So, I’m sure you’ve read my article about what tools you need in the kitchen. In fact, don’t even tell me if you didn’t. I’ll just assume you did. (Isn’t a false sense of confidence fun?) Again, don’t answer that, I’m assuming you agree. Anyway, this hotly-anticipated follow up tells you which ingredients to keep on-hand, to use with your newly purchased tools for a date-impressing dinner. Or a quesadilla at 3 am to soak up the whiskey in your belly (which I totally don’t do most nights).
Author’s Note: I’m not including salt and pepper in this list. If you don’t have salt and pepper, I can’t help you. Probably no one can. I’m surprised you can even read these words.
Lubrication for cooking, you pervs. Olive oil and unsalted butter are all you need. There’s a reason Rachel Ray and Paula Dean built careers around cooking with olive oil and butter, respectively. Just use unsalted butter. Saltiness should come from, ya know, actual salt.
Nobody wants a zestiless dish. Well, maybe that weirdo who doesn’t have salt and pepper, but seriously f*$% that guy. Buying pre-made spice blends could work, but limits your versatility. Sure you can make things taste “Italian-y” with an Italian blend, but it’ll all taste the same kind of “Italian-y.” Plus a lot of pre-made blends load up on salt, which is bad for the whole “not dying early” strategy you want to start adopting if you haven’t yet. Keep the following around:
- Crushed red pepper (at the very least for pizza)
- Garlic powder (NOT garlic salt, see butter note above)
Finally, keep some hot sauce. Personally, I think that Cholula or something similar is a better all-around hot sauce than, say, Sriracha, but being able to add a little (or a lot) of heat to something you’re cooking or onto food you’ve cooked is clutch.
Veggies And A Fruit
My pro tip here is to keep a couple of bags of different types of frozen veggies. They last for months, and it’s easy to add them to a dish. For example I have a stir-fry veggies mix, and how I utilize it is by cooking some cut-up chicken in a pan, adding the veggies, drizzling some teriyaki sauce, and dumping it all on rice. Is it haute cuisine? Hell nah. But it’s easy to do, looks like I put more effort into cooking than I did, and tastes killer.
Along with frozen veggies, always have some fresh garlic and onions on hand. Aside from the practical reason of using them in almost everything, I shit you not — just the smell of onions and garlic cooking in olive oil makes people go “Oh man it smells amazing in here, what are you cooking?” and makes you look like a pro chef.
Also have some cans of crushed tomatoes in your pantry for your sawce needs (that’s the fruit I was referring to).
Like real cheese. None of that processed American horse dung. I add cheese (often melted) to roughly 99.99999% of my meals. Makes it real weird when I make sushi but hey, my house my rules.
The only protein you should have at all times is eggs. ‘Cause you’ll buy the other stuff as you need it. Not only will eggs be useful while you’re cooking, just whipping together an egg-and-cheese sandwich in the AM is surprisingly easy and healthy (you can do it in the microwave).
Even if you’re not trying to prep for a race, have pasta in your pantry. It’s another one of those ingredients that’s easy to throw together with the other ingredients on this list and make a quick/easy/legit meal. Also bread, ‘cause when you ultimately destroy a meal early on in your culinary journey (believe me, it’ll happen), being able to make emergency PB&Js is a must.