Dental floss belongs in the pantry, not the medicine cabinet.

By Clarissa Buch
Updated February 12, 2020

Wondering what your favorite chefs keep inside their home pantries? Vermouth, dental floss, and preserved tuna are among the items that chefs always make sure to have on hand. Read on for more surprising picks and easy pantry meal inspiration (including beef jerky salad.)

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Dental floss

"Make sure it’s unflavored. It’s really useful for cutting soft cheeses cleanly without smashing them.” — Judy Joo, chef, author, and television personality

Preserved tuna

“I always have preserved tuna in my pantry. Not canned tuna, but tuna I preserve myself. My parents taught me how to do it when I was a kid, and now I always like to have it on hand. I marinate it with lemon, garlic, pepper, thyme, juniper berries, and celery, and then seal it in a jar filled with good quality olive oil, then boil it.” — Luca Zamboni, master pizzaiolo at Buona Forchetta

Pickled garlic 

“It never goes bad!” — Erik Niel, chef and owner of Easy Bistro & Bar and Main Street Meats

Roasted sunflower seeds

“I always have roasted and salted sunflower seeds in my pantry. I love to add them to salads, or I sprinkle them on sautéed veggies—they add a lovely salty crunch. I started loving them when I was a little girl because my mom used to put them in tuna fish sandwiches.” — Anne Burrell, chef and television personality

Gumbo file powder 

“My wife grew up eating gumbo and we always have this around.” — Christopher Li, executive chef at Scarpetta by Scott Conant

White balsamic vinegar

"This is the most versatile of all kinds of vinegar and a pantry must-have." — Christopher Li

Tajin

“One item that is constantly in my pantry is tajin. It’s a Mexican spice blend of peppers and dried like traditionally eaten with fruit. I absolutely love it, and I use it on salads, avocado toast, marinades, and just about anything that makes sense. It’s killer on a margarita too.” — Giorgio Rapicavoli, chef, restaurateur, and Chopped winner 

Fermented batters

“This works particularly well in places like Florida where the humidity is quite high. I like to take lentils or rice, soak them and grind them, and then place in the pantry overnight so that the dough ferments and can be used for savory pancakes.” — Vijayudu Veena, executive chef at Jaya at The Setai 

Beef jerky

“I’m always stocked to add into vegetables or salads, similar to what one would do with bacon. I’ve always got sunflower and green peanut oil on hand too.” — Geoff Rhyne, chef and creator of Red Clay Hot Sauce 

Vermouth 

“Vermouth to cook with, and it doesn’t go bad like white wine." — Judy Joo

Milka chocolate bars with whole hazelnuts

“My mom always sends them to me, and it reminds me of my childhood.  I usually sneak a square every night.” — Robin Hollis, executive chef at Basic Kitchen

Black garlic

“If I had to name the most exotic thing I have in my pantry at home, that would be black garlic. But the funny fact is that even though I use it at my restaurant, I don’t really cook at home very often.” — Pablo Lamon, Top Chef alum and executive chef at Nativo Kitchen & Bar

Florecitas cookies

“They are just my favorite and always remind me of home.” — Jean Delgado, executive chef at Toro Toro Miami 

Maldon sea salt

“It makes everything taste better. I keep a 1.5kg tub on hand at all times. I started using it only for finishing, but now I use it exclusively in all my cooking. It's smooth, mellow, never bitter, unsalty and very savory. The little crunch makes flavors pop.  t costs a little more but elevates everything it touches.” — Anthony Carron, chef and founder of 800 Degrees Woodfired Kitchen

Organic white miso

Organic white miso is an item that I add to everything, from mashed potatoes to Italian food. It punches up the umami without letting you know its miso.” — Richard Hales, chef and restaurateur

Maple sugar 

“Using it can be a very unique way to sweeten items. As opposed to standard cinnamon sugar, you can use maple sugar as to sweeten pancakes, French toast, and on other breakfast or dessert items.” — Ed McFarland of Ed’s Lobster Bar

Coconut oil

"Coconut oil is something we keep gallons of handy.  My wife cooks with it, fries with it, and even makes beauty products with it. These oils have amazing health benefits and are great not only for cooking but also for vinaigrettes, dressings, and finishing dishes." — Jeff McInnis, chef and restaurateur

Tomato sauce 

“It’s always great with kids and allows my wife and I to have a quick dinner after work by making an easy pasta with tomato sauce, or simply cooking some ground meat with some fresh rosemary and making a Bolognese." — Michael Schulson, Founder/CEO of Schulson Collective

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