I struggled to narrow down the number of spices and seasonings to recommend for the well-stocked kitchen. With this selection plus the rest of the Flavor Bombs in your well-stocked pantry, you’ll be able to prepare dozens, if not hundreds, of tasty meals.
Salt & Pepper When TV chefs say “season” something, they mean add salt & pepper, which are almost always used together. Please, if you don’t already, use Kosher Salt. It gets its name from its use in the meat koshering process where it’s used to pull blood out of freshly slaughtered meat. Kosher salt is not finely ground; the crystals remain bigger, but because it doesn’t have any additives to prevent caking, it has a cleaner saltier flavor than table salt.
You will still need a finely ground salt for baking; the larger pieces in kosher salt won’t distribute evenly in a dough. I use finely ground sea salt, but table salt will do.
You’ve probably seen all kinds of sea salt on shelves. It’s wonderful to finish a dish by sprinkling over the top. It not only adds flavor, but the flakes add crunch. But I’m not going to include it as a required ingredient in your well-stocked panty.
Black pepper should be ground as needed. If you don’t have a pepper grinder, please get one. It doesn’t have to be super expensive, although a grinder with a metal mechanism will work better and last longer than a plastic one. It’s also nice to have a grinder that allows you to adjust the grind size from finer to coarser.
Like all the ingredients I’ve described so far, fresh is always better. Freshly ground pepper tastes better — pepperier — than pre-ground. Grinding releases the oils in the pepper seed; by the time you get a container of ground pepper home, it’s dried out and lost those oils.
Other Spices These are the essentials I recommend for your pantry.
Onion & Garlic powder — make sure you buy powder; not garlic or onion salt. Control the salt yourself.
Sweet & Smoked Paprika — paprika is made from ground dried peppers. The sweet variety is made from sweet red peppers; to achieve the smoked variety, the peppers are smoked first.
Cinnamon — although you might think about cinnamon as a “sweet” spice, by itself it actually has a sharp spiciness. Cinnamon isn’t just for dessert; many, many types of ethnic food use cinnamon in savory applications.
Spice Blends You could fill an entire spice cabinet with amazing spice blends from major manufacturers and smaller artisan operations. As you can see in the pictures, I did. But you don’t need them. Four basic spice blends will take you pretty far.
Chili Powder — yes, it’s a blend.
Pumpkin Pie Spice — the classic combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, allspice and ginger can also be used in savory applications.
Italian Seasoning — most versions contain basil, oregano, thyme and rosemary. It’s a great combination that can be used in many dishes, not just Italian.
Curry Powder — There are literally hundreds of different types of curry; many Indian families make their own and sometimes more than one for different dishes. But a basic curry powder works well for most home cooks, including in a Curry Chicken Salad. (recipe will be included)
Fresh Herbs I realize it’s not possible for everyone to maintain a fresh herb garden. Fresh herbs are pricey in stores, often costing $2 for a small bunch. They are SO worth it, but very hard to keep fresh for more than a few days once you get them home.
If you have a green thumb and a sunny space somewhere in your home, select from this list of my essentials and take the plunge to grow your own. Especially in the winter, when they are less available and more expensive in stores, you will be glad you did. • Basil • Chives • Dill • Oregano • Parsley • Rosemary • Thyme •