50 Products You Can’t Live Without

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.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

What is 8 + 3 ?
Please leave these two fields as-is:
IMPORTANT! To be able to proceed, you need to solve the following simple math (so we know that you are a human) :-)


Amanda @ DinnersintheFourOneFive

What a fascinating list – I was a little confused by the Skippy peanut butter selection at first until I read the description as to why it was selected. She is right, “Sometimes you need a properly stabilized, emulsified peanut butter to get the job done right.” Natural peanut butter doesn’t have the same effect even though it’s far better for you. Fun read!


Great list! Good to know that I already have several of these items in my pantry already! Good job!


I love this list and agree with almost all of it except the butter. My favorite butter to put on bread but that is too expensive to bake with is Kerry Gold. It is especially scrumptious on a warm bagel.


I saw the spread in Bon Appetit and thought it was a great idea! Most of the items on the list are things I already use (KAF, Hellmann’s Mayo), but a few were new to me, and I can not wait to try them out (Maldon Salt)!


I love this list not only because it has great ideas for new things to pick up, but also validates my belief that I have a superior palate 😉 If you’re looking for post inspiration, I would love to see a post with gift ideas (or recipe ideas) for parents who like to cook but have small children. Many of my friends are stuck at home with infants, and I know want to keep cooking but need some shortcuts. I would love to gift them something that could help them out. (Even if it is just a couple quarts of frozen soup).


Maldon salt flakes are great – easy to dose, and crumbles between your fingers. I like fleur de sel de Guérande too, but it does not have the lovely flakiness of Maldon, and can be a little too salty if you’re not careful.


The san marzano tomato can pictured above is Not an Italian product. It is actually Californian and is also high in sodium. Really read the fine print and search for the real DOP Italian product


Joanne – You are right. The tomatoes are grown in the US — but they are grown from the legendary San Marzano seeds imported from Italy.


Those tomatoes may be grown from San Marzano seeds, but they really are no better than the cheaper Hunt’s brand. I can’t figure out why Whole Foods stocks them.

I use Rosa canned tomatoes. The DOP DeCecco’s are good and easier to find most places.

Ron Lieber

OK, so I made the brownies (with the SB choco, the KA flour, the Maldon salt – but Plugra butter and Costco vanilla just to be contrary) and WHOOOO-WHEEE! What’s the right price per brownie at a school fundraising bake sale you think? Thanks for this JR!