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Prep Kitchen


Make your Sundays easier with these must-have food gadgets.

By Amanda Burrill, MS

 

Somewhere in between my Navy years, bikini competitions, and 10-plus years of being a triathlete, I went to French culinary school. It wasn’t a waste—it gets me mad street cred. My knife skills are kickin’, my stocks and broths robust, but at the end of the day, my—our—lifestyle calls for a different kind of cooking approach and for all that coq au vin and beurre blanc knowledge floating around my noggin.

 

For active folks who take their training and nutrition seriously, bulk food prep is a way of life. It’s efficient, saves money, and is a smart way to portion and monitor macros. Even when I’m not prepping for a show, photo shoot, or race, there’s always some element of prepared meal in my fridge, whether in the form of perfectly portioned meals ready for a quick zap, or large Tupperwares of slow-cooked healthy chilis, slaws, and vegetables.

 

I tend to prep a week out on Saturdays or Sundays, and sure, my kitchen can look like a bit of a war zone. But I like the idea of having more time to myself in the evenings, the peace of mind of keeping my macros on track, and no more “What should I make for dinner tonight?” questions looming over my head during the day. It’s always nice to know that your next meal is the perfect grub you already prepped.

 

Black And Decker Slow Cooker

Cost: $30–$40

Where to buy: BlackAndDeckerAppliances.com

 

Roasts, soups, chili, pulled meats, and so much more. For an easy, nutritious food-prep session, throw the ingredients in a slow cooker, fire, and forget. Black and Decker’s four- and seven-quart models are a great value with great features. Three heat settings help fit your schedule— low for eight- to nine-hour cook times, high for two to four hours, and a “warm” setting for keeping food at serving temperature. Picture me keeping my homemade chili warm during Sunday football, because you know I’m not cooking during the game! And the stoneware pot and tempered glass lid are dishwasher-safe.

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George Foreman Indoor/Outdoor Grill

Cost: $100

Where to buy: GeorgeForemanCooking.com

This gunmetal gray beauty is the talk of my New York City apartment. The electric, non-stick grill makes 15 servings at once—clutch whether you are food-prepping or entertaining. The removable stand allows for the same results whether on the patio or on the kitchen counter, and the unique slope of the cooking surface, just like that first Foreman that got you through college, lets excess fat drain away. No charcoal, no propane, no burnt-off eyebrows, and easy cleanup. I’ve got 99 problems but grilling ain’t one!

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Oster Two-Tier Steamer

Cost: $30

Where to buy: Oster.com

Steam cooking, one of the healthiest ways to prep food, minimizes the loss of food’s vitamins and minerals and also helps retain taste, juice, and color. And we can do it in bulk—upwards of five quarts—with this inexpensive steamer. Two chambers (that break down and nest for compact storage) allow you to cook different foods simultaneously and a 60-minute timer shuts the steamer off automatically in case you forget. For those of us who love pretty food, like me (who snaps photos constantly and has no friends because of it), steaming also keeps vibrant colors intact and softens food fibers without making it go limp or mushy.

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Anolon Covered Wok

Cost:  $80

Where to buy: BedBathandBeyond.com

Sometimes I’m not prepping a huge hunk of meat. Sometimes it’s large amounts of small cuts of meat. Oh, and vegetables, too. Maybe it’s my Asian blood, but I’m obsessed with wok cooking—it’s fast and fragrant—and this 14-inch, non-stick model allows me to do it en masse. The deep shape keeps meat, shrimp, veggies, and cooking liquids contained but easy to toss, and the shatter-resistant lid locks in heat and moisture creating an environment for fast, balanced cooking. This wok is awesome for a quick meal fix. Coconut oil, garlic, six ounces of chicken, and two handful of snap peas. Salt and pepper, and sprinkle of sesame seeds. Toss in a little rice and dinner is served in less than five minutes. You’re welcome.

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Chef’n Salad Spinner and Dressing Emulsifier

Cost:  $30 and $15

Where to buy: Chefn.com

Bulk greens and ready-to-go dressing live in my fridge because I like to graze and prefer it not sabotage my fitness goals. This set makes grabbing a salad a 15-second affair. Run a basket of greens under the faucet and give ’em the “two touch.” One touch spins, and another stops the spin. Violà! Greens are clean, dry, and ready to live in the fridge for several days. For the dressing, just add your preferred ingredients, squeeze the handle, and poof! Emulsified—a favorite geek-out culinary word. It means said ingredients are smoothly and evenly blended. Pull up the cap to pour dressing and put it back down to store in the fridge with no drips and no hassle.

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Lavatools Meat Thermometer

Cost:  $28

Where to buy: Lavatools.co

Big hunks of meat are what make my world go around. (That’s what she said.) Successful cooking involves getting the temperature just right. Nailing it means retaining flavor, color, nutrition, and keeping things juicy. A fast and accurate food thermometer is essential to every prep kitchen, and while I have played with many thermometers, this is the heat-seeking tool I suggest if you can have just one. Lavatools’ basic model, the Javelin, gives an impressive four-second reading, requires no calibration, and has a foldable probe that keeps it compact. And an auto sleep mode on a 4,000-plus-hour battery life means it will outlive you.
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