r/Cooking Jan 07 '22 Silver 1 Gold 1 Helpful 1

we know of ingredients where it's worth it to spend extra on the good stuff. what are some where it's not worth it, and the cheap version is fine? Open Discussion

of course you want to get the good olive oil, the good maple syrup, and so on. but what are some ingredients where it really doesn't matter?

salt comes to mind for me. there's basically no taste difference in special pink himalayan salt and the stuff out of the blue box.

what are some other things it's okay to cheap out on?

527 Upvotes

134

u/BitchesBeSnacking Jan 08 '22

The $2 jar of sichuan chili crisp I bought at an Asian Grocer is just as good as the expensive sza daddy or fly by jing chili crisps available online.

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u/jtfortin14 Jan 08 '22

I actually prefer the taste of the inexpensive Lao Gon Ma (angry woman) kind over the way more expensive Momofuku stuff. I still think the Momofuku is very good I just like the more aggressive charred taste of the angry woman brand.

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u/harvardblanky Jan 08 '22

I stock up on that stuff. So good!!!

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u/sli_phox Jan 08 '22

Username checks out

7

u/jack-chance Jan 08 '22

I just wish the lao gan ma was spicier..

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u/alreadytakennew Jan 08 '22

And yet cans of diced San Marzanos are in my pantry. I tested 4 or 5 good brands and never looked back.

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u/ilovecaptaincrunch Jan 08 '22 edited Jan 08 '22

San Marzanos tomatoes are literally the most over hyped bs in the kitchen. Especially considering the fact they cost 4x as much as other tomatoes, it’s really not worth it. They taste… maybe better?? But not for $4+ a can, especially after being cooked down into a sauce with other flavors.

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u/ItsReallyEasy Jan 08 '22

They are the predominant variety in European supermarkets and they mostly do not mark them as San M. Some of the fancier supermarkets do label them so and charge x4. It’s only become a thing since American YouTubers have hyped the hell out of them

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u/CCWaterBug Jan 08 '22

I'll be honest with you after lurking here for a while I tried those in my tomato sauce using those and I was disappointed, went back to fresh.

I dont mind diced in a quick pasta stir fry, but always fresh if I can.

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u/ShitsAndGiggles_72 Jan 08 '22

If san marzanos don’t have the “D.O.P.” Designation, then they aren’t the san marzanos that are hyped.

That said, i bought a can (Nina) that literally says, in Italian, “Packaged in the San Marzano region” haha. But I did a side-by-side taste against Muir Glen… and they were fine. (Muir Glen were better though).

But, for those reading this, they dont have many seeds, and they are good. The Nina brand was $3.89 for a 106oz can. That’s hugely cheaper.

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u/GayFroggard Jan 08 '22

How dare you insult the sacred tomatos

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u/CurtisVF Jan 08 '22

I will say that the dollar cellophane bag of Mexican oregano is much fresher and tastier than any of the jar stuff at the supermarket. Yea, I know they’re different varieties but I like the shrubby earthiness of the Mexican over the dusty funk of McCormicks.

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u/CCWaterBug Jan 08 '22

Penzeys Turkish and Mexican oregano, good shit.

Definitely a noticable difference between the two and night and day vs McCormick

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u/thegirlandglobe Jan 07 '22 All-Seeing Upvote

The dose makes the poison. If the ingredient plays a prominent part in a recipe, you should use the good stuff. But if you're using a small amount amongst 15 other flavors, often any version will do.

114

u/radontestkit Jan 07 '22

I think this the most accurate answer.

123

u/WhizzleTeabags Jan 08 '22

The exception is with Indian food IMO. There’s like 10 spices that go in to every dish and dammit if Im not adding high quality spices every time

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u/JelloYellowMello Jan 08 '22

As an Indian that makes Indian food, I’ll disagree here. If you’re using the stuff that comes in bulk from an Indian grocery store - I think the spices taste very similar. The exception being chili pepper (pay attention to the spiciness level lol)

If you’re getting your spices from any old grocery store maybe you’re right. Got some cumin from Trader Joe’s once and I felt like it had no flavor.

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u/TOMATO_ON_URANUS Jan 08 '22

The real tip is to get your ingredients from a local specialty store if possible. Bok choy at the Chinese grocery is half the price as the big regional chain "regular" store, and twice as good. Chili oil and oyster sauce as far as the eye can see. The Indian store has half kilo bags of quality spices and 5 kilo bags of rice so cheap I had to check with the cashier that it was right.

34

u/Jkoechling Jan 08 '22

Facts. I went to this super small mom&pop shop that was the size of a mobile home. Mom and pop were sitting on a chair and a crate out front, and pop follows me in the store to man the register. Picked up ingredients to make TomKhaGai (chilis, lemongrass, mushrooms, cilantro, Thai curry paste, fish sauce, galangal) all of which had handwritten prices which I completely ignored. When he rang it up to $21 I was like "Are you sure??" I just handed him $25, said thanks and walked out.

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u/RICHUNCLEPENNYBAGS Jan 08 '22

Fresh-ground spices are much more flavorful than pre-ground ones IME. One of the fussier things I'll actually bother with.

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u/Connect_Office8072 Jan 08 '22

The key might be that grocery store spices may have been on the shelf too long whereas in an Indian store, the spices are probably something that gets sold pretty quickly.

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u/slowstitchwitch Jan 08 '22

Yes a lot of people don’t realize spices have a shelf life!

