Chef Pantry Essentials

21 Unique and Epic Ingredients That Will Dramatically Improve How You Cook

The savvy cook does two things really well:

First, they know that the best ingredients speak for themselves


Second, they know how to use these ingredients with restraint, and good cooking techniques.

We thought it would be useful to give you a run down on the best pantry essentials chefs use that you won’t find in your everyday supermarket.

Chefs are constantly searching for the next best ingredient that the average guy in the street hasn’t heard of.

Whether it’s a small family on a remote olive farm in Spain producing the best olive oil money can buy.

Or an institution in Italy who have been aging the best balsamic vinegar for the last 100 years that only the Pope can get his hand on.

We will share with you why they are the best gourmet food products, and how to get your hands on them.

Chef Pantry Essential #1: Masia el Altet – Extra Virgin Olive Oil (Spanish Aromatics Provide the Ultimate Flavor)

I’m sure you have heard of extra virgin olive oil, but these guys make the best, period.

It is crafted in a remote valley in Valencia Spain and grown around aromatic plants that add to its distinct flavor.  It is harvested and immediately cold pressed and preserved for bottling.

This oil is used in Michelin star restaurants around the world.

Add this to your arsenal and in no time you will be cooking like a pro.

masia el altet extra virgin olive oil

Chef Pantry Essential #2: Terre Bormane – White Vinegar (Flavor Enhanced by Trebbiano Must)

While this company also makes amazing olive oil and condiments, they make exceptional white vinegar.

This secret ingredient is like nothing you have ever tasted.  It’s light and crisp, with a very clean sweet flavor.

Made in Liguria Italy, from white wine vinegar and blended with the must of Trebbiano grapes.

What is “must” you ask?

It’s the high glucose, freshly pressed Juice from the skins, seeds, and stems that has been reserved from the first part of the wine making process.

It’s the favorite amongst the very best chefs for everything from vinaigrettes to deserts.

terre bormane white balsamic

Chef Pantry Essential #3: Boquerones (White Anchovies Cured in Vinegar and Packed in Oil for Perfect Preservation)

These aren’t the typical ones that a guy named Lou chopped and sprinkled on your favorite pie down the street.

These unusual kitchen ingredients are produced in Spain and kept white through the process of submerging them in vinegar and packing them in oil.  Spain is known among chefs as one of the best countries to pack and can products.  These are a total game changer when it comes to anchovies.

Use them for an epic Caesar dressing or served whole with a composed dish. This is what the best of the best are using.


Chef Pantry Essential #4: Yuzu Kosho – Red and Green Yuzu Paste (Skins Equal Flavor)

Throw your sriracha in the trash.

If you’re like me and you’re addicted to salty and spicy foods this is the stuff to get.

Made from the skins of Yuzu citrus turned into a paste with chilies and sea salt, this stuff is fu**ing tasty.  Used typically in Japanese cuisine it is an incredible condiment among chefs worldwide.  Add a spoonful when making an aioli and put it on everything.

yuzu koshu

Chef Pantry Essential #5: Bottarga – Bottarga Brothers (The Umami Your Food Needs)

Ever wonder why that pasta is underperforming?

Other than using the wrong cheese…it probably needs some Bottarga in its life.

Made from the roe of the best grey mullet in the world. These beauties are cured in their own sacks with salt and dipped in paraffin wax for freshness.  Try stepping up your game by thinly shaving or grating “Boutargue Imperiale” over your favorites.

bottarga imperial

Chef Pantry Essential #6: Mussini – 100 year Balsamic Vinegar (Supreme Flavor Concentrated Over Time)

Remember that vinegar I told you about that the Pope drinks daily?  This is it.

Made in Modena 100 years ago this stuff is absolutely incredible.  By far the best balsamic money can buy, this stuff is not to be trifled with.

This balsamic has a syrupy consistency and should be used sparingly.  Once believed to be a powerful medicine, just a few drops over some aged parmesan and you are in heaven.

Think “Ferrari” of balsamic vinegar when you want to try this product…they are made in the same town.

mussini 100 year balsamic vinegar

Chefs Pantry Essential #7: D’ Arbo – Elder Flower Syrup (Aromatic Flowers add a Nuance Like No Other)

Made in Austria by a family who has relentlessly been making the best syrups and preserves for well over a 100 years.  Whether used in a cocktail or used to sweeten the perfect desert.  This has a unique floral flavor that is amazing when balanced with the right acidity (my favorite being fresh Yuzu juice.)

d'arbo elderflower syrup

Chefs Pantry Essential #8: Takuko – White Soy (The Kegs Add Intensity and Aroma)

Made in an extremely detailed and lengthy process this shoyu is created with extreme care and skill.  Fermented in kegs that have been passed down from father to son, they add to the unique flavor and aroma to the soy.

This is not your regular soy sauce with a red or green lid.

This is pure sophistication, and a favorite among the most talented chefs in the world.

takuko white soy sauce

Chefs Pantry Essential #9: Spices from Le-sanctuaire

We grouped these items into a whole for you.  This is the go to company for chefs when they want to get the best spice blends available.

You want to add flavor to any dish?

They provide the cliff notes…

Our two favorites here at Epic Food Blog are their Golden Vadouvan, and Espelette pepper.

le sanctuaire spices

Chefs Pantry Essential #10: Le Saunier de Camargue – Fleur de Sel (The Caviar of Salts)

The fact is that food needs salt, and food seasoned properly tastes better.

“If you want your food to taster better then you should be using the right salt.”

