What’s your favorite prep bowl set?
October 23, 2021 8:16 PM   Subscribe

What’s a great set of clear food prep bowls for the picky home cook to pretend they’re a sous chef on a tv show?

I want to buy some clear prep bowls like you see chefs and bakers use on tv as a gift for a basic home cook. The recipient loves preparing everything individually before cooking and takes great satisfaction in seeing all of the ingredients lined up. They went as far as to pour a box of Kraft Mac and cheese into a soup bowl tonight for me while getting ready for dinner and lined it up next to onions and peas in little dessert bowls.

While if it were me, I’d love matching lids so we could store stuff in the fridge without using Saran Wrap, I think they would like the plain set that chef’s use. Specifically they have pointed out they love the ones that are used on Zoe Bakes, but I think anything classic, French, or well designed is great. Zoe’s website has a shop section with an Amazon link but I never know if it’s a rec by default because it’s the version available on Amazon. I’m open to different price points and sets you can recommend. I’ve seen this one at Sur La Table but wanted to see my options.
posted by Bunglegirl to Shopping (17 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Of the two brands, I've had good experiences with Duralex products.

Definitely make sure whatever you buy is made of tempered glass (both of your choices are tempered).

The caveats of nesting bowls:
The stack is heavy - about 10 lbs.
You have to disassemble the nest to get to the size you want.
There is only one of each size.

So while a nesting set is pretty, having a set or two of small workbowls (all the same size) tends to be more useful day to day. I know Duralex sells these sets as well.
posted by jenquat at 9:11 PM on October 23, 2021 [2 favorites]

I’ve had this set of 6 Oz Anchor Hocking custard bowls for something like 8 years. None have broken, easy to clean, and they are generally perfect for small ingredient prep. I’ll often use them when I’m adding spices in stages to a dish, they are super handy in the kitchen and I highly recommend them.
posted by lepus at 9:32 PM on October 23, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: This set of little Libbey bowls is awesome and I absolutely pretend I am filming a cooking show with them. They come with plastic lids that I have washed many times in the top of my dishwasher on the sanitation cycle and they haven’t warped yet, though I can tell they eventually will be outlived by the bowls themselves. The bowls are small but hold a surprising amount of stuff, perfect for chopped herbs and garlic, measured out oils and sauces, shredded cheese, etc. I find their larger size is great for on the fly spice mixes so I’m not spilling cumin all over the place trying to get it into a little pinch bowl. They hold one egg with enough room to beat it with a fork, too. I make dressings in them, using a fork to emulsify, drizzle just enough on my salads, and then store the extra right in the container lidded in the fridge. Most of the time though they are my snack bowls. I know that if I fill them up with nuts or olives or cheese cubes or any other non-carby snack that the amount will be just enough to satisfy me, but not so much that I couldn’t get up and have seconds if I want to. They are also good for storing tiny bits of korean banchan that I have left over. They stack neatly without the lids. I keep them stacked and then the lids are stored in a larger ceramic ramekin I have on the same shelf. Best of all, they are clear, so the imaginary camera person can film the ingredients through the side of the bowls.
posted by Mizu at 12:53 AM on October 24, 2021 [6 favorites]

Nesting sets are great, but if we're strictly talking about prep bowls and a cook who likes seeing everything laid out neatly, I think having only one bowl of each size isn't very satisfying. Plus, the bigger ones in the set are usually more like mixing bowl size.

For maximum mise en place I like having a few bowls in two sizes:
• ramekin / custard bowl size (4-6 oz.) for spices, herbs, oils, diced aromatics, and other small amounts of stuff
• 12-16 oz. for most everything else
Williams Sonoma has a nice set of four 5.5-oz bowls and four 12-oz. bowls, which is pretty close to ideal in my book. If you don't want to spend that much you can easily find these sizes on Amazon for less from other manufacturers.

I also like these 10-oz. Oxo prep bowls. They come with covers, which make them doubly useful as storage containers.
posted by theory at 1:24 AM on October 24, 2021 [4 favorites]

I do this a lot, and I like both Mizu's and theory's suggestions. I wish I had lids for mine, that would be so useful. It is very practical to have tiny bowls too, for spices or chopped garlic or ginger. The reason for that is mainly that they take up less space in the dishwasher (or in the fridge: sometimes I might chop up a lot of garlic while I'm at it, so I don't have to get garlicky fingers every time I cook).
posted by mumimor at 3:50 AM on October 24, 2021

We've got a bunch of small Arcoroc stacking glass bowls that we use for everything -- mise en place, ice cream, yogurt and granola, etc. They come in a lot of sizes; I think we have are the 5 oz size. I'd love to get some of the very small 1.25 oz. size as well, now that I'm looking at them...