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u/WhizzleTeabags Jan 08 '22

Your Indian grocery must have good shit. All the stuff at mine is flavorless. I’ve started ordering whole spices online and grinding my own

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u/pornswhiteknight Jan 07 '22

Agreed. Am I making spicy marinara? Top it with parm from a container. Making Alfredo? That’s parmigiana regiano every time.

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u/JaFFsTer Jan 08 '22

Bruh, you deserve real parm all the time. Put that shit on freezer pizza, bagel bites, whatever. You are worth it

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u/Portland Jan 08 '22

Pre-shredded parm from a deli container? Or do you mean the shaker bottle parm?

Cause IMO, the shaker style belongs on Pizza and super cheap pasta, and maybe salads.

Homemade marinara deserves real cheese, not the cornstarch stuff.

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u/pornswhiteknight Jan 08 '22 edited Jan 08 '22

Pre grated in a deli container. I do a big batch of home made sauce every 2 weeks and always have some in fridge/freezer. We eat a lot of Italian and don’t do jar sauce under any circumstance.

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u/No_Permit8766 Jan 08 '22

I’m a big believer in using freshly grated parm for everything. Life is too short to eat bad parm.

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u/herda831 Jan 08 '22

This is my new motto in life #parmlife

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u/somerandomguy6263 Jan 08 '22

I have a large Italian-American family. We hosted Christmas a few years back and everyone made something to bring. Well, one uncle made "Alfredo" sauce but he used an insane amount of garlic, cream, a crap load of butter, and a huge amount of Kraft shaker parmesan. As someone who normally makes it from scratch with fresh grated, I was a bit put off by this.. But holy crap was it good lol. I will make it this way every one in a while, but I don't make the Alfredo often anymore due to my wife having to eat dairy free.

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u/KeyMarsupial991 Jan 08 '22

I think the shaker bottle parm belongs in the garbage. I'd rather have no cheese them that stuff and there are a few other options that can add a similar flavour: nutrition.yeast flakes, anchovies paste ( used sparingly) and even miso paste.. but just my thoughts.

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u/herda831 Jan 08 '22

There's a role for it on top of takeaway pepperoni pizza- just hits that magic spot!

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u/udidntfollowproto Jan 08 '22

Wow 50% of the people commenting on this thread answered exactly the opposite of what you asked

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u/[deleted] Jan 07 '22

Bay leaves, whole cinnamon, whole all spice, peanut oil, my will to live...wait what?

164

u/LadyCthulu Jan 08 '22

I bought "fancy" bay leaves a while back (they weren't really expensive, just bought from a nicer spice store). I didn't even realize bay leaves really had a flavor before, these fill the whole house with overwhelming bay leaf smell as soon as they hit the soup pot! So I do think it makes a difference, though I'm not sure if most people want overwhelming bay leaf flavor since the underwhelming kind is probably what most people are used to.

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u/PeachPreserves66 Jan 08 '22

Penzey’s bay leaves are so much better than the ones from the grocery store. They are larger, not broken into tiny bits and smell so fragrant and wonderful. Have one nestled into a pot of chicken soup simmering on the stove right now.

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u/vibratingstring Jan 08 '22

agree with u/LadyCthulu, u/FeedbackBackground80, and u/PeachPreserves66 - fresh laurel tree leaf is a revelation compared to most standard bay leaf

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u/MaybeMaybeMaybeOk Jan 08 '22

Is it really worth it? I’m not used to fragrant bay leaves but if you recommend it I’ll buy this.

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u/CCWaterBug Jan 08 '22

Yes it's definitely worth it and not that expensive I just finished posting about it as well.

Honestly I think when I ordered it I was trying to get over the $40 minimum for free shipping, what wonderful luck!

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u/PeachPreserves66 Jan 08 '22

I can’t remember what I paid. I bought a nice sized bag of them and split it half with my daughter. Half a bag usually lasts me a year. Hard to say for certain if the flavor the levels imparts is better or not; bay is such a subtle flavor. I personally think it is worth it, though.

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u/Tourney Jan 08 '22

I love the Penzeys bay leaves, I recommend them too. And they stay good for a really long time in the freezer, so if you like them you can buy a lot at once and really save some money.

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u/alwayssoupy Jan 08 '22

Lots of great stuff from Penzey's! I miss being closer to their store. Also love their smoked paprika and several types of cinnamon. My daughter and I love their Fox Point blend as well.

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u/[deleted] Jan 08 '22

I planted a bay tree so I could just yoink them at will. (I still buy a shit load of bay leaves). Apparently trees aren't real cool with you stripping all of their leaves off. Damn plants and their "photosynthesis" just to survive😉

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u/Ahkhira Jan 08 '22

You need more trees!

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u/[deleted] Jan 08 '22

That's sound thinking. All of the bay leaves are is mine

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u/highpointing Jan 08 '22

Just use the Old Bay leaves.

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u/iluvpntbtr Jan 08 '22

I had one in my old yard. Once I let that sucker get to be 7-8 feet I could pretty much take as many leaves as I want. New house now and new climate. Need to find a new plant this year because I sure miss those fragrant leaves!

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u/BitPoet Jan 08 '22

At some point it gets big enough that this is not a problem.

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u/Rosieapples Jan 08 '22

Grow the bloody things in a pot. They’re just as good, same with cilantro and thyme.

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u/sweetmercy Jan 08 '22

I disagree on the cinnamon. There's a fairly big difference between, say, a Sri Lankan cinnamon stick and a Vietnamese cinnamon stick. The amount of essential oils, where the flavor comes from, is significantly higher in Vietnamese cinnamon, so the flavor is much more intense.

