Chefs Reveal the 20 Items They Never Make from Scratch

Fried Chicken
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Helene Henderson, the Swedish-born chef known for her pioneering farm-to-table work at Malibu Farm, isn't one for eggs. That's why she buys Just Mayo's pre-made vegan mayonnaise, which can be found at almost any major retailer, like Walmart and Target. Chefs, they're just like us. Well, sort of. At their restaurants, many of them, including Nina Compton, Michelle Bernstein, and Jeremy Ford, are buried deep inside their kitchens, smoking meats, baking breads, and even growing their own fruits and vegetables. But at home, sometimes it's just easier for them to pick up Heinz Ketchup or a can of olives instead of cooking from scratch. Check out the 20 ingredients these chefs always prefer to buy than make.

01 of 19


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"I enjoy making mustards, mayonnaises, pickles, jams, and such at home. I do not, however, think I can better replicate store-bought ketchup. I'll always buy and serve ketchup." – Alex Guarnaschelli, executive chef of Butter, cookbook author, and Chopped judge

02 of 19

Chefs Reveal the 20 Items They Never Make from Scratch

Here's what chefs will never make themselves.

03 of 19

Rose Harissa

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"It's such great stuff from Belazu, and I always find myself using it for something! Right now, I'm using it in a lamb shank braise to give it some depth and heat." – Karen Akunowicz, chef, restaurateur, and cookbook author

04 of 19


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"It's made with black olive purée, olive oil, basil, and thyme. I buy it to avoid pitting the olives. Usually, tapenade is made with small olives from Provence, which are pain to pit. Use it as a dip for crudités, or as a spread on a sandwich. It also stays well in the fridge." – Daniel Boulud, chef, restaurateur, and founder of The Dinex Group

05 of 19

Black Garlic

Black Garlic
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"It's an aged garlic––fermented and aged in whiskey barrels. I attempted to make it, and it was a disaster. The first two attempts were unsuccessful and completely moldy. The third time it smelled like death!" – Jeremy Ford, chef and partner of Stubborn Seed

06 of 19

Vegan mayonnaise

Vegan Mayonnaise
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"I don't like eggs that much, and I find the homemade mayonnaises taste too "eggy" for me." – Helene Henderson, cookbook author, chef, and owner of Malibu Farm

07 of 19

Macaroni and cheese

Mac and Cheese
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"I try to make most things myself when it's for myself or my wife, but dishes for the kids become a little more challenging as they're picky and young. The one dish I never try to make them, after trying many times to no avail, is macaroni and cheese. I can't compete with the box and the frozen brands!" – Michael Schulson, chef, restaurateur, and founder of the Schulson Collective

08 of 19


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"Hands down, there are much better bakers than I." – Geoffrey Zakarian, Chopped judge, chef, restaurateur, and owner of Point Royal, The Lambs Club, The National, and The Water Club

09 of 19

Hellman's Mayonnaise

Hellman's Mayo
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"I'm one of those people who can literally dip everything into mayo, from fries, to chips and pizza crust. While making a simple mayonnaise is easy, the classic flavor of Hellman's is hard to beat." – Paula DaSilva, executive chef at The Ritz-Carlton Fort Lauderdale

10 of 19

Bacon and smoked salmon

Smoked Salmon
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"Both of these are really tough to do in your apartment or house, and there are really tasty, high-quality versions of both available just about anywhere." – Brad Kilgore, owner of Alter and Kaido, and founder of Kilgore Culinary Group

11 of 19

Heinz Ketchup

Heinz Ketchup
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"I know how to make ketchup, but Heinz is always on hand. I'm saddened when I see fancy places replace Heinz with a more elite-looking brand. It's just not the same." – Norman Van Aken, chef, cookbook author, restaurateur, and owner of Norman's and Three

12 of 19

Barbecue sauce

Barbecue Sauce
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"I've tried hundreds of different homemade sauces at some of the best barbecue joints in America, but to me there's nothing like Sweet Baby Ray's." – Giorgio Rapicavoli, chef and owner of Glass & Vine and Eating House

13 of 19


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"I would definitely rather purchase flour than make it myself. It's quite labor intensive and requires special grinding processes for the grains. I say leave that to the pros! I get beautifully freshly milled flour from Bellegarde Bakery in New Orleans. It makes all the difference in my pastas and breads. The product is unbeatable, so why would I try to replicate it?" Nina Compton, and chef and ownerCompère Lapin and Bywater American Bistro

14 of 19

Pastries and cakes

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"It's too long and too complicated to make a cake. When I feel like having one, I call my friend and pastry chef Cédric Grolet." – Jean Imbert, executive chef at L'Acajou and Swan and Bar Bevy

15 of 19


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"It's not really a convenience thing. It's more like I'm not going to do it better than some other people out there, like Steve Santana at Taquiza in Miami. Beautiful blue corn tortillas made fresh with just the right texture, moisture, and flavor. Yeah, I'll leave it to him." – Michael Schwartz, chef, cookbook author, restaurateur, and founder of Genuine Hospitality Group

16 of 19

Sir Kensington's Ketchup

Sir Kensington's Ketchup
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"Heinz makes one of the best, but Sir Kensington's goes neck and neck with them. Just depends on my mood." – Michael Beltran, chef and owner of Ariete

17 of 19

Crystal Hot Sauce

Crystal Hot Sauce
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"Home fermentation has become much more popular, and I do like making hot sauce for specific applications. But as for something I can eat every day, it doesn't get better than Crystal." – Levi Raines, chef and partner of Bywater American Bistro

18 of 19

Nori sheets

Nori Sheets
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"Way too labor intensive!" – Makoto Okuwa, executive chef and partner of Makoto

19 of 19

Fried Chicken

Fried Chicken
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"It's kind of embarrassing because I'm known for my fried chicken, but I live for Publix fried chicken. It's my absolute favorite and always a special treat for my family and I. I rather leave it to them!" – Michelle Bernstein, chef and owner of Cafe La Trova, cookbook author, and television personality

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