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Banned Pantry Items

There are several products that I will not allow in the house. My mother probably still buys Gravy Master, which is old fashioned gravy base that we had with roast beef on Sundays. My grandmother always had Real Lemon in the big green glass bottle or the little yellow plastic bottle. Liquid Smoke is another thing I gaze at in the supermarket aisle. How can smoke be harvested? I also think cooking spray a weird thing. Pam is very popular. I don't care how easy it makes clean up! I'm sure that other things will pop into my head.

Warning : This post is for the slightly snobby Chowhouders. This disclaimer belongs up top.

Are there products that appall you that everyone else thinks is normal?

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  1. Instant cocoa. Cocoa, sugar, salt, and milk is just fine.
    Canned broth. That's what carcasses are for. Box broth is ok when I run out of home made.
    Bottled wine vinegar. I like my own, one crock for red and one for white. Store bought doesn't appall me. I just like mine better.
    Store bought chili sauce or apricot preserves.
    I have store bought curry powder, but it is for curry brats, not curries. Home made Garam masala for curries.

    2 Replies
    1. re: tim irvine

      Canned both is something my parents still use along with canned mushrooms. Stems and pieces.

      1. re: CCSPRINGS

        canned mushrooms, asparagus, green beans, beets, beans, artichokes, potatoes and most def. canned spinach.

    2. Liquid smoke is actually a relatively old-fashioned product. You should read up on how the flavor of smoke is harvested.

      14 Replies
      1. re: Karl S

        I do know its been around a while. I remember Homer Simpson put some on his famous waffles.

        1. re: CCSPRINGS

          It's been around since 1895. Well before Homer Simpson.

          Also, it's a pretty simple process...basically gathering the condensate from a damp sooty chimney.

          1. re: jmcarthur8

            Alton Brown made some in the beef jerky episode. It looked really simple, but not really worth the hassle.

            edit; which was mentioned downstream...

            1. re: 2roadsdiverge

              So? I mean, beef jerky is better either smoked properly or just dried without smoke flavor. Choose your preference or make each the best way.

              1. re: MGZ

                What do you mean "So?"? I was agreeing with above posters that it is a simple process. I didn't say that it was better than natural smoking, or preferable to unflavored jerky. Just that the idea that liquid smoke is some weird chemical concoction is not correct.

                1. re: 2roadsdiverge

                  I prefer real smoked meat, fish, etc. but there is an argument for saying that liquid smoke is better. Harold McGee ("On Food and Cooking", 2nd ed., pp 449-450) notes that the prominent carcinogens in smoke are polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). He says that most of the flavor compounds in smoke are water soluble but PAHs are largely water insoluble. So the flavor-to-carcinogen ratio in liquid smoke is better than in the smoke itself. Incidentally, McGee says that those PAHs that do make it into liquid smoke tend to aggregate and sink, so he suggests not shaking bottles of liquid smoke before using.

              2. re: 2roadsdiverge

                Only Alton Brown can make boiling water into an operation that requires a Ph.D. in non-linear physics from MIT, and takes a fortnight to accomplish. But I still love the guy.

                1. re: Perilagu Khan

                  No, Cooks Illustrated could do it, too.

                    1. re: splatgirl

                      LOL also- even more so than Alton Brown.

              3. re: Karl S

                Liquid Smoke has a place of honor in my kitchen. That and Worcestershire are my secret ingredients in more than one dark, savory recipe. And I'm quite comfortable with its provenance and manufacturing process.

                1. re: rohirette

                  +1. Just be sure you never let it dive out of the cabinet and break on your apartment floor- the place smelled like a house fire for nearly a year.

                  1. re: rohirette

                    +2. Alan Wong has a great Kailua pork recipe with 2 ingredients...liquid smoke and aluminum foil (and lots of time).

                2. Ready made sauces in jars bought from the supermarket. They're not so much banned as I just prefer not to have them in the cupboard. I know I can make better quite easily from scratch.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Musie

                    Agree on the ready made sauces, particularly spaghetti sauce. I make and freeze an easy, gorgeous one that is so much tastier than any of the jarred versions I've tried. I do shudder a bit to think what would happen if we had a lengthy power outage, with all the soups, pastas and sauces I have in there. I'm still reeling from when I lost a whole freezer full of goodies when it was inadvertently left unplugged during our first bout of house renos 8 years ago.

