Best meats for meal prep: Prep Ahead, Eat Well

Hello there! As a chef who has planned and prepped hundreds of meals over the years, I can’t wait to share everything I’ve learned about selecting the best meats for meal prepping. Preparing homemade meals in advance saves so much time and stress in my own busy life. The key for me is choosing proteins that taste juicy and delicious all week, not dried out or bland.

In this guide, I’ll give you the rundown on all my favorite meats to use, including different cuts of chicken, turkey, pork, beef, lamb, and game. For each one, I’ll explore the benefits and downsides, so you can make the best choices for your meal prep. Whether you prefer white meats, red meats, ground meat, or even wild game, I’ve got you covered!

Here’s what we’ll be going over:

  • The best meat for meal prep and whys
  • Detailed information on meat cuts
  • Tips and hacks in meat handling

And more! I’ll also share pro tips for cooking meats to maximize flavor and reheating, as well as proper storage so they stay fresh. By the end of this guide, you’ll feel ready to stock up on the perfect proteins to build quick, healthy, and delicious meal prep menus for your week ahead. Let’s get to it!

What are the best meats for meal prep?

Chefs knife on the black board. Choosing Best meats for meal prep
Image source: Lukas

When it comes to healthy meal prep, choosing the best meats for meals is key for delicious flavors all week long. Not all meats retain moisture and taste as good as reheated. In this section, I’ll share my top recommended poultry, pork, beef, lamb, and game meats for meal-prepping success. We’ll go over the best cuts and cooking methods to elevate your prep with juicy, flavorful proteins engineered for tasty leftovers. Let’s explore the best meat options for taking your meal prep to the next level!


Cooked chicken leg
Image by: Ksenija Pecerska

Chicken is one of the most budget-friendly, versatile, and lean proteins for meal prep. It’s easy to cook in bulk and reheats well throughout the week without drying out. The mild flavor also takes well to all types of seasonings and cuisines.


Chicken breasts are ideal for meal prepping because they cook quickly and stay tender when reheated. They’re lower in fat than chicken thighs or drumsticks as well.

  • Lean and high in protein
  • Quick to cook
  • Shredded chicken is easy for salads or tacos
  • Can dry out if overcooked


Chicken thighs have more fat and collagen than chicken breasts, keeping them juicy and flavorful. The extra fat makes them satisfying and hard to overcook.

  • More flavorful
  • Juicier than breasts
  • Works great in stews or casseroles
  • Higher in fat than breasts


Roasting a whole chicken at once gives you meat for several meals throughout the week. Use breasts for one dish, shred thighs for another, and make stock from the bones.

  • Maximum usage from one chicken
  • Ideal for batch-cooking
  • Make broth from the carcass
  • Needs more hands-on time

Ground Chicken

Ground chicken provides a lean, protein-packed option for meal prep recipes like chili, burgers, meatballs, or stuffed peppers and veggies. You can make so many easy meals with ground chicken.

  • Very versatile
  • Lower fat than ground beef
  • Easy protein boost
  • Can dry out if overcooked


Chicken breat on the salad
Image by: Katka Pavlickocva

Turkey is another lean, budget-friendly poultry option for a complete meal and a meal prep. It’s high in protein and lower in fat than beef or pork. Turkey holds up well when reheated and takes on flavors easily.

Ground Turkey

Ground turkey is ideal for recipes like chili, meatballs, burgers, and more. It has a milder taste than beef and is lower in fat when you choose a lean blend.

  • Very versatile
  • Lower fat than ground beef
  • More affordable than ground beef
  • Can be drier than ground beef

Turkey Breast

Turkey’s breast is very lean with a mild flavor. Slices of cooked turkey breast make excellent lunch additions or can be used in casseroles and stir-fries.

  • Extremely versatile
  • Lower fat than chicken thighs
  • Cooks evenly
  • Can be drier than fattier cuts


Turkey drumsticks have more dark meat, keeping them moist when reheated. They work well in soups, stews, and braised dishes.