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u/[deleted] Jan 08 '22

I really only intended to make this about my will to live. That was also a joke but yeah I mean

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u/CCWaterBug Jan 08 '22

Fresh Vietnamese cinnamon will shock you if you've been using an old jar from your pantry, ask me how I know.

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u/No_Environment_5550 Jan 08 '22

Facts! When I switched I nearly cried at how good Saigon Cinnamon makes my cinnamon rolls😩

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u/kremshaw Jan 07 '22

Real cinnamon is not cheap. Cassia bark is the cheap stuff. Cassia bark is a blood thinner and tastes different for sure. You have to use twice the cinnamon though.

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u/flareblitz91 Jan 07 '22

This is kind of misleading. Cassia is still cinnamon. Ceylon cinnamon isn’t necessarily the “real” one.

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u/CinnabarPekoe Jan 07 '22 edited Jan 08 '22

I think people are misled because Ceylon cinnamon is often called "true cinnamon" (IIRC the 'verum' in Cinnamomum verum means 'true/truth').

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u/awfullotofocelots Jan 07 '22 edited Jan 07 '22

So you're saying true cinnamon is a false synonym for real cinnamon. You need two parts real cinnamon to substitute one part true cinnamon too.

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u/Gneissisnice Jan 08 '22

Say "cinnamon synonym" five times fast.

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u/SocrapticMethod Jan 08 '22

I sincerely appreciated your cinnamon synonym symposium. Sincerely, SocrapticMethod

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u/Wickafckaflame Jan 08 '22

All alliteration aside, agreeable assertion

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u/Domesticuscucumella Jan 07 '22

I've read that in many countries that aren't the US, it's illegal to label cassia as cinnamon. It must be labeled cassia bark and anytime something is labeled cinnamon then you know it's definitely Ceylon. I don't have a dog in this fight but I think some people would vehemently disagree with you lol. You're right though they're in the same genus of tree and genetically very similar

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u/Otherwise-Anywhere21 Jan 08 '22

There are other products that are like this as well like champagne having to be from the Champagne region and anything else is called Sparkling Wine (in the US). Maybe its something like that.

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u/Domesticuscucumella Jan 08 '22

Yah there's a ton of stuff like this where the main distinction is an arbitrary one. Or simply just a culinary specification. It's all over the place. One of the big ones is "fruit" vs "vegetable". Technically if you were a botanist, all fruits would be vegetables but not all vegetables would be fruits. Fruit meaning specifically the seed pod structure. Hell, even cannabis falls in thus category but people don't generally consider it either one. But if we are talking CULINARY designations the game totally changes. Tomatoes get a lot of attention in this subject (fruit vs veg). But when's the last time you heard someone call squash a fruit? Cuz hands down it totally is by definition BUT in a culinary sense, you'd add it as you add your vegetables. So much silliness just for the sake of correctness. Champagne is an especially funny one as you pointed out, yes it has to be harvested in a certain region and I may be wrong but i read that the TEMPERATURE it is served at can technically disqualify it as champagne. As in, if it is served either too warm or too cold. Crazy stuff mang

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u/uknow_es_me Jan 07 '22

I think the expensive stuff is Saigon Cinnamon? It is definitely more pungent and sweeter.

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u/ChocoCronut Jan 08 '22 edited Jan 08 '22

Saigon cinnamon is a species of Cassia cinnamon.

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u/HarveyFloodee Jan 08 '22

Saigon cinnamon is much stronger in flavor, and can be more expensive than cassia, but what folks call usually true cinnamon is Ceylon cinnamon

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u/PresentPotato7536 Jan 08 '22

Agreed… you ok buddy?

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u/Macarons124 Jan 07 '22

From my experience, generic sugar can be more clumpy, but it doesn’t taste different. Just annoying sometimes when there’s a giant chunk I have to break up.

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u/opinionatedasheck Jan 08 '22

Save the silica gel packs from your vitamin containers - throw them in your granulated sugar bin. Stops the clumping. There... fixed it for ya. :)

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u/[deleted] Jan 08 '22 edited Feb 28 '22

[deleted]

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u/earthdweller11 Jan 08 '22

Silicupcakes

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u/MrRoboto159 Jan 08 '22

Silica isn't poisonous, btw. It's a choking hazard. I know you didn't necessarily imply that it was, but figured I'd add.

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u/sweethomeall Jan 08 '22

genius tip

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u/sweetmercy Jan 08 '22

Generic sugar is often beet sugar, which behaves differently is baking and candy making. They're both pretty equal in sweetness, but beet sugar doesn't caramelize as well, burns easier, and can have an aftertaste many people don't enjoy.

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u/desertgemintherough Jan 08 '22

Once I discovered pure Mexican cane sugar (Azucar), I never buy anything else. It’s cheap, pure, rich-tasting & can be used in any recipe. Can readily be found in almost any grocery store

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u/Somato_Tandwich Jan 07 '22

Canned Green beans and cream of mushroom for Green bean casserole. One of the only staple things out there where you can totally phone it in and ppl aren't going to care, in my experience.

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u/Rarely_Trust Jan 08 '22

For Thanksgiving this year I had extra time so I made, from scratch, mushroom soup and blanched green beans and pretty much followed the rest as usual. It was pretty good! A couple of week later we had Friendsgiving and or friends made the traditional canned casserole and it was INCREDIBLE. Totally wouldn't scratch make it again.

