Use This Unexpected Pantry Item To Add Flavor To Your Meats, According To Omi Hopper - Exclusive

Queen of Puerto Rican cuisine Omi Hopper knows good cooking because it's in her blood. The Providence-based "Next Level Chef" star used to spend summers at her grandparents house in Puerto Rico; her childhood food memories still uplift her. "My top favorite was viandas con bacalao, a mix of root vegetables — yuca, yautia, malanga, batata — these amazing root vegetables that are seasoned with a salted cod fish in a very soft vinaigrette with onions and peppers and garlic," Hopper recently told Mashed in an exclusive interview. "It's a warm hug for me every time."

Hopper's grandma taught her the basics – namely, stay simple and cook straight off the vine. To this day, Hopper cherishes the taste of "earth" in food. But the culinary competition contestant, who began cooking for social media during the pandemic, has since picked up a few cooking secrets of her own. She shared one of them with us. 

This pantry staple will bring your meats to the next level

The good news is you won't have to outdo yourself to implement Omi Hopper's cooking hack. The chef uses a pantry item that's common, you'd probably find it even in the "Next Level Chef" basement level. (This nightmarish workstation, for those of you who haven't thoroughly enjoyed Gordon Ramsay's new cooking competition yet, is otherwise stocked with fridges from 1970 and canned chicken.) "You'd be surprised to find me using rice vinegar," Hopper dished to Mashed. "I love using rice vinegar, like an Asian cuisine type of rice vinegar. I love the flavor and love, love, love what it does to my meats, so I use that."

According to Hopper, rice vinegar is especially helpful when preparing onion steaks. "If I'm going to be making en bistec encebollado — like an onion steak — rather than adding regular distilled white vinegar, I would use rice vinegar," she explained. "It gives it a little sweeter taste. There's something in there that really changes for the bistec encebollado, and it's so much more flavorful."