  • Tender and flavorful
  • Budget-friendly
  • Ideal for slow cooker meals
  • Higher in fat than breast meat


Raw Beef Steik
Image by: Mali Maeder

Beef is valued in meal prep for its rich, meaty flavor. The right cuts can deliver a good source of protein along with iron and zinc. Choose fattier cuts of beef for the most tender, juicy meal prep recipes.


Leaner steaks like sirloin, flank, or strip steak are ideal for quick cooking and slicing over a salad or grain bowl. Marinate first for the most flavor.

  • Offer a quick, satisfying meal
  • Versatile for salads, tacos, stir-fries
  • Marinate well for added flavor
  • Can be pricey
  • Lean cuts can dry out


Brisket is perfect for low, slow cooking, and tastes great sautéed. It becomes fall-apart tender after a few hours in a slow cooker or oven. Shred and used on sandwiches, nachos, baked potatoes, and more.

  • Develops rich flavor when braised
  • Can feed a crowd
  • Leftovers freeze well
  • Requires lengthy cooking time
  • One of the fattier cuts

Chuck Roast

This affordable cut works well cooked low and slow for tender pulled beef. The meat shreds beautifully for tacos, nachos, pasta dishes, and casseroles.

  • Well-marbled for flavor
  • Budget-friendly
  • Yields tender shredded beef
  • Needs a slow moist cooking method

Ground Beef

Ground beef it’s hearty and flavorful, and begs to be seasoned and shaped into burgers, meatballs, tacos, chili, and more. This ground meat is high in protein and fat content giving it plenty of juiciness and satisfaction factor.


Cooked pork on the rack
Image by: Pixabay

Pork is a tasty and versatile meat option for meal prep. Cuts like pork tenderloin and chops cook quickly, while shoulders and roasts shine when cooked low and slow. Pork pairs well with bold seasonings and reheats nicely.

Pork Tenderloin

Pork tenderloin cooks fast on the stovetop or oven. It stays tender when cooked to 145°F internal temperature. Slice for meals or chop for burrito bowls.

  • Extremely lean and tender
  • Cooks quickly
  • Absorbs flavors well
  • Can dry out if overcooked

Pork Chops

Bone-in or boneless pork chops cook up fast and satisfying. They pair well with sauces and seasoning blends.

  • Quick cooking
  • Very flavorful
  • Many seasoning options
  • Can dry out without basting

Pork Shoulder

Pork shoulder needs low and slow cooking but rewards you with incredibly tender, shred-friendly meat. Perfect for carnitas, BBQs, soups, and stews.

  • Becomes fall-apart tender
  • More affordable than other cuts
  • Shreds easily for dishes
  • Requires lengthy cooking time


Cooked lamb on the wooden plate
Image by: Ruslan Khmelevsky

Lamb delivers a rich, meaty flavor and tender texture when cooked properly. The mild taste pairs well with aromatic seasonings and bold marinades. Choose cheaper cuts for slow cooking.

Leg of Lamb

A boneless leg of lamb cooks relatively quickly while remaining juicy and flavorful. Slice and serve with mint sauce or use in Mediterranean dishes.

  • Tender, mild flavor
  • Faster cooking than shoulder
  • Easy to carve
  • Can be expensive
  • Dries out if overcooked

Lamb Shoulder

Lamb’s shoulder needs to be braised or roasted low and slow to break down the connective tissue. Pull apart for tacos or slice for soups and stews.

  • Becomes very tender
  • Excellent flavor
  • Budget-friendly cut
  • Requires lengthy cooking time

Lamb Chops

Quick-cooking lamb loin or rib chops pair well with bold marinades and spices. Cook hot and fast to medium doneness.

  • Tender and juicy
  • Fast cooking
  • Great flavors from rubs/marinades
  • Can dry out if overcooked
  • Costlier than other cuts

Game Meats

Different kind of meat on the ribs are cooking on the big grill
Image by; Julia Filirovska

Game meats like venison, bison, and elk provide lean, high-protein, and packed options for meal prep. Their rich, meaty flavors pair well with bold seasonings. Choose more affordable cuts for slow cooking.