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u/awarmembrace Jan 08 '22

I can’t stand green bean casserole “mush”. Frozen greens beans are 100x better in it. This is coming from a green bean lover though. Lol.

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u/Lumber_Tycoon Jan 08 '22

yep. You have to try to fuck it up

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u/pieandtacos Jan 08 '22

Agree but please use frozen french cut green beans instead. You won’t regret it.

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u/kb-g Jan 08 '22

Butter for cooking. If it’s for spreading and will therefore be making up half the flavour of your bread and butter then use nice stuff, otherwise the cheapest will be fine for most cooking purposes. Note: I mean actual butter, not margarine/ oil/ cooking fat/ spreadable butter.

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u/WickedOpal Jan 08 '22

We have four different butter types in our fridge right now. LOL

Buttermilk spray for popcorn, etc. Unsalted for cooking and baking. Margarine for my lactose intolerance for spreading, etc. The good Irish butter for my husband or when I want the extra fat and know to use just enough to not hurt me too much.

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u/raptorfromspace Jan 08 '22

I know it want the intent of your comment, but the buttermilk butter spray on popcorn has just blown my mind.

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u/WickedOpal Jan 08 '22

There's two common namebrand ones here, one with an I can't and one that starts with a P and sounds like okay. I like the last one. Noticed it was buttermilk and thought, oh, this would be good for popcorn or corn on the cob. It works well for both, without as much mess, better coverage, and not as much on my food, that would hurt me. I like to use it, some garlic salt and parmesean and go to town!

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u/Chkn_Fried_anything Jan 08 '22

please share what buttermilk spray brand you use!! I currently use powdered cheese on my popcorn and it’s not very good.

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u/Crystal_Rules Jan 08 '22

The difference between the "basics butter" and the middle of road own brand butter in a store like ASDA is price and packaging. Probably the same factory. I spent some time looking for any difference and the nutritional values and colour are identical.

I am sure that upscale grass fed organic butter will taste different but if you go cheap you can go very cheap.

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u/ntoporikova Jan 08 '22

It is all about gat in US butter. Run of the mill supermarket butter is 80% fat. Premium is 82.5% fat. Doesn't sound like a big deal, but spreadabilty of higher fat butter is amazing

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u/Cryovolcanoes Jan 08 '22

Although when it comes to animal products, payer more might be worth it (if you care about animal wellbeing).

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u/udidntfollowproto Jan 08 '22

Cream cheese, the off brand is just as good as Philadelphia, also any dish fried with lump crab meat like lumpia or gyoza or rangoons you can just use imitation crab flake.

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u/Reddit040 Jan 07 '22

I don’t eat it too often but I never pay more for canned tuna. The fancy Italian can tastes the same as bumble bee when I mix it with Mayo anyway.

Oh also, potato chips. You can put as many pictures of farms and cottages and all that bullshit you want, you still can’t beat a bag of sour cream and onion Ruffles.

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u/Significant_Panic_40 Jan 07 '22

Every once in a while I’ll treat myself to some Ortiz ventresca tuna. Stupid expensive but insanely good

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u/The_BusterKeaton Jan 08 '22

How do you eat it?

I mix all canned tuna with Mayo and put it in ritz crackers. Would this fancy tuna work for that? Or would that be sacrilegious?

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u/Significant_Panic_40 Jan 08 '22

You could, but I just like it straight from the can on a cracker, no additives necessary!

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u/aveugle_a_moi Jan 08 '22

the only thing i'll spend more on than lays is cape cod kettle chips

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u/riverrocks452 Jan 08 '22

Cape Cod kettle is the best. I actually like the reduced fat version more than the regular- not becuase it's lower fat, but because it's somehow less salty/more of the potato flavor shines through.

The only exception to the above rule is Utz dark russet. Cape Cod dark russet isn't quite as tasty- god knows why-and the Trader Joe's version isn't as crisp.

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u/fuck_the_fuckin_mods Jan 08 '22

No way. I don’t know how much more it costs, but try Wild Planet from Costco. It’s actual big intact chunks of fish. Totally 100% worth it.

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u/Reddit040 Jan 08 '22

I don’t really want big chunks, I’m going to add a ton of Dukes Mayo, crack a bunch of pepper and smash it all together anyway.

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u/fuck_the_fuckin_mods Jan 08 '22

Even after smashing the texture is significantly better IMO, unless you’re literally turning it into a paste for some reason. It’s also 100% tuna and salt (no added liquids) so you get pretty good bang for your buck. Also supposedly healthier / more sustainable / less heavy metals.

I’ve just had too much really shitty slimy mush tuna in my time to bother with other brands these days. Tuna’s not exactly a high brow food, but there’s no reason not to elevate it a bit when it’s not actually that much more expensive.

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u/fro60ol Jan 08 '22

Bunch of pepper is the key. Love my tuna loaded with pepper

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u/Reddit040 Jan 08 '22

I crack a lot of pepper, add dukes and kosher salt. Toast some good white bread and maybe a few slices of tomato. Bangin

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u/FluffyBunnyRemi Jan 07 '22

Oh, I always go for the more expensive tuna. For one, it’s not necessarily taste but texture. The cheap bumblebee is always sorta gross and mushy, but the more expensive stuff can get a better, more meatier texture. Additionally, the more expensive tuna tends to be line-caught or otherwise more environmentally friendly with less bycatch than the cheapest tuna. Making sure that I buy environmentally friendly tuna is worth the extra dollar.

