A meal is the amount of food that is ready to be eaten on regular occasions. What is the name of such amount of food that is ready to be cooked, one step before it is actually a meal? According to the Oxford Dictionary:

  • Meal: the food eaten on regular occasions.
  • Ingredient: any of the foods or substances that are combined to make a particular dish.
  • Foodstuff: a substance suitable for consumption as food.

Since meal is directly eatable, it's imply that the food is cooked. Ingredient is the food to make a particular dish, not a whole meal; a meal can have a couple dishes. Foodstuff or food aren't imply anything about the cooking process.

If there is no word that satisfies completely, which of these words can be a good substitution? I guess it's meal, but I'm not sure.

A related question from mine: Is there an idiom or set phrase for “all you need to do is just cook it”?

  • May I ask where you got that definition? A meal can be any portion of food - cooked or not - that is to be eaten on regular occasion.
    – Andrew Li
    Nov 14, 2016 at 6:24
  • how about Ingredients? Nov 14, 2016 at 6:32
  • en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/meal as opposed to your "A meal is a portion of food that is cooked."
    – Řídící
    Nov 14, 2016 at 6:53
  • @AndrewL please see my update
    – Ooker
    Nov 14, 2016 at 7:01
  • 1
    The range of answers here suggests that the question is not clear at all. Perhaps you could post a picture of what you mean.
    – Andrew Leach
    Nov 14, 2016 at 15:46

3 Answers 3


You might want to ask this kind of question on Seasoned Advice, the Stack Exchange site for cooks.

The way to describe all the ingredients, in the state of having been purchased, cleaned, trimmed, cut, etc., is to say that they have been prepped (short for prepared).

A person in a restaurant kitchen that does nothing but clean, trim, etc is called a prep cook, and they work at a prep station. When working with a chef, one might say:

Do you need me to prep the vegetables?



When you reference a meal "ingredients" can also mean all of the food required for a complete meal/occasion.

For example:

  1. I want to make Thanksgiving dinner but I'm missing some ingredients. I still need to buy a turkey, potatoes, and cranberries.

  2. Can you shop for the brunch ingredients? There's a list on the counter.

  • I'd be interested to hear what others think, but I wouldn't class a turkey as 'an ingredient' unless I was going to butcher it to make it into a pie or curry or something. Chambers Dictionary agrees with that, defining an ingredient as something that is put into a mixture or compound. So turkey is an ingredient in turkey pie but not in 'roast turkey'.
    – Spagirl
    Nov 14, 2016 at 10:46
  • You don't use turkey in your roast turkey? What's wrong with you?! (okay, but seriously, you do form a compound when you add salt, say, so that's not the best example of your point.)
    – The Nate
    Nov 19, 2016 at 18:58

If you are referring to a meal which is prepared by someone else and simply requires cooking to become a meal, then that's a ready-meal:

British A meal sold in a pre-cooked form that only requires reheating.

All they sell is frozen ready meals, but they're prepared fresh each day and the name of the chef is on the packet.

The main ingredients for the ready meals — free-range chicken, outdoor reared pork and lamb and beef raised on organic farmland — come from Yorkshire farms.


If you are referring to a meal you have prepared and simply put in the freezer to be ready for another day, then that's usually just a meal which you're going to cook. While it may fit the basic description of a ready-meal, you have prepared it. A ready-meal implies that you bought the food ready to cook and that's all your involvement is.

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