50 Products You Can’t Live Without

November 26th, 2012 · 19 Comments · Uncategorized

Imagine your average everyday office cubicle space. But instead of an inbox, you have a 4-burner gas range and a 2-compartment sink. And instead of a cup of ballpoints, you have a crock filled with wooden spoons. And instead of bearing down on P&L statements from 9 to 5, it is your job to make sure the Rib-Eye Roast recipe that landed on your desk this morning (plus up to five more dishes that day, and twenty each week) tastes about as good as any Rib-Eye Roast recipe that has ever existed. This is the life of a staffer in the Bon Appetit test kitchen. As a contributor to BA, I am lucky enough to have access to them, which comes in very handy when I’m in the office working on a story, but even more so when I’m home in my own kitchen only an email away from figuring out why my barley is turning out gummy (“Never skip the rinsing!”), or what I should do with fish sauce (“Use it like soy sauce”) or what to add to my chicken meatballs to make them taste flavorful (“Beef!”) If I could just move in with them, I think I would.

This is all a long way of saying, I don’t think I’ve ever had as much fun working on a story as I had working on The BA Seal of Approval, which is an award the magazine is giving to products that the test kitchen stocks on their shelves because they rely on them day in and day out to make the flakiest pie crusts, the butteriest shortbread, the tomatoey-est marinaras the smokiest Sunday bacon. I got to sit down with each staffer — Mary-Frances, Alison, Chris, Brad, Allie, Janet — and download why they loved these ingredients so much. You can pick up the issue on the newsstand for more details, but let me just say, they know from whence they speak.

When the award for Best Product in Category wasn’t such a no-brainer, there were throwdowns (who knew people felt so strongly about frozen peas?) and so the staff went round after round to taste all the competitors side by side to see which brand tasted freshest, offered the most bang for the buck, and was most deserving of the Bon Appetit Seal of Approval. The result? This list of 50 Products We Can’t Live Without  and I’m dying to hear what you guys think of the picks. The eight you see here are a sneak peak, but there are 42 more that we guarantee will upgrade every aspect of your everyday cooking life.


There’s an entire section devoted to The Baking Arsenal (shown here, Scharffen Berger Chocolate and Cocoa; King Arthur All-Purpose Flour), just in time for yule logs and Chanukah doughnuts, and this brownie recipe, which yielded maybe the best batch I’ve ever eaten. The woman who developed the recipe is Alison Roman, below. I’m on the left.

Product photos by Tom Schierlitz; bottom photo by Matt Duckor.

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The Ultimate Kitchen Throwdown

August 14th, 2012 · 3 Comments · Uncategorized

OK, you guys thought the DALS pasta sauce taste test was fun? Wait til you see what the BA team is up to. I’ve been working with their editors and test kitchen staff on the road test of all road tests. Bon Appetit is spending the next few months testing and tasting 50 of the pantry staples you use every day — like olive oil, salt, cocoa, canned tomatoes, yogurt, agave, mustard — to determine which ones meet the “BA Seal of Approval” criteria. (In other words, which ones will make your day-to-day cooking the best it can be.) You’ll be hearing more about this as the year goes on — winners will not be announced until the December 2012 issue — but I thought you’d like to get a sneak peak of the taste-testing action. That’s me on the left (feeling all legit in my official apron) with Alison Roman (aka “The Baking Assassin”) burning our taste buds on hot sauces. Woo boy. Note to self: Next time, try hot sauce last.

This was Round 1, where we tested savory staples like soy sauce, grapeseed oil, etc. Round 2 (chocolate baked into brownies, butter baked into shortbread) was sa-weet. Head over to BonApp for more photos, details, and info.  PS: For more on feeding a family, check out the complete archive of “The Providers,” the column Andy and I write for BA.

Photos by Matt Duckor.

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