Top 6 Essential Cooking Ingredients Every Kitchen Needs
A well stocked kitchen starts with having these 6 essential cooking ingredients. When coming up with this list we chose ingredients that are at the base of every recipe. Sugar, salt, butter, olive oil, flour, and rice are versatile ingredients that have some unknown cooking “superpowers”. While they aren’t going to save the damsel in distress from a train, they could savage a recipe gone awry.
These ingredients are in almost everything we eat and in most recipes but take them at face value. Salt makes food taste salter. Sugar is what makes cookies sweet. However, these ingredients have way more to offer. In this article, we reflected back on Sunday cooking lessons with Grandma and how she mastered the full power of these ingredients in her recipes.
Read on to hear more about how you can use these simple ingredients to better enhance and balance your homemade recipes.
It’s no secret that candy, ice cream, soda, baked goods, and other desert foods are full of sugar. However, sugar’s uses extend far beyond sweets and baked goods. Sugar is a core ingredient in a majority of food in one form or another. The obvious reason for its popularity is that sugar is sweet which has a hold on our taste buds. But why then is sugar found in salty, savory, and bitter foods which aren’t meant to be sweet?
The simple answer is sugar can be used to balance the taste palette. Acidic, salty, and bitter foods by themselves can be harsh and difficult for humans to eat. Sugar is a great tool to smooth out the bitter qualities of food such as cranberries, tomato sauce, yogurts, dipping sauces, and other naturally bitter dishes. Next time you want to take the edge off an acidic tasting dish, use a few pinches of sugar to balance out the bitterness!
There’s no denying it, butter makes everything better. On its own there’s not much to it, but when used in cooking and baking it offers a rich flavor that really enhances the profile of whatever you’re cooking. It’s a natural complement to most foods. Not only that, but it helps to add texture and depth to your dishes.
Butter has a low smoke point (250F) which means it’s best for cooking at moderate or low heat . Sautèing things in butter caramelizes them, adding a sweet flavor. It could be assumed that only sauces that include butter would be a white or cream sauce, however many red or tomato based sauces rely on butter for their smooth texture. As the great Julia Child always said, “With enough butter, anything is good.”
Similar to butter, olive oil helps to carry the flavor of foods and enhance your dish. Olive oil also tastes great as a dipping sauce for bread, or drizzled over salads and sandwiches. There’s a reason why olive oil is such a key component in Mediterranean culture, it has many health benefits as it’s high in antioxidants and healthy fats. Even after being heated up, olive oil still maintains many of its healthy components. Compared to other oils, olive oil has a lower smoke point coming in between 374F and 405F, however it’s one of the most stable oils to cook with as it doesn’t break down when exposed to heat .
When you think of adding salt to a dish your mind immediately jumps to adding that salt flavor, but did you know salt has many other uses? For years it has been used as a preservative to keep foods fresh by drawing out the moisture in them. Think about how after eating something incredibly salty your mouth feels like it’s puckering up, the same thing is happening in your food. However when used at the right time, salting a steak will encourage the meat to release more liquid creating a juicy steak.
Flour’s use in the kitchen goes beyond breads and cookies. It’s actually very commonly used as a base for sauces to help thicken them up. A roux sauce is an equal combination of flour and a fat (usually butter) that’s used as the base for a wide variety of sauces. It should be done as the first step in order to cook off some of that raw flour flavor. From there you can add in various other seasonings to create a delicious thick sauce!
Likewise, if you have a soup or sauce that turns out too thin, adding flour is a great method to thicken up a dish.
Rice is a superpower side dish and base layer. It’s a great side dish by itself, great to throw into most dishes, easy to cook, and inexpensive. What’s not to love about rice! Also, rice is amazing at retaining the flavor and juices of a dish. Rice that is properly cooked can help keep a meal moist and stop meats from drying out.
One of our favorite meals as a college student was to cook up some rice and throw whatever I had lying around the pantry into it. It was a great way to mix up leftovers or great a meal out of a bunch of seemingly random ingredients. Next time you’re looking for a quick and easy meal try making a crispy rice dish with what you have laying around!
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the six essential cooking ingredients for a well-stocked kitchen?
A well-stocked kitchen should have these six essential cooking ingredients: sugar, salt, butter, olive oil, flour, and rice.
How can sugar be used to balance the taste palette of a dish?
Sugar can be used to balance the taste palette by smoothing out the bitter qualities of food such as cranberries, tomato sauce, yogurts, dipping sauces, and other naturally bitter dishes. A few pinches of sugar can be used to balance out the bitterness of an acidic tasting dish.
What is the best way to cook with butter?
Butter has a low smoke point and is best for cooking at moderate or low heat. Sautéing things in butter caramelizes them, adding a sweet flavor. Butter is not only great for sauces that include it but many red or tomato-based sauces rely on butter for their smooth texture.
What are the health benefits of using olive oil in cooking?
Olive oil has many health benefits as it is high in antioxidants and healthy fats. Even after being heated up, olive oil still maintains many of its healthy components. Compared to other oils, olive oil has a lower smoke point but is one of the most stable oils to cook with as it doesn’t break down when exposed to heat.
Author Bio: Anthony Lucchino is the founder of Grill Smoke Repeat, a BBQ resource blog that offers in-depth reviews, guides, recipes, and more.