The key thing for us is that we have a lot of them -- 20 or 24 I think. We cook a lot, and having so many means that I can use them with abandon during prep, and still have plenty left over for serving dessert.

There are a lot of similar bowls out there that would also be fine; I can say that these Arcoroc bowls have been very durable (not sure we've ever broken one), and they stack well so even though we have so many they don't take up a lot of room in the cupboard.
posted by sriracha at 4:58 AM on October 24, 2021 [7 favorites]

It turns out that I'm a terrible judge of volume -- the bowls we have are actually the 12 oz. size.
posted by sriracha at 5:05 AM on October 24, 2021

To emulate Glen (see YouTube: Glen & Friends) and measure your flour into a bowl when baking, you need a largish bowl. A two loaf bread recipe calls for as much as 5, rarely 6 cups of flour. That's a qt and a half of flour, so you want a 2 qt or 2 liter bowl. For actual breadmaking without a stand mixer, i use a 3 qt bowl.

Research in our kitchen finds mixing bowls in whole quart or liter sizes, but on online I find some fractional sizes as well.
posted by SemiSalt at 6:58 AM on October 24, 2021

Seconding the Anchor Hocking custard bowls. Mine all came with plastic lids, but the first set have more flexible lids than the more recently purchased ones, so they're easier to put on.
posted by soelo at 8:08 AM on October 24, 2021

Another person seconding the Anchor Hocking custard bowls that lepus recommends. I use these daily.
posted by ivanthenotsoterrible at 9:14 AM on October 24, 2021

Even more specific about sets: get a stacking set of the smallest size, I also have custard cups, and then get a stacking set of bowls 3x bigger (but you won’t need as many) and then keep tripling until you have the single Biggest Bowl.

It reduces decisions on the fly. If stuff won’t quite fit in size x, it will fit with room to mix without spilling in the next size up. You can have enough that there’s always a clean one in the size you want. Etc.

Also handy, two of my sizes are fairly well lidded by our large and small plates.
posted by clew at 10:51 AM on October 24, 2021

I’ve got that Duralex nesting set you linked to. I have owned it for almost 25 years - I’ve had to replace a couple bowls that I broke but I love it. I also have lots of other Duralex bowls in 3 different sizes that we use for everything from cooking prep to salads to ice cream to cereal.

Love love love them. Last time I purchased directly from the Duralex website and I was able to get lids for some of my bowls as well.
posted by hilaryjade at 11:24 AM on October 24, 2021 [1 favorite]

I use the oxo prep bowls mentioned above SO MUCH
posted by gaspode at 2:58 PM on October 24, 2021

I have these-- if the link goes wonky, I have the set of six/four ounces. I find this size and amount of bowls works well for me because I really do my prep specifically for each meal (so no need for lids because there will be nothing to store over) and 4oz is a deceptively large volume for a lot of stuff. I think this size is is fairly flexible for either a quicker meal or a more intensive one. They stack well, haven't broken or chipped when dropped, and I feel damn fancy.
posted by sm1tten at 4:07 PM on October 24, 2021

Best answer: Lots of great recommendations for stock above. For quantities, as a cook, I'd recommend 4 of the tiny bowls for small bits of spices, plus 4-6 of the middle-sized bowls, and then get 2-3 of a larger bowl (1.5 qt or so) to hold chopped onions, carrots, celery, or to hold meat after it's been cooked, but needs to be removed from the pan. Be sure at least the larger ones are oven-safe. They can come in handy for cooking too. Lids for the larger ones are great too.

Also, I got these early in the pandemic from an online Pampered Chef party, and I *love* them. They're perfect for whisking together a dressing or sauce. Easier than a bowl because less spillage. They all nest together for storage, and seal tightly for easy transport. (Yes, I know pampered chef is expensive and an MLM, but their products are generally well-designed and well-made.)
posted by hydra77 at 8:45 AM on October 25, 2021

You can also choose table dishes that are useful as prep ware. Really they all are, unless you have actual gilding on them. Beeswax wraps for lids, or plates that fit, and often Tupperware-type lids fit surprisingly well. Or you’ll find a particular yogurt brand the right size, etc.

Then you can absolutely maximize how many you cook for, by washing prep bowls as finished food goes into the serving dishes and setting the table as you wash. You have more dishes than you could store otherwise because you use them for two things. Big party energy. (Oh former days…)

Also your table dishes are to your taste and will look good while cooking.
posted by clew at 10:16 AM on October 25, 2021

Response by poster: Every one of these comments is a best answer. I haven’t decided which brand I will go with yet, but appreciate all of the options you’ve provided as well as the thought around how many of which size makes the most sense instead of a straight set.
posted by Bunglegirl at 11:24 AM on October 27, 2021

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