This company gets the most premium stuff you can find from France.

With Its high mineral content and coarse texture, this salt should only be used as a finishing salt typically on perfectly cooked meats and vegetables.

le saunier de camargue fleur de sel

Chef Pantry Essential #11: Japanese Pichitto Paper (Save Your Fish from Spoiling)

While not so much an ingredient per se, this product keeps ingredients like your fish from drowning in a pool of its own juice.

Fish naturally degrades over time due to microbial properties, high protein and moisture content.

Just spent some serious coin on that tuna belly?

Made from polyvinyl alcohol, these disposable sheets swell and catch moisture from fish so they are not left sitting in their juice to spoil.  This is the best way to store fish that has already been portioned, and will buy you a few extra days of freshness.

pichitto paper

Chefs Pantry Essential #12: De Hesa – Iberico Jamon (You Are What You Eat…Eats)

Want to be the best dinner host next time you have a party?

This black hoofed pig also known as “Pata Negra” is the best thing to ever come out of the southwestern part of Spain.

Not all Pigs go to heaven they say…

That isn’t the case here.

This ham is cured for 1-2 years, and these pigs have the best life imaginable.  Fed barley as a piglet and free grazing on olives or acorns as an adult.  This is the greatest damn ham money can buy.

Think” prosciutto on steroids” next time you are looking to get a leg over.

de hesa jamon

Chef Pantry Essential #13: Echire – Butter (The Flavor From Perfect Ripeness)

If you like flavor, then this is the butter you should be using.  A product of western France in the village of Echire.

They produce the finest butter there is.  This grass fed cream is given a short chance to ripen before it is churned into butter.  This process imparts a flavor unmistakable that it is even good enough for the best French chefs in the world.  Not only do the French make the best bread, but they make the best butter to go with it.

echire butter

Chef Pantry Essential #14: Valrhona – Chocolate (Made with the Best… By the Best)

Made in France from the finest beans to come out of Venezuela, there is no other chocolate like this.  Always used in the best kitchens on the planet, this chocolate will step up your desert recipes to a whole new level.

valrhona choclate

Chefs Pantry Essential #15: Acetaia Leonardi – Saba (Reduced to Perfection)

This sweet nectar of the gods is aged for 4 years, and made from the reduction of grape must.  Its fruity character and sweet syrupy consistency gives it the name as a “fan favorite” among chefs.  Drizzle this stuff on anything you can get your hands on for an added fresh plum flavor.


Pantry Essential #16: La Tourangelle- Artisan Oils (The Best at Pressing Oil)

La Tourangelle

Try to say that name three times quickly…

They make and press the most premium nut oils in California and France.  Their products are incredible, and they offer a variety of specialty oils.  They are by far the best in the business and our favorite here at EFB.

la tourangelle artisan oils

Chef Pantry Essential #17: Boiron – Fruit Purees (Consistently Picked at The Right Time)

This Company makes the best frozen fruit products in the world.

Made in France, these fruits are picked perfectly in season, pureed, and frozen.  A pastry chef’s best friend, this product is always consistent and incredible.

Use these purees in anything from fruit sorbets, to the making best strawberry gazpacho you’ve ever tasted.

boiron fruit purees

Chef Pantry Essential #18: Three Crabs – Fish Sauce (Seasoned with Care)

Don’t think of this stuff as that awful stuff you once tried when you were a younger.

This is the good stuff, produced from anchovies in Thailand, and seasoned correctly.

It has an amazing briny and “clean” fish flavor, and is the brand of fish sauce that any informed chef uses.

three crabs fish sauce

Chef Pantry Essential #19: Frantoi Cutrera – Capers in Sea Salt (Plump and Never Brined)

Not like the regular capers you usually slap all over your everything bagel with lox.

Usually twice the average size, this is what you use when you want to cook like a guy named Pierre.

Never brined, but they do need to be soaked in water.  Look for ones covered in sea salt, as the best are believed to come from Sicily.

capers in sea salt

Chef Pantry Essential #20: Aged Banyuls Vinegar (All About that French Oak)

This vinegar is made in France in a warmer Mediterranean climate that borders Catalonia.  This sweet wine is aged for 5 years in oak barrels that adds to an aroma and vibrancy.  Typically made from Grenache grapes, this maturation process imparts a flavor like nothing you have ever tasted.

banyuls vinegar

Chef Pantry Essential #21: Anson Mills – Heirloom Grains (Look Out Uncle Ben!)

It’s no secret anymore that the best chefs in this country use Anson mills for their go to Heirloom grains.

Their products are unrivaled, and they are sadly one of the last companies in this country producing these high end quality products.

They produce the best Carolina rice, cornmeal, and farro I have ever tasted.

anson mills cornmeal


If you want to perform better in the kitchen and have your guests drooling at your dinner table, then adding these gourmet kitchen ingredients into your repertoire will help you put that extra stamp of approval on your cooking game.

The people producing these amazing ingredients have dedicated their lives to achieving top results and creating the most flavor imaginable.

As this blog evolves, you will see exactly how we use these ingredients among many others.  We will be sharing our knowledge of these items in our recipes, and showing you exactly what to look for when it comes to selecting the best ingredients available.

Along with using these quality products you will also need the right tools to execute.  Check out our  epic tools of the trade page for recommendations on top of the line kitchen equipment.  We will be doing reviews and tutorials in future blog posts as this is the exact same equipment we use here at EFB.

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Stop by next week when we will be discussing tips and techniques for making the best summer salad.

Thanks for stopping by Epic Food Blog!