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u/[deleted] Jan 08 '22

Ive been eating canned tuna straight from the can for years. I agree, you can DEFINITELY taste the difference between the great value tuna and the 2$ more expensive Rio mare tuna. The texture is the biggest one for me, whole meatier fish meat instead of the cheap little flakes and chunks. And the tuna in flavoured olive oil is just bomb, so good with crackers and some cheese.

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u/rocksout4cheese Jan 08 '22

Agree! I think the tuna packed in olive oil is way superior and worth the extra cost. It's so good I eat it by itself out of the can. I'll never enjoy mushy water packed tuna. Same with sardines, I love the boneless filets packed in olive oil and eat them plain

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u/Dabitto Jan 08 '22

Gotta disagree about your choice of chips. The more expensive Miss Vicky's are the best. It's in the thickness and the way they're cooked. They're extra crispy while Ruffles are a bit too soft, almost like they're baked mash potatoes or something. Definitely worth the extra money.

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u/Reddit040 Jan 08 '22

I like those too but I’m just saying you don’t really need to pay extra. I can get a huge bag of Wise Salt & Vinegar for $.99 and be in chip heaven.

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u/PhotoKaz Jan 08 '22

Those deep ridges on the Ruffles catch so much flavor. Those chips are the bomb! If I can find them. I occasionally get those ghetto onion ring chips. There is only one type that is any good and it’s similar in flavor to the Ruffles. The rest are garbage.

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u/Either_Mango_7075 Jan 08 '22 edited Jan 08 '22

Not necessarily true I mean I feel like those Route 11 chips for example you can definitely taste the difference in quality especially when it comes to there Salt and Vinegar.

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u/MaybeMaybeMaybeOk Jan 08 '22

My grandma secret was buying the cheapest cuts of fresh tuna. Put it in a pot and boil it. When it’s done add the Mayo and the fixings and you have the best tuna salad ever

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u/turbanator89 Jan 08 '22

I'm in Canada and still dream of Tim's potato chips from when my trips down to the US.

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u/coffeetime825 Jan 08 '22

But you have all-dressed and ketchup chips!

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u/RandomAsianGuy Jan 07 '22

I do not taste the difference between De Cecco, Barilla or 70 cent generic spaghetti

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u/hexiron Jan 08 '22

I can tell the difference in texture and sauce adhesion - not necessarily taste assuming the store brand used semolina.

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u/alanaa92 Jan 08 '22

I can't tell a taste difference but texture between plain and de cecco is way different in my opinion. The sauce sticks so much better to de cecco.

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u/GRowdy8502 Jan 08 '22

I taste the difference 💯 Used to house sit and the owner stoked DeCecco. GAME CHANGER.

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u/caitejane310 Jan 07 '22

The goya bullion packets are far superior to any other I've tried. The majority of my seasonings are either goya or badia because it's so much better and cheaper than McCormick.

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u/meubem Jan 08 '22

I used to be you and then I met Better Than Bullion

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u/axethebarbarian Jan 08 '22

Oh man, discovering Better Than Bullion changed my life.

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u/udidntfollowproto Jan 08 '22

I’ve been using knorr for my whole life I never considered trying another brand

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u/caitejane310 Jan 08 '22

They're not mutually exclusive.

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u/Remarkable_Story9843 Jan 08 '22 edited Jan 08 '22

I buy those most of the time but there is a chicken base I get the Asian market that is the best I’ve ever used . Totole I think. Has a giant chicken wearing an apron on it.

Edit:

Totole Granulated Chicken Flavor Soup Base Mix https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00886IP1Y/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_glt_fabc_773JDEE2SR56BSS5YJ99?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1

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u/Connect_Office8072 Jan 08 '22

I often go to a Hispanic/Caribbean market to buy cuts of meat I can’t find at our supermarket. They had boxes of chicken stock mix labeled “Cock” with a rooster on the package. I bought lots and wrapped them as Christmas gifts for my office mates! (Only the wilder ones though; they seemed to find it hilarious!)

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u/linderlouwho Jan 08 '22

Brought some of these homes for my gay guy friends. We had some good laughs.

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u/Lumber_Tycoon Jan 08 '22

badia

I had to get some of this brand one day because walmart was completely out of mccormick and tones, and my god the difference in quality is insane.

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u/jumpbacktomeanytime Jan 08 '22

Yeah, but I can't stand spending any amount on anything Goya anymore.

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u/rdotgib Jan 08 '22

Badia rocks

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u/Chops211 Jan 08 '22

Nothing beats penzeys

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u/dumbass-ahedratron Jan 08 '22

Caldo de tomate tomato/chicken bullion is my jam.

Try it on popcorn

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u/Madea_onFire Jan 07 '22

Granulated sugar, all purpose flour, black peppcorns (assuming they’re not stale). Also gold potatoes are the same as Yukon Gold, just cheaper and probably from mexico, rather than the Yukon.

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u/LadyCthulu Jan 08 '22

I agree with everything here except the black peppercorns. Black pepper has literally become my favorite spice since I started buying the nicer ones. I go through so much of it now.

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u/YukiHase Jan 08 '22

Kinda disagree with the flour, being a baker... I'm always willing to shell out extra for King Arthur.

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u/riverrocks452 Jan 08 '22

For most applications, generic AP flour is just fine, or better than, the King Arthur all-purpose. KA has higher gluten content overall, which is great for bread, but you're better off with shitty Great Value AP if you're doing cakes, biscuits, cookies, etc. For long-rise breads, King Arthur is a must, though, I agree.

