Puff Pastry, Peeled Garlic and Other Kitchen Shortcuts We Love

A few weeks ago I wrote about store-bought shortcuts that I don’t think are as good as what you can do at home – times when just a little extra effort and time can make a difference. Now I’m taking the flip side, sharing recommendations from me and my colleagues for items where, as Ina Garten is famous for her opinion, store-bought is fine.

Pre-grated cheese, ground pepper and more kitchen shortcuts to avoid

Have a favorite store-bought shortcut? Share in the comments below.

Sliced ​​cheese. As I mentioned in my previous post, store-bought shredded cheese is often coated in anti-caking ingredients that can prevent you from achieving smooth, creamy results in some dishes. This is not the case with sliced ​​cheese, which often uses paper between the slices to keep them from sticking together. You can buy sliced ​​cheese, including cheddar, provolone, low-moisture mozzarella, and Swiss, in packets or at the deli counter, where you can choose the thickness you want. I particularly appreciate the ultra-thin slices, which I would never make at home. I like to pile them into sandwiches or drape them over hot sausage sandwiches or my eggplant parmesan sandwiches.

Puff pastry. Most of us don’t have the time to make puff pastry from scratch, and not everyone is confident enough to do it either (me, that’s me). Frozen puff pastry is therefore one of the best shortcuts. If you can, opt for a butter-based product like Dufour or Trader Joe’s, although Serious Eats found Pepperidge Farm’s vegetable-fat version to be very good as well. For an easier dinner, use puff pastry as a crust for a quiche or savory pie. It is also ideal for concocting small dessert pies or cinnamon buns.

How to use frozen puff pastry, one of the best time savers in the kitchen

Pizza dough. Pizza night usually depends on a bit of advance planning to account for dough making and rising. Impulse pizza often involves pulling out a store-bought frozen pie or ordering. Instead, aim for an in-between solution by picking up some dough at the grocery store or your local pizzeria. You should be able to store it in the fridge for about five days. Just give yourself an hour or so to let it come to room temperature before shaping and baking it, like in the Cast Iron Skillet Pizza with Italian Sausage and Kalamata Olives.

Peeled garlic cloves. “I don’t think I’ll ever buy a head of garlic again,” says our cross-platform editor Jim Webster. He first bought the peeled cloves after some intense garlic recipe testing and converted to their convenience and flavor essentially the same as cloves from a head. Cook’s Country says you don’t want to keep them in the refrigerator longer than two weeks, so plan to freeze the excess. Keep in mind that frozen cloves won’t be as potent – you can always use more than a recipe calls for to compensate.

Peeled and chopped butternut squash. These winter squashes are gnarly enough to rot even if you have a good knife. If you don’t, or have mobility limitations that make carving even more difficult, prepared butternut squash can be a game-changer and save you time. Even better, you can find it fresh in the produce section or on the frozen aisle. Put it to good use in soups, quiches, chili, risotto and more.

Take Your Butternut Squash Appreciation Beyond Roasting With These 7 Recipes

Concentrated broth bases. “I don’t have the bandwidth/freezer space for homemade stock,” says Emily Heil, editor of Voraciously. Instead, she turns to products like Better Than Bouillon, which offers concentrated bases in a variety of flavors that you can dilute with hot or boiling water for an on-demand broth (or add to a recipe with the appropriate amount of liquid). The chicken and vegetable versions both earned high rankings in America’s Test Kitchen taste tests, above other carton options. The base has an extremely long shelf life – two years from date of manufacture – and you can make a batch of stock as small or as large as you like, to avoid having to store partially opened cartons like you inevitably forget (guilty).

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