Farm-raised venison offers a healthy fats mineral and protein-rich, lean alternative to beef. Use tender cuts like loin or round in quick recipes, or braise tougher shoulder or shank cuts.


Bison delivers a sweet, rich flavor reminiscent of beef but with lower fat. Use ground bison in burgers or chili. Braise roasts or cook steaks quickly to medium-rare.


Elk is another very lean red meat that adapts well to slow or fast cooking methods. Marinate steaks before searing, or opt for shoulder or stew meat for braising.

How to Cook for Optimal Flavor + Reheating

Oh man, I’m so pumped to drop some crucial knowledge for perfectly cooked and reheated proteins! Cooking your meats just right is key for mouthwatering flavors and ideal textures. Let me break it down…

For lean meats like chicken breast, turkey breast, pork tenderloin, and steaks, quick high-heat cooking is the move. Using methods like grilling, broiling, sautéing, or stir-frying gives you tender, juicy results every time. Remove meats when they just reach the minimum safe internal temperature to prevent overcooking.

For fattier, tougher cuts of meat, low and slow braising or simmering helps break down connective tissues, making the meats insanely flavorful and fall-apart tender. I love braising chuck roast, pork shoulder, lamb shoulder, and chicken thighs in soups, stews, or the oven after searing.

When reheating meats, add a splash of broth or sauce to prevent dryness. You got this! Okay, keeping your lovingly cooked proteins fresh all week is mega important.

Proper Storage

Meal Prep
Image by: Ella Olsson

Store cooked meats in airtight containers to prevent freezer burn or fridge funk. Use shallow containers so meats cool quickly when initially storing. Glass airtight containers and stainless steel containers work great. Strategically freeze meats in meal-sized portions for quick defrosting.

With ground meats or chicken, be diligent about using within 3-4 days max. With whole cuts of beef, pork, or lamb, 5-7 days in the fridge. Here is a handy food storage chart. Label all containers with contents and dates cooked or frozen, and they will be stored properly – you’ll thank me later!

Talking garnish

Of course, we gotta talk garnishes and sides to build a complete, balanced meal! Healthy carbohydrates like brown rice, quinoa, sweet potatoes, and even kidney beans make excellent additions to your prepped proteins. They provide sustained energy from smart carbs and fibers. Cauliflower rice is a stellar low-carb swap. Feel free to find your perfect match!

I also love topping my meal prep dishes with tangy garnishes like Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, or sour cream for a rich, cooling contrast. A few sliced hard-boiled eggs or avocado chunks also take your prep next level with nutrition and creaminess. With the right mix of lean protein, wholesome carbs, healthy fats, and flavorful garnishes, you’ve got a well-rounded, satisfying meal that’ll power you through the week. It’s a foolproof formula for meal prep greatness!


And there you have it – a comprehensive guide to selecting the best meats for taking your meal prep to new heights of flavor and convenience. From chicken, turkey, beef, and pork to lamb and game, you now have expert knowledge on picking proteins guaranteed to taste amazing throughout the week.

Grilled steik in the oven
Image by: Mustafa Turkeri

The key points to remember are:

  • Prioritize lean, tender cuts of meat that reheat well. Fattier cuts work best for slow cooking.
  • Chicken breasts and turkey breasts are excellent versatile options, while thighs, legs, and wings provide juicier dark meat.
  • Beef chuck roast, pork shoulder, and lamb shoulder all shine when braised low and slow.
  • Quick-cooking cuts like steaks, chops, and tenderloin make speedy, satisfying meals.
  • Game meats like venison, bison, and elk are flavorful, nutrient-dense alternatives.
  • Follow proper cooking methods for each cut to maximize juiciness and flavor.

Put these protein recommendations into practice while choosing a good source of protein in your weekly meal prep, and you’ll enjoy convenient, delicious home-cooked meals every night!

If you want more tips on meal prep or healthy recipes be sure to check out my other blogposts.

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