Top 10 Common Ingredients used in Cooking

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Food is one of the basic human needs according to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which leads to further growth and evolution in our living. Maslow like many others before and after him had got it right! Food is definitely one of the basic human needs. And many involved in their experiments with this world of ever expanding delicacies believe that food should be cherished and savored. In ancient times many had based their livelihoods on trade involving different ingredients to sooth the taste buds of people around the globe, looking far out for resources and gradually food ingredients contributed as a luxury trade items. And with the progress in human history, evolution in the use of ingredients has been essential too. However, there are some ingredients which are used in cuisines all over the world, and these are encapsulated here in the list of the Ten most important ingredients in cooking which should always be stocked up in your pantries. Since there are a plethora of ingredients out there, the relative importance of an ingredient is judged on the basis of the extent of flavor it adds, availability, and recently, the health quotient that it has.

10. Olives and olive oil.

Olives are used heavily in many cuisines, especially Spanish and Italian. But raw olives are so bitter and unpalatable that they have to be pickled in brine or salted and then marinated in olive oil to be enjoyed as food. Many people to think that olives are high calorie food because of the oil they contain. But in fact, both black and green varieties provide relatively few calories. The fruity flavor it can add to any dish is responsible for the relative popularity of olive oil with the chefs across the world, though it’s also used so excessively because it only contains monounsaturated fats making it one of the healthiest oils for marinating and sautéing.

9. Fresh Garlic

Garlic is from the family of onions and is very similar to onion in most of its properties. It’s pungent when raw but takes on a sweet and savory flavor as it cooks. Besides the great taste the herbalists and naturopaths regard garlic as something of a miracle food and use it as a remedy for dozens of complaints, ranging from asthma to arthritis. Garlic can be added raw or can be used in its powder form or minced and cooked with the dish itself.

8. Mix of vegetables

Eat rainbow that has been the slogan of doctors and health specialists across the world. You can start implementing it by choosing a variety of vegetables for your main courses. Carrots, peas, broccoli all make up for some very interesting mix of dishes and salads. Which are both healthy and taste wonderful at the same time, however these can’t be used raw and a lot of thought has to go into balancing their texture and flavor, but done right they can provide an essential boost to the recipe especially in with the increasing number of health conscious foodies.

7. Herbs

Basil, thyme, oregano, rosemary and other herbs, whether used by pinch or by bunch, are said to completely transform meals from bland basic to rich with flavor. Though certain foods are flavored with only certain types of herbs, thus it’s important that instead of blindly experimenting with herbs, one should consult a cookbook for a table guide to which herb goes with what, for example basil goes with beans but can taste horrible with beetroot. It’s important to use fresh herbs thus most people prefer to grow them in small pots or kitchen gardens by themselves so that they may have an all-time excess to these miracle ingredients.  Some herbs with stronger flavor are added at the beginning while some towards the end while some are used as dressings only for garnishing the dish. Though certain foods go with certain herbs, it’s not a hard and fast rule, and you can experiment with your own, by adding any ordinary available herb to your everyday cooking and gradually you can figure out which herbs work well with your taste and preference.

6. Cocoa powder

Working with cocoa requires accuracy, precision and patience. But it sure is a miracle ingredient for many. Where would our cakes, muffins, biscuits, cookies and brownies be without the power of cocoa powder? Besides it’s used in a variety of hot drinks as well. Mostly the classic unsweetened, natural and non-alkalized cocoa powder is preferred for baking, though in some recipes that call for baking powder, processed or rather, the Dutch processed cocoa powder is used. You can also experiment with cocoa powder for making your own chocolate.But people with high blood sugar levels are advised against the consumption of cocoa powder and chocolate based dishes in general.

5. Mushrooms

Whether it’s shiitake, portobello, porcini or the white button variety, mushrooms have increasingly become one of the most used and common ingredient in pantries of all the food lovers. There’s so much you can do with mushrooms. You can sauté them to add with your pastas, salads or use them as a side dish to your main course, the possibilities are endless. However, mushrooms must be used fresh and one should look out for dark or squishy spots. The gills should not be exposed and this is the best indicator of the freshness of mushrooms. Also, they should be thoroughly cleaned and washed before use and  that it adds water content to the dish is a myth that chefs have now moved past.

4. Mixed spice

What would a kitchen be without the wonderful aroma of some mixed spice? Most people prefer to grind spices themselves and make the mixed spice according to their tastes. Cinnamon, coriander, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves are some of the basic spice ingredients used to make a mixed use useable in almost all the dishes. Just a pinch is enough to add the extra tang and flavor to desserts, salads or main meals. Storage of homemade mixed spice is no issue adding all the more to the charm of this ingredient.

3. Wine

A bottle of red and white wine is must for any cook across the world, for it brings an additional exuberance of flavor to the other ingredients you are cooking with. Wine is excellent for marinating or sautéing meat or even vegetables before you actually go forward and grill or cook them. You can add it to oil as well, but always pay attention to the quantity of wine you use for cooking. You should start with small quantity and add it little by little as you proceed with the dish. Wine is a very versatile ingredient, you can add it to you gravy, or pour a little over your cheesecakes and ice creams to give them that extra ting.

2. Cheese

From soft ripened to uncooked pressed, some or the other variety of cheese is exploited in cuisines all over the world. Cheese’s extensive use stems from its texture and flavor. Whether it is salad, fruits or sautéed vegetables, cheese adds flavor to almost anything. There are many varieties to cheese from Parmesan to feta to fontina, from sweet and nutty to bitter and acidic, cheese offers a plethora of textures and flavors. Even though cheese is preferable used in small quantities and very wisely too, because it’s naturally rich in fat, especially saturated fat, making it one of the difficult ingredients to work with for the health conscious, one simple way to add cheese to your dish is to use feta, goat or cheddar, because these add instant flavor even in small doses.

1. Rice

Rice is one of the main staple diets in the world today; it’s used as a base in many main course meals and in salads, for its exquisite taste, and energy quotient. From baby food to gravies, most people grow up eating some form of rice based dish. The 40,000 varieties of rice makes up for every kind of dish- salad, main course or dessert, there are enough forms of right to fit in all three categories. Whether it’s the Italian Arborio for risottos or the famous brown rice for our Asian dishes, rice has something to offer to everyone. Besides being an essential source of starch rice is known to be low in vitamins and thus it’s always advised to cook rice with at least two to three vegetables to add the essential nutrients which it lacks.


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