                    1. re: grayelf

                      Love a good homemade sauce. I have frozen sauces & soups & stews & stuff in my freezer that have been in there WAY too long. I need a better labelling system or something obviously. Hate most of the jarred sauces... Gosh maybe I buggered up big time... amd I even allowed to mention brand names... ? Oops... There are 2 I think deserve honourable mention/

                      One year we had an excellent crop of fresh tomatoes in the backyard... they came up at the same times as the zucchinis/... I'm an only child. My Grandfather had passed away & we all went to Calgary to be with Grandma & my Uncle Pat, I had to go back to work though, so I flew back home to Vancouver & these plants just kept producing... plus Dad had bought a really large box of BC russet potatoes, which also had to be eaten... I liked to cook... I had to get creative! The Zucchini went into the pasta sauce before I even knew other people did this... I'd made pasta sauce with Zucchini... Zucchini Chocolate cake, potato tomato casserole for dinner... I was SO glad when my parents came home, because I was getting SO Tired of zucchinis, tomatoes & POtatoes... Still LOVE them all! :-) They tasted my wares though & were impressed.

                      THEN there's my Aunty Kathy's sauce from Montreal... with shortribs served on Penne... from scratch with homegrown tomatoes & basil. Nothing like it. Once she even added chicken wngs... Or her homemade meatballs. Yum!

                      You're right better than a jar :-)

                  2. Stovetop Stuffing. My mom used to make this stuff, and I've always despised it.

                    I'm sure I'll think of others.

                    1. Gravy Master ingredients:
                      Ingredients: caramelized sugar, caramel color, water, hydrolyzed soy and corn protein, apple cider vinegar, salt and spices (onion, celery, parsley and garlic). CONTAINS NO MEAT.

                      Kitchen Bourquet
                      Caramel, Vegetable Base Water, Carrots, Onions, Celery, Parsnips, Turnips, Salt, Parsley, Spices, Sodium Benzoate (Less Than 0.1 Of 1 Percent To Preserve Freshness)

                      compare that with Maggi seasoning, which has recently gotten a lot of press for its world wide use:
                      Water, salt, wheat gluten, wheat, and less than 2% of wheat bran, sugar, acetic acid, artificial flavor, disodium inosinate, disodium guanylate, dextrose, caramel color.

                      I haven't used Gravy Master or Kitchen Bouquet. I have used some Maggi, though I'm out now.

                      Liquid smoke - not something that I grew up with, but I did buy a few bottles after hearing about the 'Cheaters BBQ' book on The Splendid Table.

                      I've used baking Pam when making muffins and quick bread. ATK found that it was one of the better release tools for baking. Much easier to apply, for example, to the curves of bunt pans. For regular cooking I use olive oil, not a spray oil.

                      Real Lemon - I used to get annoyed when Frugal Gourmet repeatedly knocked that in favor of fresh lemons. Fresh is nice when I have it in stock, but often I end up tossing moldy limes and lemons. Often I use vinegar in salads just because because I don't have the citrus equivalent.

                      10 Replies
                      1. re: paulj

                        I love the baking pam too, it's great to have the grease and flour steps all in one. It's the only time I ever use pam.

                        1. re: paulj

                          I just squeeze the lemon/lime into a ziplock and lay it flat in the freezer. Then I just chip pieces off as needed.

                          1. re: paulj

                            I grew up with an aversion to gravy and didn't realize why until I cooked myself. My mother's gravy is 1/2 flour and 1/2 Kitchen Bouquet. Ok, I exaggerate, but it's close. That is my big ban in my pantry.

                            1. re: paulj

                              When I was a kid, I would sneak spoonfuls of Gravy Master~

                              I still use it, and still sneak spoons of it...I actually love the taste of it~

                                1. re: CCSPRINGS

                                  How different is it from spreading Marmite or Vegimite on your toast? It's something that is heavy on the salt and umami.

                                    1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                      Haven't had Marmite, but Vegmite is awesome. I like eating sandwiches with Vegemite, butter, and tomatoes. Vegemite is also a nice addition to gravy.

                                    2. re: paulj

                                      "How different is it from spreading Marmite or Vegimite on your toast?"

                                      What it's made from, perhaps?

                                    3. re: CCSPRINGS

                                      I like it well enough in enhancing a gravy...it's actually quite good for that.
                                      But straight?
                                      Yipes.