These 10 ingredients will make you a better cook


Looking to up your home-cooking game? Turning simple foods into delicious, flavorful meals isn’t hard if you have stocked the right ingredients. Here, experts suggest the pantry (and refrigerator) staples they always keep on hand to elevate everyday dishes.


Slather this fermented soybean paste onto rich meats such as duck breast or salmon before roasting, or mix it into sauces for an umami kick — that indescribably savory fifth flavor. It’s especially good in salad dressings. Just combine equal parts miso, oil and vinegar. “Miso is a great way to add a layer of savory to a dish,” says “Top Chef” Season 4 winner Stephanie Izard, a Chicago restaurateur and author of new cookbook “Gather and Graze” (Potter). Hikari miso, $7.99 at Sunrise Mart, 12 E. 41st St.

Fish sauce

Use a dash of fish sauce in place of salt when cooking anything from grilled vegetables to barbecued chicken wings. You can also mix it into common condiments such as ketchup to give it a punch of umami. “It’ll actually bring out the meatiness of your food,” says Adam Fleischman, founder of Umami Burger and co-author of “Flavor Bombs” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). Roland fish sauce, $2.09 at Sunrise Mart, 12 E. 41st St.


Izard loves this Middle Eastern chili paste — which is just mildly hot with a complex, slightly smoky profile — when making stews or braising meats. It’s also great used as a condiment on everything from eggs to potatoes. “For someone who likes spice, harissa could replace ketchup,” says Melissa O’Donnell, head chef at Lower East Side Lebanese restaurant Lil’ Gem. “It’s a great condiment with deep flavor.” Mina Harissa, $6.99 at Whole Foods, various locations and


Rub this sesame-seed paste onto meats before cooking to add a nutty flavor, or stir a dollop into salad dressing to create a creamy texture without dairy. “Tahini is healthy, shelf-stable and versatile,” says Adeena Sussman, author of “Tahini” (Short Stack) and co-author, along with Chrissy Teigen, of “Cravings” (Clarkson Potter). You can also use it for baking. Replace peanut butter in cookies with tahini, or swirl it into brownies — tahini and chocolate is a surprisingly delicious combination. New York Seed + Mill pure tahini, $9.99 at Whole Foods

Sesame oil

This aromatic oil isn’t ideal for cooking, due to its high smoke point, but it’s great for adding a flavorful boost just before serving. Drizzle it atop meats or sauteed greens, or use it instead of olive oil when making salad dressing. “Just a drop permeates an entire dish,” Sussman says. Eden Selected toasted sesame oil, $3.49 at Whole Foods

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