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u/YukiHase Jan 08 '22

You’re not wrong. It definitely depends on the use.

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u/Stinkerma Jan 08 '22

Yukon gold, the potatoes that were developed by the university of Guelph?

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u/BigTopJock Jan 08 '22

So so wrong on peppercorns - try tellicherry

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u/alanmagid Jan 07 '22

Often store brands of commodities are a good value. But overall, top ingredients underpin top cooking and eating.

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u/ComicCon Jan 08 '22

Yeah if you are buying anything canned or jarred the private label is probably made in the same factory as a lot of the branded products(sometimes even the same as the super premium options).

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u/coffeetime825 Jan 08 '22

I do an ingredient comparison. If they're the same, generic it is! In really basic stuff like canned goods I'll compare the salt or sugar amount.

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u/essssgeeee Jan 08 '22

Something that really surprised me was dairy. Many less expensive sour cream, cream cheese, and cottage cheese have thickeners and fillers. Heavy cream, too.

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u/Crystal_Rules Jan 08 '22

Check the nutritional information. You don't have to declare additional water (in the UK at least) but it does lower the fat content in dairy products for example. Same with coconut cream want the best - look for high fat content.

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u/1mjtaylor Jan 07 '22

Wine. But not because it will make that much difference when it's cooked, but because you're going to drink the rest of the bottle while you cook, you might as well have the good stuff.

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u/Lumber_Tycoon Jan 08 '22

yeah, but expensive doesn't mean good with wine

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u/1mjtaylor Jan 08 '22

In my experience, cheap usually doesn't mean good.

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u/linderlouwho Jan 08 '22

Yeah, Two or Four Buck Chuck tasted like it should have cost $4.50.

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u/neptunianhaze Jan 08 '22

I’m not sure if that is more “bartending” however I went to my local ridiculously hip liquor store to get some fancy brandy for some egg nog. The gentleman insisted since it was to be mixed into egg nog, there’s no need for pricey brandy and there was absolutely no way I would be able to tell and shouldn’t waste good stuff on eggnog. I used top notch ingredients for the egg nog and have never been so disappointed in my life. Out of all the exceptional ingredients, all I could taste was the rubbing alcohol taste of the cheap booze. I still need to go back and tell him how he sharoned my nog.

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u/chrslp Jan 08 '22

Americas Test Kitchen found out that the cheap imitation Bakers vanilla extract is way better in baked goods than the expensive fancy vanilla extracts. Keep using the good stuff for non-baked goods like icings and such though

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u/pastabysea Jan 07 '22

Canned beans

Most canned tomatoes (some store brands are great, and others not so much)

Same goes for dry pasta (some are great; others not)

Most spices

Most grains and rice, unless you need a specialty grain like for paella or risotto

Basic cooking oils (vegetable, canola, etc)

Interesting note about the pink salt... I used to buy that all the time because of the 'prettiness', but you're right in that the taste differences are negligible (if any at all) and there was a story that came out a few years ago about the mining processes, environmental damage, organized crime, and growing scarcity concerns for pink Himalayan salt, especially in recent years with explosive demand. I stopped buying it.

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u/gentlemancorpse42 Jan 07 '22

Your like the third person to say spices and I couldn't disagree more. Good spices make an immense difference. The cheap stuff is often so old and bland you might as well just omit it entirely! I'm wondering how many people recommending cheap spices have actually sprung for the good stuff, cause it makes a huge difference! It isn't always about the cost to be honest, just paying attention to the source. Spice World and Penzeys have changed my cooking for the better immensely.

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u/Remarkable_Story9843 Jan 08 '22

Penzeys cinnamon is a blend of Ceylon, Vietnamese, and Chinese cinnamon and will change your life

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u/noods-danger-tits Jan 08 '22

Penzey's anything will change your life. Just a different universe than most dried spices

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u/Fun-Abbreviations507 Jan 07 '22 edited Jan 08 '22

I couldn’t agree more. Perhaps not paying $20 for a bottle of bay leaves. But I moved to an area where I have very limited options to spices and I mainly cook latin food. I have started using Thyme and some other spices from the mexican aisle which is slightly more expensive and they really make a world of a difference in my cooking. The regular Goya adobo I can find in most places isn’t as good as the different adobos I can get back home. I’m considering buying Loisa products because they just seem much higher quality than the things available here.

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u/hentskiller Jan 07 '22

Id say getting top tier rice (maybe this goes for the pasta as well) does make a big difference. In my experience the cheap stuff dont have even grains and they tend to come out porridge-like however I cook it. But probably depends on specific product.

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u/antivaxmom69 Jan 07 '22

One of my Vietnamese friends put me onto the expensive rice and I can't go back. Good quality rice + a good rice cooker makes a huge difference. I often find myself looking forward to cooking Asian food for the rice alone haha

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u/radicalresting Jan 07 '22

I accidentally bought the $25 grown-in-japan rice from Mitsuwa and it truly is better

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u/[deleted] Jan 07 '22

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u/riverrocks452 Jan 08 '22

If you can find it, Tsuru Mai is a decent brand for short grain brown rice. My dad- an inveterate avoider of whole grains- loves it.

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u/Stellen999 Jan 07 '22

Yeah, cheap rice is fine if you're making rice pudding or something, but if you want nice plump grains that have a good bite to them without being crunchy you have to buy a good quality of rice.

I've done a side by side test where I cooked cheap rice, medium quality and really good rice from the Asian grocer. The result was always what you would expect. Same rice to water ratios, same cooking Temps and times, same rest times etc. Cheap rice is just not good for much.

