The 10 Best Things Ina Taught Us in 2021
Ina Garten has been charming, schooling, inspiring, and entertaining home cooks for decades, and she’s showing no signs of slowing down. And isn’t that the mark of a truly talented teacher? After years of tuning into her cooking shows, following along with her on social media, and reading her cookbooks, I’m still learning clever tricks and tips from Ina.
2021 was a banner year for Ina-isms, and our dinner tables are all the better for it. From under-the-radar groceries to aha moments for holiday baking, the talented cook and TV host dropped a lot of knowledge — most of which we’ll be using for a lifetime. Here are 10 of the best things we learned from Ina this year.
1. We should all be buying Texmati rice.
Who knew Texmati rice was so delicious? Ina Garten, that’s who. She loves this American-style basmati rice so much, she links to it in her online list of grocery must-haves. Is this fragrant, delicate rice worth the hype? Well, considering Ina uses it in her own recipes, we’re betting that’s a YES.
2. Chocolate buttercream benefits from an egg yolk.
Chocolate cupcakes are always a good idea. But Ina’s version is truly transcendent. The secret to her ultra-rich, irresistible cakes in miniature? A spin on classic buttercream frosting. Her recipe uses egg yolk in the icing, which may sound odd but totally works. As we discovered in testing, the yolk adds richness and creaminess — it also stabilizes the frosting, giving it a professional, polished look.
3. Your reusable grocery bag could use an upgrade.
Still using that old public radio pledge drive tote as a grocery bag? Samesies. But we’ve been inspired to give our totes the old heave-ho in favor of Ina’s pick: a leather-handled burlap carrier bag. At $74, this bag is pricier than the sturdy plastic ones you can buy at Trader Joe’s. But it’s much roomier, and can hold up to 100 pounds. That’s a lot of good vanilla!
4. PB&J is so much better toasted.
Earlier this year, Ina shared an Instagram post of the world’s most perfect PB&J, inciting feelings of sandwich inferiority across the country. She kindly included her favorite brands (Pepperidge Farm bread, Skippy peanut butter, and Eli Zabar’s raspberry preserves), but the real takeaway was the lightly toasted bread. It adds a textural crunch and keeps your sammie from going soggy. Now we just need to know if she’s a potato chip or Doritos fan for the side dish.
5. Pound cake needs a generous sprinkling of turbinado sugar.
While testing popular pound cake recipes, we fell hard for Ina’s darn-near-perfect recipe. It was moist and tender, but the best part was the textural powerhouse of a crackly crust. The secret? A very generous dusting of raw turbinado sugar, which turns deeply golden in the oven. We’ve even upped the amount Ina calls for in the recipe — a move we think she’d happily condone.
6. Your tools and utensils need *TWO* crocks.
Crocks are key for organizing your most-used cooking tools. But if your kitchen is anything like ours, that crock is overstuffed with spatulas, whisks, and spoons. Ina has a better way. She separates her kitchen utensils into two crocks: one for metal things and the other for wooden stuff. Invest in a second crock, and you’ll never accidentally upend the entire crock for one spatula again. (Plus, crocks look pretty.)
7. It is totally fine to roast (and carve) your holiday turkey in advance.
Thanksgiving may be over, but we’re still in shock over Ina’s top turkey tip: She roasts, carves, and plates the bird in advance of dinner. She notes that an ovenproof platter should be used for easy reheating, and the bird can rest on a pool of gravy to keep things moist. May we say: How easy is that?
8. Not all roasting pans are created equal.
Ina is an arbiter of good taste and high quality. So when she puts her stamp of approval on a product, we listen. Her choice of roasting pan is a perfect example. Ina’s pick is not cheap, but it is a total winner. The All-Clad stainless steel roasting pan comes with a roomy rack insert, and it’s made to last. Bonus? It’s dishwasher-safe. Consider this permission to finally quit those flimsy aluminum single-use pans for good.
9. Vodka sauce should be oven-roasted.
This one had us scratching our heads in confusion. Then we tried it. Ina’s recipe for classic Italian vodka sauce calls for roasting aromatics, vodka, and crushed tomatoes in a hot oven. Time-consuming? Surely. Worth it? It’s the best bowl of penne alla vodka you’ll ever eat.
10. Cucumber salad doesn’t have to be runny.
Sometimes the bowl of cucumber salad at a cookout is neglected. This tangy side dish can be watery, runny, and downright “meh.” But Ina’s recipe relies on a clever trick: Straining the yogurt for hours before mixing up the dressing. The result is thick and creamy — like mayonnaise! Don’t skimp on the black pepper, either. Ina’s 2 1/2 teaspoons really up the ante.
Did you learn any tips or tricks from Ina this year? Share with the class in the comments section below.