quality saucepan, like a Masterclass saucepan.”
“If reheating from the freezer, then always allow the food to fully defrost in the fridge for around 24 hours, depending on the weight. Then take it out, let it come to room temperature, and reheat gently until hot,” Raheel advises.
Defrosting food slowly in the fridge, instead of quickly at room temperature, can help to reduce harmful bacteria developing in the food.
What are the best tools for batch cooking?
The best for preparing your ingredients: Natural Elements Eco-Friendly Cutting Board
Prepping and chopping food for batch recipes requires lots of space, especially when there are lots of ingredients. Whether it’s meat, fish, fruit, or veggies on the menu, this large cutting board is up to the task. An essential in the kitchen, this heat-resistant board can also be used to rest hot pots and pans without damaging your worktops.
Perfect for cooking stews and soups: MasterClass Stainless Steel Stockpot
This stockpot features an extra-deep design and a sturdy-encapsulated base to cook food consistently, making it ideal for cooking stews, soups, and curries in batches. You’ll be glad to hear that it is also dishwasher safe!
The best for saving hob space: MasterClass Stainless Steel Set of 3 Saucepan Divider Baskets
If you’ve ever cooked for the whole family, you’ll know it's a constant balancing act. These saucepan dividers can split your pan into three compartments, making cooking multiple ingredients at the same time easy. Using a single pan will give you lots of valuable space in the kitchen, as well as cutting down on the washing up!
Ideal for keeping food fresh: MasterClass Eco Smart Snap Storage Container
These high-quality, airtight containers with snap-on locks are a must for making your food last for longer when batch cooking. When you need to heat your food, just open up the slide steam vent and pop them in the microwave. Easy!
You’re now ready to take the stress out of cooking and prep like a pro
Batch cooking recipes doesn’t have to be difficult. Not only will it provide you with nutritious meals you can freeze for a rainy day, but it’ll also save you time and money.
And, of course, having the best tools to get started with batch cooking will make your life even easier.