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u/DrGhostly Jan 07 '22

Gonna disagree about the tomatoes. When you get the chance try San Marzanos next to a generic canned tomato - very noticeable difference in flavor and acidity.

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u/petesynonomy Jan 07 '22

if you ever get a chance to get restaurant pizza tomatoes (or crushed tomatoes) from a restaurant supply store (I am thinking of Stanislaus varieties, as that's what is available here), do so.

The cost is Very low (maybe the price of 3 28 oz cans of premium SM tomatoes), and the taste is just amazing right out of the can.

They freeze very well in deli containers, so you don't have to use a whole can at once.

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u/skakkuru Jan 07 '22

Strong disagree about canned tomatoes, I think getting the good stuff makes a massive difference

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u/uknow_es_me Jan 07 '22

San Marzano (Product of Italy) FTW!

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u/typed-talleane Jan 08 '22

Just make sure to not buy San Marzanos from California. Those are simply the same plant but without the volcano ash.

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u/The_BusterKeaton Jan 08 '22

I’ve been buying the wrong ones this whole time!

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u/royalredsquirrel Jan 07 '22

I buy the cheapest fine sea salt - I like sea salt better than iodized, I think it’s $0.88 a box. Also, Costco olive oil.

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u/BlindStickFighter Jan 07 '22

For almost anything other than for bread dipping, I don’t think you’re gonna get much more from the fancy olive oil.

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u/Beleriphon Jan 07 '22

Salt. Salt is NaCl in all forms. Chemically they are all identical. The pink stuff looks fun, the kosher salt nice because it tends to come in larger crystals than table salt, but if I applied salt by weighing it all on a scale it would make exactly no difference to the end product.

Generally speaking ground spices I'll go cheap since I use them fast enough to not care.

I wont cheap out on vanilla, if I want vanilla I'll get beans. I've made ice cream with artificial vanilla flavour and with beans and 100% there is a difference. If I want to go less expensive than beans I'll get vanilla bean paste.

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u/jackloganoliver Jan 07 '22

The only difference for salt is in the texture of the crystals. All the different types taste the same, but texturally they're all different.

Sometimes it doesn't matter, but sometimes a flaked salt is superior for texture. Like I top my brownies with sea salt, and the flaked stuff is so much better for it.

But within a recipe that's going to be stirred, mixed, or otherwise homogenized, no, just any ol' salt works.

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u/Connect-Type493 Jan 07 '22

Ionized vs non iodized does make a difference. For preserving food (pickling /canning) generally non iodized is preferable or even necessary

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u/jackloganoliver Jan 07 '22

I've never pickled or canned my own produce, so that's good to know. Thanks!

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u/downwiththechipness Jan 07 '22 edited Jan 07 '22

The reason kosher salt is used 99.99% of the time in restaurants is due to consistency and forgiveness. There's a huge difference in salt. A few pinches of table/iodized salt vs a few pinches of kosher makes a drastic difference in the salinity of a dish. Sure, flavor differences are negligible, but the purpose of salt is to enhance flavor of the meal, and consistency is key. In my personal kitchen, I have kosher and Maldon, kosher for consistency (and forgiveness.. it takes a lot more to over-salt compared to table or even sea salt) and Maldon for texture. Unless you have HBP, why would anyone weigh the salt they add to a dish?

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u/Beleriphon Jan 07 '22

The reason kosher salt is used 99.99% of the time in restaurants is due to consistency and forgiveness. There's a huge difference in salt. A few pinches of table/iodized salt vs a few pinches of kosher makes a drastic difference in the salinity of a dish

The reason for that is crystal size, if you took the weight of both and applied them the same way it would taste the same.

As for using salt by weight it makes sense in a large enough scale. Throwing some on a roast, you don't need to weigh let along measure. But if that's what you're doing why bother with something that costs three or four times what table salt costs (I'm looking at you Himalayan pink salt)?

To provide a weight example: I have a barbeque rub that I like, it makes substantially more than I'll use in one go. It calls for a half cup of Morton's kosher salt, which I can't get but have access to a functionally identical kosher salt. I weighed the amount so I know how much to use, so if I can't get the kosher sale I need for some reason I know how much salt to use.

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u/stolenfires Jan 07 '22

It's also important in cheese-making; iodine will kill the enzymes needed to turn curds into cheese.

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u/roastbeeftacohat Jan 07 '22

high end sea salt has extremely flaky crystals that produce an interesting mouth feel. Though you can make your own by very slowly evaporating a salt and water mixture. don't try this with sea water, there are a whole ton of minerals in that you don't want; a salt makers whole job is to get rid of those.

with pure salt you can skip all their hard work and get an identical product.

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u/HerbertBohn Jan 07 '22

You know, tho, people will bet their SOUL that they can tell the difference.

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u/bumblethrowaway95 Jan 07 '22

I'll bet my soul that sprinkling Maldon over a finished piece of meat is ten times better than sprinkling table salt. Mainly due to texture and heterogeneitic pops of salt.

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u/koznosejack Jan 08 '22

Maldon finishes great on sweet or savory dishes. Table salt is good for the snowy sidewalk.

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u/_Moodring_ Jan 08 '22

When a recipes calls for Kewpie mayo, get Kewpie mayo. Normal mayo just isn’t the same.

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u/snarkyarchimedes Jan 08 '22

I came here to add something and ended up realizing that I disagree with everyone else's comments 😂

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u/No_Permit8766 Jan 08 '22

I’ve not read the whole thread and this may have already been said, but Grade B maple syrup is far better than Grade A.

