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I’ve been cooking just for myself for approximately seven years. At the ripe age of 18, I became a vegetarian and started cooking my own solo meals separate from what my family was eating. Initially, I attempted eating their sides with my own vegetarian protein, but there was something incredibly sad about having a plate of chickpeas while my family was noshing on steak and potatoes—so I had to get creative.
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But I’m grateful for it. It’s what made me actually learn how to cook and start experimenting with veggie-filled meals. As a (still) single woman all these years later, I’ve gotten this whole cooking-for-one thing down pat. Not only have I perfected getting ingredients that I can use in multiple meals so I’m not eating the same thing every day, but I figured out which cooking gadgets I need in my arsenal to get the job done without taking up too much space in my small apartment kitchen.
Here are 13 things I highly recommend for anyone who’s cooking for one, including a cult-favorite pressure cooker and containers for all the leftovers.
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1. An Instagram-famous pan that does it all
Whether you live alone or just cook for yourself, you really don’t need too much cookware. Yes, it’s helpful when you’re trying to sauté onions in one pan and fry tofu in the other—but working with multiple burners is stressful and overrated anyway. Enter: the Always Pan. It’s an Instagramable terracotta pan that claims to do the work of eight different pieces of cookware: fry pan, sauté pan, steamer, skillet, saucier, saucepan, non-stick pan, spatula, and spoon rest.
We put this pan to the test and found that it lives up to the hype. It impressively steamed dumplings and had an incredible non-stick surface for sautéing. It’s absolutely gorgeous, too, so you can proudly display it on your stovetop rather than shoving it into your cabinets.
2. The cult-favorite Instant Pot
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I love my Instant Pot. It’s truly a gadget that has changed my life as a single person. It has so many cooking settings like sauté, slow cook, rice cook, and, my personal favorite, pressure cook. It allows me to batch-cook grains and comforting soups, and because I can just dump the ingredients in and press a button, I can shower or catch up on work while my meal cooks. It’s truly amazing and everyone should own one.
3. One really good knife
Having a knife set is nice and all, but if you’re cooking for yourself, you really just need one trusty knife. Even though I have a few knives in my drawer, I almost exclusively use my large chef’s knife for everything from chopping veggies to slicing fruit. The Zwilling Pro is the best chef’s knife we’ve ever tested as it’s durable and easy to handle—so you won’t end up slicing your digits. If you’re going to get one knife, it should be this one.
4. Containers for all the leftovers
When you’re cooking for just yourself, leftovers are inevitable. Whether you’ve batch-cooked some quinoa, made a meal large enough for a family of five, or ordered too much pad Thai, you’re going to need to store your food. These glass containers from Pyrex are our favorite food storage containers. We love that they’re made of sturdy glass, are leak-proof, and have a vented lid for microwaving. They’re great for meal prep, too.
5. Baking sheets for sheet pan dinners
One of my favorite easy dinners is sheet pan meals. Simply chop your veggies, add your protein, add all the spices, and throw it into your oven. No babysitting a saucepan for 30 minutes before you have a meal. For even heating, you’re going to want a good sheet pan. The Nordic Ware half sheets are our favorite baking sheets for this reason. Though, we do recommend pairing parchment or a silpat mat with it to prevent sticking.
6. A blender for personal smoothies
Smoothies are my go-to breakfast because they’re so easy to make. You just toss all your ingredients into a blender and you’re good to go. Since regular blenders can be bulky and annoying to clean, I prefer to use a personal blender. We loved the Ninja Fit and named it the Best Overall when we tested personal blenders. It’s fast, durable, and you can drink straight from the blending cup, which means less cleanup. You can also use it to blend sauces and dressing—though I will warn that when hot foods are blended, the steam makes it harder to open.
7. Sustainable wraps to store your food
When it comes to storing food, I always feel a little guilty wrapping my sliced pepper or avocado half in plastic wrap—which happens a lot considering I don’t use all of one ingredient while just cooking for myself. It’s so wasteful! That’s where Bee’s Wrap comes in. It’s a reusable cloth covered in a layer of beeswax that allows it to stick to itself or objects. It’s great for covering your bowl of dip you couldn’t finish or wrap a few snacks in to eat on-the-go.
8. A waffle maker for single servings
Waffles are one of my favorite things to make on the weekend and it always feels like I’m treating myself. But when making waffles for just one, it feels like a waste of space to have a full-sized waffle maker in my already limited cabinets. That’s why I love the Dash mini waffle maker. It’s cute and compact and actually works pretty well—though you need to keep your eye on it so it doesn’t burn.
9. A toaster oven to bake small things
Even if you have a full-sized oven, a toaster oven is a great addition for solo meals. Because it’s smaller, it heats up much faster than your standard oven, meaning you can roast vegetables, bake Pillsbury cookies, and—obviously—toast bread much quicker. We love the Breville Smart Oven Pro and named it the best toaster oven we’ve ever tested. It’s basically a powerful mini-oven, and we found that it had the most even heating of all the toaster ovens we tested—plus, it has a convection option.
10. An air fryer for quick crisping
Similar to the toaster oven, an air fryer is incredible for quickly crisping up vegetables or making slightly healthier versions of your favorite fried foods. Seriously, it’s one of my favorite ways to make tater tots or heat up Trader Joe’s frozen apps. Cosori makes our favorite affordable air fryer because it performed similarly to high-end models for about a third of the price. It’s a bit bulky, but you’re going to want to make room for this incredible cooking gadget.
11. An easier way to strain pasta
One of the easiest meals you can make for one person is pasta, but straining out the water can become a chore. You need to pour your precious noodles into a colander, only to put them back in the pot to coat with a creamy sauce. It seems like a waste of time to me. That’s why people love this strainer from Kitchen Gizmo, which snaps right onto the pot and eliminates the middleman. It’ll also take up less space in your kitchen cabinets than a full-sized colander. Reviewers say it works for everything from heavy noodles to draining out beef grease.
12. A chopper that will become your sous chef
I hate chopping onions. I always end up weeping like I was just broken up with and I can never get the pieces cut small enough. It takes way too much time for a one-person meal. Now I just use this chopper from OXO and it saves me so much time in the kitchen (and many, many tears). While I do have to chop the onion into smaller bits so it doesn’t get stuck in the blades, it’s so worth it to have this efficient sous chef around.
13. A meal kit so you’re not eating the same thing
It can be challenging to constantly come up with new meals to cook for yourself. You don’t have anyone to ask “so what do you want to eat tonight?” to bounce ideas off. That’s why a meal kit can be so helpful—it plans the meals out for you and sends you all the ingredients you need. It’s less work on your end and if you chose the two-serving option, you’ll have leftovers for the next day. Home Chef is our favorite meal kit of all time, as it consistently delivers uncomplicated, delicious meals and has high-quality ingredients to match. It’s worth giving it a shot at least once.
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