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Pantry Essentials 101

BY ERIC GUIDO | JUNE 26, 2020

It’s amazing to think that only three months ago, the average household didn’t need to put much thought into a pantry. Stocking a pantry had become a thing of the past, unless you were running a food bank, shelter or well-organized college fraternity. If you needed something, you simply went to your local supermarket or deli to get it. When planning a large meal for the weekend, a glance at your recipe and a quick check through the cupboard was all that was needed to know if an ingredient should be jotted down on your grocery list. 

The pantry was all but forgotten.

However, the changes we all witnessed around the world in 2020 sent most families running to their supermarkets to stock up. Many of us hoarded as much as we could in fear of the worst. In most cases, what the majority of homes ended up with was a whole lot of pasta and frozen pizza. As things have settled down, it still isn’t uncommon that we wait in line at the supermarket for an hour just to get in, and what we’re often faced with are empty shelves. This has forced us to rediscover the importance of the pantry, and to “up our game”, so to speak. It was with this in mind that the Vinous in the Kitchen Pantry Essentials episode came to be.

Frankly, anyone can stock a pantry, but there are a few things that separate my family from the average household, and these have given me some interesting insights. For one thing, since the day I graduated culinary school, it was decided that I would be doing all of the cooking in the house. And so, like many households where a chef or ex-chef does all the cooking, there is a certain set of necessities that we were taught to always have on hand. What’s more, I cook or prepare fresh meals nearly every day of the week; breakfast, lunch and dinner. With that many meals being made from day to day and week to week, it’s important to always have variety. Lastly, in today’s day and age, it’s not uncommon that we make multiple dishes or preparations for one family meal. The days of “eat what your mother made you or go to bed without super” are far behind us. The modern family has to cook around food allergies, trendy diets and, of course, picky teenagers. In our case, we have all three. However, while I have the allergies and the trendy diet, I would never force my teenage kids to eat only what I make. 

Therefore, our pantry is incredibly diverse, and it has been now for over a decade, which has given me a number of thoughts into what should be in a well-stocked and maintained kitchen. Plus, just to make sure I had all of the bases covered for the average family, I made sure to quiz as many highly-qualified moms from around my neighborhood as possible.

So, let’s get started. While the video will provide visual aids and a few added tips and tricks, the lists below are a great place to start if you want to make sure that you have everything you need to throw down like an Iron Chef, any day of the week.


The video tutorial is packed full of hints and tips for pantry essentials.


Salt and Pepper

Kosher Salt

Sea Salt *Health Conscience

Smoked Sea Salt

Whole Peppercorns (and grinder)


Stocks

Chicken

Beef

Mushroom

Vegetable

Seafood


To learn how to make your own stock, check out Vinous in the Kitchen: Stock Essentials.


Herbs and Spices

Garlic Granules

Parsley

Oregano

Rosemary

Basil

Tarragon

Thyme

Bay

Paprika (Hot and Sweet)

Onion Powder

Cayenne Pepper

Red Chili Flakes

Turmeric

Cumin

Cinnamon

Allspice

Cloves

Juniper Berries

Cardamom


Having a spice rack next to your stove with key spices is beneficial because you don't have to continuously open your cupboard while cooking.


Secret Weapons

Magic Mushroom Powder

Curry Blends (African, Mediterranean, Indian, Asian)

Tandoori Masala Spice Blend

Herbs de Provence

Adobo

Xanthan Gum (Sounds like a chemical, but it’s not, and it has superior thickening power for sauces, dressings, gravies or soups.)


Oils for Drizzling

Extra Virgin Olive Oil (Italian and Spanish are favorites)

Truffle Oil (Black, white or both)

Extra Virgin Avocado Oil


Oils used for drizzling are different from cooking oils, and both oils and vinegar are great for various marinades and dressings.


Vinegars

Sherry Vinegar

White Wine Vinegar

Apple Cider Vinegar * Health Conscience

Balsamic Vinegar (Look for real Balsamic, without added food colorings and flavors.)


Oils for Cooking

Grapeseed oil (high heat)

Canola Oil (high heat)

Avocado Oil (high heat) * Health Conscience

Peanut Oil (high heat)

Coconut Oil (medium to high heat) * Health Conscience

Olive Oil (medium to high heat)

Ghee – Clarified Butter (low to medium heat)


Canola Oil can be used to clean out cast iron pans with Kosher salt over high heat.


Packaged and Dried Goods

Pasta (Spaghetti and Ziti are classics)

Polenta

Rice (Basmati Brown, Jasmati)

Risotto Rice (Arborio or Carnaroli)

Quinoa * Health Conscience

Breadcrumbs (fresh)

Rice Krispies

Granola

Oatmeal

Dried Mushrooms

Nuts (Almonds, Cashews, Walnuts, Macadamia)

Raisins


To learn how to make an Asparagus Risotto, check out Vinous in the Kitchen: Jump Start Spring with Asparagus Risotto.


Canned and Jarred Goods

San Marzano Tomatoes

Tomato Purée

Chickpeas

Cannellini Beans

Coconut Milk

Corn

String Beans

Peas

Olives

Pepperoncini

Capers

Pesto

Sauerkraut

Artichokes 

Asparagus

Chicken

Tuna

Salmon

Mackerel

Sardines

Anchovy

Peanut Butter

Tahini

Jellies (Assorted)

Soups (Tomato, Butternut Squash, Broccoli Cheddar and Chicken)


Canned items can make for incredible meals when you are out of fresh ingredients. 


Asian-Inspired

Fermented Fish Sauce

Soy Sauce

Teriyaki Sauce

Toasted Sesame Oil

Toasted Seaweed (Sushi Nori)


Condiments, Dressings and Marinades

Hot Sauce (Chipotle, Jalapeño, Tabasco)

Salsa

Mustard (Brown and Dijon)

Ketchup

Barbeque Sauce

Mayonnaise

Dressings and Marinades (Italian, Greek, Ranch and Caesar)


Tabasco brings flavor and not just heat to a wide variety of dishes. 


Kid-Friendly Section

Popcorn

Assorted Cookies

Assorted Crackers

Chocolate (for eating)

Macaroni and Cheese (mix)

Rice (Seasoned Mixes)


For Baking

All-Purpose Flour

Baking Soda

Baking Powder

White Sugar

Brown Sugar

Maple Syrup

Honey

Powdered Stevia (natural sugar substitute) *Health Conscience

Baker’s Chocolate

Cocoa Powder

Marshmallows (trust me, if well stored, they don’t go bad)

Vanilla Extract