I love to cook, and have occasionally been accused of being a purist. I’m all for doing things the right way, and I do truly believe that in most cases, doing something yourself is not that much harder than buying a convenience product. So, for example, I make my own pizza dough. I chop my own vegetables instead of opting for the pre-cut ones in the plastic clamshells at the grocery store. And I always, always grate my own cheese. Pre-grated cheese is just wrong, y’all.
That said, there are some kitchen tasks that represent such drudgery, are so time-consuming, and where the convenience option is so close to the real thing that I unapologetically opt for the pre-fab stuff. My “eh, I’m too lazy to do this myself” list includes:
- Canned beans. People, I have tried every tutorial out there about how to make perfectly tender beans at home (boiling low and slow! Slow cooker! In the oven! Pre soak! Salt! No salt! Baking soda! Shooooot meeeeee) and I always end up with unevenly cooked beans with an unsettling crunchy texture. Unless I’m doing a bean soup, I use canned.
- Pre-minced/grated ginger. Fresh ginger is so important to so many foods (Indian in particular) and it is such a tremendous pain in the rear to grate it fresh in any kind of meaningful volume. I am very particular about what I will use, though: this Ginger People minced ginger in a jar is, in my view, the only acceptable substitute for fresh. It has the right almost-liquid texture, with no chunks. Do not use dried, do not use that weird stuff in a tube they sell next to the herbs. For around $2 a jar it’s so, so worth it to not have to deal with peeling and painstakingly Microplaning fibrous fresh ginger. Plus it lasts a LONG time in the fridge.
- Stock. Oh man, people are so zealous about homemade stock. And they’re not wrong! It’s delicious! And sure, when I have a whole chicken carcass around I’ll make some and freeze it, but that doesn’t really happen very often, and freezer space is at a premium in my house, and these little chicken stock packets are so easy, and low-sodium, and they add great flavor and take up no space in my pantry. So yeah, I use those.
- Crushed garlic. Oh, friends. I am so ashamed. But I just do not use enough fresh garlic to ensure that I always have it in the house, so I keep this on hand. Again, I’m picky: this one from TJs is great; the weird minced garlic floating in juice in jars in the produce section is not. Also acceptable: Dorot frozen crushed garlic.
What about you? What shortcut or convenience ingredients have a permanent place in your pantry?