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Sunday, July 3, 2022

Chefs Are Sharing The Essential Ingredients Everyone Should Be Using In Their Cooking, And TBH, I Learned Something New

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Personally, I am taking notes. ✍️

Sometimes, the difference between food being ~just okay~ and being next-level amazing is just one, game changing ingredient. Well, friends, let’s talk about the ingredients you probably aren’t using that you definitely should be.


Redditor u/RybaYTC asked, “Cooks of the Reddit, what’s the essential ingredient in your meals that other people don’t use?” Here are 18 of the best suggestions:


“Fresh ginger. I grab a decent-sized piece from the grocery store, cut it into one or two inch pieces, throw it in the blender with about 1/4 cup of water, and blend. No need to peel it. Then, I freeze it flat in a plastic bag and break off a piece whenever I make a sauce or marinade.”


Ajaykampani / Getty Images/iStockphoto


“Don’t be afraid to use sour cream or mayonnaise in your cake recipes. It makes them moist and helps balance the sweetness.”


Asife / Getty Images/iStockphoto


“Use full fat everything. You’ll end up using less to achieve body and a fuller flavor in your dishes. Cream, plain yogurt, cottage cheese, quality butter, quality mayo, etc. The quality of dairy and fats is important.”


Svariophoto / Getty Images/iStockphoto

“I once saw Giada De Laurentiis on a morning show. She used whole milk in a recipe, and the host said something like, ‘…and of course, you can substitute skim milk if you’re on a diet.’ Her response was, ‘Only if you don’t want it to taste good.’ She’s right. In my personal experience, whole milk mozzarella on pizza is so much better than low moisture, part skim.”


“How much you add depends on the other ingredients and how much acid and sugar are already in the dish. Start with a splash (about a teaspoon), taste, and go from there. You don’t actually want to taste the vinegar, but the acid opens up the other flavors and makes dishes taste more balanced. Lemon juice is also a great alternative to vinegar.”


“If you’ve salted your dish properly, and it doesn’t taste salty, think for a minute. Is there acid in the dish? If no, add some acid. A little bit of lemon juice, lime juice, or an appropriate vinegar goes a long way at brightening up a dish.”



“Add sugar to your dishes, even the non-sweet stuff. It’s why a lot of restaurant food tastes so addictively good.”

—Anonymous Reddit User

Akchamczuk / Getty Images/iStockphoto

“Rather than just adding white sugar to everything, though, choose a sugar product that complements the dish. Honey, maple syrup, brown sugar, molasses, corn syrup, monk fruit, etc.”



“Kosher salt. Table salt, iodized salt, the Himalayan pink salt, and sea salt all have their places as either ‘get your kid their iodine’ or as nice finishing salts with their own flavor. But all those recipes you cook with? All of them are tested with kosher salt. The flakes are the perfect size for getting a consistent level of salt in a dish. Use it!”



“Add unsweetened chocolate to chili. Also, I think dried chili peppers are something a lot of people are afraid of (if they didn’t grow up in a house that used them) that adds immense depth to the flavor of a dish.”


“I usually use super dark chocolate and a cup of coffee. People look at me like I’m bonkers, but it does make the best chili!”



“Don’t just salt your water; level up and season your rice and pasta water with stock or chicken bullion cubes.”


Paolo Gagliardi / Getty Images/iStockphoto

“I cook my rice in chicken stock, add about a teaspoon of butter and lemon zest. Then, at the end, add some more butter. Best ‘plain’ rice ever. Goes with pretty much everything.”



“Bay leaf. But the secret is that you have to add it at the start of the cooking time rather than adding it at the end like pepper. Its distinct flavor is released slowly over time the longer you let it cook.”


Lisovskaya / Getty Images/iStockphoto


“Vegetarian here, and I absolutely need nutritional yeast. It’s a cheesy, umami flavor booster.”



“Subtle, but I usually use vanilla bean paste instead of vanilla extract in most of my baking.”


Suti / Getty Images/iStockphoto

“And if you can’t spring for good paste, DO NOT settle for crappy extract, because making your own extract is not hard at all, and you can use B-grade beans.”



“Liquid smoke. I only use it in certain things, but I LOVE it. It’s not something most cooks use in many dishes, as far as I know. I seldom barbecue outdoors, and liquid smoke provides a nice (and real) smoke flavor I otherwise would not get.”

Rien Janssen / Getty Images/iStockphoto

“I used to assume it was some sort of artificial product, and was surprised to learn that it pretty much is exactly what it sounds like….smoke accumulation that is then thinned out with some liquid so that the ‘smokiness’ can be put in a bottle and added to food as it is cooked.”



“If you wanna kick up your savory game, sneak in some anchovy paste.”


Anchovies naturally have amino acid glutamates, which give food a deep savory flavor. They’re also what has been artificially reconstructed in MSG, if you want to get a similar salty flavor with a different method.


“Onion soup mix is a ‘chef’s secret.’ It’s fucking great. It’s super savory and super sweet.”

—Anonymous Reddit User

Bwfolsom / Getty Images/iStockphoto


“Sumac enhances so many dishes. It’s deliciously lemony and peppery.”


Michelle Arnold / Getty Images/EyeEm

“It might as well be powdered vinegar. It’s so useful; made a curry tonight, and it just gives dishes that extra dimension.”



“Worcestershire and oyster sauce are pretty irreplaceable flavors that I don’t think many people use all that much.”


Michelle Arnold / Getty Images/EyeEm

“Worcestershire rounds out a lot of dishes. Oyster and fish sauce are two of my best new friends now, too.”



“MSG, onion powder, and garlic powder. These are some of the spices that people seem to think are ‘lowly,’ but are actually fantastic. These three things can be used in almost every savory dish along with any other spices you choose — your food will be more flavorful and need less salt.”

Wundervisuals / Getty Images/iStockphoto

“Onion and garlic powder aren’t onion and garlic replacements (although they could be if you really wanted), so you can and should use them as well as the fresh stuff. Seriously, so much flavor.”

—Anonymous Reddit User


And finally: “Time. Just leave the damn thing alone for awhile. This applies to letting meat cook long and slow, letting bread bulk ferment and rise for those extra hours, mixing at the correct speed for however long instead of cranking the KitchenAid to 10, marinating, getting ingredients up to room temp, whatever.

“You can get fancy and learn to time things well, so you don’t have dead time waiting on things, but rushing your ingredients is a great way to ruin a dish.”


Now it’s your turn! Chefs of BuzzFeed — what’s the essential ingredient you incorporate in your cooking that everyone else should 100% be using, too? Tell us about it in the comments below!

Note: Submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.

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