Pantry Staples

Essential Ingredients

It’s time to start discussing the actual cooking part of the cooking experience. But before we do this, let’s make sure that we have the right pantry staples in our kitchen at all times so that we can guarantee a fun and stress free cooking environment. The following list of must have pantry staples are absolute basic requirements that everybody should carry regardless of culinary preference. You will notice that this list focuses on building Roundness of Flavor, not on building aromatic quality. To build aromatic quality in your dishes, you will have to purchase herbs and spices to fill out your culinary repertoire.

The reason I have selected these basic pantry staples is because almost any dish can be made and improved using these ingredients. You can truly develop the 5 flavors of salty, savory, spicy, sour, and sweet using the following ingredients. The final 5 ingredients are absolute must haves that are used in the cooking process. They do not specifically build the 5 flavors, but you can’t make a cake without flour. And, you cannot sauté without fat.

Pantry Staples You Need for Flavor

Ingredient NameFlavorDescription
kosher salt or sea salt   (coarse ground)saltyA very versatile salt, can be used to season a dish or as a marinade. The flakes are made especially for dissolving quickly and easily.
soy saucesalty and savoryFermented sauce made from wheat and soy. Buy a high quality soy sauce, as low quality and store brand soy sauce has an inferior flavor and tends to be bitter. I personally use the brand Kikkoman.
MSGsavoryPerfect savory amendment to any dish. It adds pizzazz to any dish or sauce. I recommend picking up a container or package of it at your local Asian market. It tends to be more reasonably priced. The two most common brands are Accent and Aji-No-Moto.
black pepper (fine ground)spicyMost common of all peppers. Great in anything. Most commonly used as table pepper.
red pepperspicyAvailable as ground or flakes. A spicy pepper that adds a nice kick to dishes.
cayenne pepperspicyNormally sold as ground cayenne pepper. Hot but subtle. Note: Unlike other flavors that mellow or temper with longer cooking, cayenne pepper is unique in that the longer you cook it, the spicier it becomes.
red wine vinegarsourGreat vinegar for most anything. Adds a nice clean taste to dishes.
rice vinegarsourTraditionally used in Asian cooking. It is sweeter than its western counterpart.
lemon juicesourAcidic juice from lemons. Great on seafood and Mediterranean dishes.
lime juicesourAcidic juice from limes. Full of vitamin C. Great for tropical, Caribbean, and Central American dishes.
granulated sugarsweetRegular old sugar. Extremely versatile. Can be used for sweetening, baking, mixing into coffee, really whatever you need sugar for!
pure olive oilN/AGreat healthy oil with a low smoke point. This is good for healthy low temperature sautéing.
vegetable oilN/AUsually made from soy beans. It has a high smoke point making it ideal for frying or sautéing.
butterN/AYou will notice my recipes always call for butter over margarine. Butter is natural, contains calcium, and makes everything taste amazing. If desired, you may substitute margarine for butter in equal amounts.
wheat flourN/AGreat for baking or thickening sauces.
corn starchN/APerfect for thickening sauces or creating crispy crusts on deep fried items.

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