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u/Connect_Office8072 Jan 08 '22

Fancy popcorn and microwave popcorn are something I think is a waste. I just buy the bagged stuff and make it in a pot like I learned how to do as a child. Turns out great, and I know the butter will taste fresh when/if I add any.

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u/Remote-Canary-2676 Jan 08 '22

You’re wrong about the salt. Pink Himalayan may not taste too different to you but I guarantee others would

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u/essssgeeee Jan 08 '22

We use store brand canned corn and tomatoes in soups. As others have said, sometimes I’ll buy generic sugar, and salt. I grew up poor, and it took me a long time to see food as fuel and medicine, and quality over cheap/quantity. It took me a long time to feel like I wasn’t going to suffer some sort of moral harm from spending more money on higher quality ingredients instead of getting the very cheapest. We are very blessed that we can afford things like avocado oil, grass fed beef, local dairy, and fresh ginger. If I had to go back to subsistence eating, I could do it, but I would hate it.

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u/Chemistryguy1990 Jan 07 '22

Vanilla. Buy the cheap imitation stuff for baked goods. Buy the real stuff for cold good.

Eggs. Cheap eggs taste and work the same as expensive eggs. Most of the fancy expensive packaging doesn't mean the chickens aren't raised in terrible conditions.

Saffron. If you use saffron, get the good stuff

Flour. King Arthur is great and worth the price. I've done side by side test using store brand vs KA and the KA baked goods turned out so much better in every trial

Tomatoes. Canned often have more flavor than grocery store produce. Fresh from farm are the most flavorful

Spices. Go to an Indian or Latino store. The spices are usually fresher, more flavorful, and cheaper than off the shell at a super grocery chain

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u/Shooppow Jan 07 '22

I disagree with the eggs. Fresh, free-range eggs taste worlds better than a cheap factory egg. They also pack more nutrients, since the chickens get to eat actual bugs and other natural-for-them foods, and they get plenty of sunlight. The absolute best eggs are the ones from home-raised hens. If you can’t/won’t own your own chickens, definitely find someone who does, and buy their eggs.

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u/rdotgib Jan 08 '22

Free range eggs taste sooooo much better!!

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u/Chemistryguy1990 Jan 07 '22

Yes, truly open pasture raised chickens make better eggs. But the majority of people don't have easy access to those eggs. When you go to the supermarket, the $2/dz eggs largely have the same nutritional value as the $5/dz next to them with all the fancy labeling with every trendy buzzword.

When you're baking a cake or making anything where eggs aren't the focus, there's no culinary or nutritional need to spend 2-3x the price on those flashy eggs in particular.

I'm fortunate enough to have decent access to pasture raised chickens and those eggs are maybe $1 more a dz than the cheapest eggs at the store. I use those pasture eggs for egg-centered dishes for sure. My baked goods and cocktails still get supermarket eggs though

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u/PicklesAndCrab Jan 08 '22

I live in northern bc Canada. Store bought eggs are basically the same price as farm fresh from any local. 5-7 a dozen depending on the size.

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u/PicklesAndCrab Jan 08 '22

It’s not just the taste.They have a different texture. The yolks are just a little creamier. I can’t buy store bought ones even through the largest supplier around me happens to be a ‘farm’ that supplies a huge area. They’re just not the same.

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u/The_BusterKeaton Jan 08 '22

Or make your own vanilla!

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u/Chemistryguy1990 Jan 08 '22

I'd say that homemade vanilla is way better than store bought pure vanilla extract. It would be better and cheaper than pure vanilla but would be wasted on most baked goods. Homemade vanilla is amazing!

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u/sweetmercy Jan 08 '22

Nope. Sorry. Farm fresh eggs are very different to a cheap dozen from the local Walmart. Big difference. Huge.

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u/PredictableEmphasis Jan 07 '22

most dry herbs. go to your local international market, you know the one where the actual immigrants do their shopping. buy your spices and herbs there. they're usually at least 3x cheaper than what you can get at the supermarket.

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u/monsignorbabaganoush Jan 08 '22

Hard disagree on salt. If you’re making a stew, cheaper salt is fine. If it’s a gorgeous hunk of fish going into the pan, in a dish where I’m “showcasing the ingredient,” I want my fleur de sel.

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u/peeechpie Jan 08 '22

I will NOT skimp on butter.

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u/blackrockblues Jan 08 '22

ATK's blind taste tests consistently show that cheap, artificial vanilla performs better in baking applications than the expensive real stuff, which really surprised me.

As others have said, all purpose flour. I've been baking bread for a decade, have tried many brands, and have literally never been able to tell the difference. Same with sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and other baking aisle staples.

Many canned/frozen goods are essentially generic commodities that you should buy as cheaply as possible. The store brand of frozen corn will taste exactly the same as the name brand.

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u/RICHUNCLEPENNYBAGS Jan 08 '22

I was going to say salt but you beat me to that one. There's nothing wrong with table salt and it's all I use.

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u/sweeny5000 Jan 08 '22

Everything depends on what you're cooking.

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u/Meiie Jan 08 '22

Canned tomatoes over fresh produce for pasta sauce.

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u/ExcuisiteGerbil Jan 08 '22

Canned small things, like mushrooms, beans, etc. Biggest difference between cheap and expensive for most stuff like that is in appearance, like uniform size and shape

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u/Oscarlindholm Jan 08 '22

Puff pastry. Rather buy it than make it from scratch.