A pantry is a place where you store your dry and canned goods. In older, larger houses, this could be a whole room, lined with shelves. But it can be a cabinet or a drawer in your kitchen if you are really short on space. In that case, you might want to see if you could pick up an old cabinet that could be cleaned up and turned into a small pantry. Now, what exactly should be put in that pantry?
Many of these pantry stock items are no-brainers, things you have to have in the kitchen. But many items on our list are things you might not have thought about to keep a well-stocked pantry.
Always Start With The Basics
Obviously, salt and pepper are essentials. In The Bachelor’s Kitchen, we like to keep at least three different kinds of salt on hand: in our case, kosher, popcorn, and regular table salt. You might choose a different three, but most cooks prefer kosher salt. For pepper, we have both a tin of pre-ground (makes for easier measuring in recipes) and a grinder filled with regular black peppercorns for freshly ground pepper, usually as a finishing to the dish.
Oils are another essential, and we recommend having at least two, preferably three, cooking oils or fats. Extra Virgin Olive Oil is great for salad dressings and for many cooking applications. Good olive oil can be expensive as fine wine and should be treated similarly. Most cooks and eaters would agree that the fruity taste of good olive oil can be delightful. But it’s not good for high heat, which requires regular vegetable oil, peanut oil, soybean oil, or corn oil. We are not big fans of corn oil, we already eat way too much corn. Peanut oil, obviously, can be dangerous if there’s anyone around with a nut allergy. Our favorite, for its light, neutral taste that doesn’t burn at high temperatures, is soybean oil. It’s usually sold as just vegetable oil.
Another essential is all-purpose flour. If you do a lot of baking you might want to consider also having things like whole wheat flour or bread flour or pastry flour. But really, for nearly all those things, you can still use all-purpose. That’s why they call it that. Keep in mind all-purpose flour will keep for a very long time, as much as a year or more. Most of the others are only good for a few months.
Along with the flour, you need granulated sugar. Even if you avoid sugar or use a sugar substitute, you will still need a small amount at least of regular sugar. Artificial sweeteners often don’t work well in cooking and baking. Even if you’re diabetic, a little bit of sugar should be okay as long as you count it in your carb intake. Sometimes, there’s just no substitute, especially in baking.
Plenty Of Useful Cans, For Now, And Emergencies
Often people don’t like to use canned goods. We understand. But there are two good reasons to have selected canned products in the pantry. First, some canned products are better than fresh depending on the season. For example, tomatoes out of season are usually tasteless. This is because they have to be picked early while still green and hard so they can survive the long trip to your store. Once picked, they don’t develop any more flavor even if they appear to ripen. Canned tomatoes are allowed to stay on the vine longer because they don’t have to travel very far. Processing facilities are usually nearby. That means the quality of canned tomatoes can be better than fresh for most of the year. Also, canned tomatoes can keep for a couple of years in various forms: stewed, diced, crushed, whole, sauce, or paste.
That brings us to the second reason to keep canned goods in the pantry. It never hurts to have an emergency food supply. In the event of a storm or other event that keeps you from the store, it’s good to have plenty of non-perishable food handy. We recommend having items from each food group. Canned vegetables and fruits are easy.
Many people don’t like canned meats, but if cooked properly, they can be quite good, especially when your options are limited. Canned fish, besides tuna, are also good to have. If you combine selected canned goods with the stuff to make bread or other staples, you can survive without refrigeration for days.
Other canned goods you need are basic ingredients like chicken, beef, and vegetable stock or broth, and canned beans. Just remember to buy reduced sodium stocks, soups, and broth and to always rinse canned beans to remove excess salt.