The Ingredient Ina Garten Calls Her 'Secret Weapon'

Ina Garten has been coming into our homes since 2002 when her Food Network show, the Barefoot Contessa, debuted. Garten's impact is real and has been felt across the kitchens of both the everyday cook, as well as those of plenty of celebrities — Jennifer Garner, Taylor Swift, and Meghan Markle are a few who come to mind (via People). Since that debut, Garten has become the celebrity chef who has gotten us through some pretty significant milestones and moments. Garten's Instagram cocktail hour during quarantine united us at home, because in the immortal words of Garten, "It's always cocktail hour in a crisis!" (via Instagram). And then there's that secret ingredient she shared with us to make our mashed potatoes explode with flavor and give this holiday dish an upgrade for future gatherings. Not to mention, hot apple cider with a hint of bourbon will never be the same without the addition of Garten's spicy black pepper recommendation. 

Garten has definitely shared a lot of wisdom, tips, and tricks with us over the years to make our cooking better and just more satisfying. And don't expect that sharing to end anytime soon. Garten's culinary skill and knowledge seem both limitless and unparalleled. She has even shared a secret weapon she pulls out whenever she wants to add a little something extra to make a dish more flavorful.   

Booze is Garten's secret weapon

Ina Garten told Food Network, "Booze is always my secret weapon!" Food Network notes that Garten said so "jokingly" but it is fair to say she does use it in many of her recipes. Pumpkin Pie with Rum Whipped Cream, Applesauce Cake with Bourbon Raisins, Pasta alla Vecchia Bettola which is made with vodka, and the list goes on (via Barefoot Contessa, Food52). Clearly, there is something to this secret weapon. But just how does alcohol add that zsa zsa zsu taste to your dishes?

Per Food 52, alcohol, be it wine, beer, or something a little harder, connects and binds with water and fat in a manner that enhances both the taste and smell of some of your favorite recipes. It's really that simple. And according to Times of India, different alcohols can add different elements for your taste buds. For example, rum will sweeten up a dish while whiskey is more like salt, and vodka, which they say is flavorless, can be used to create delicious baked goods like pie crust. Want more of a caramelized flavor? Just add beer. Alcohol clearing has a place in your pantry beyond cocktail hour, and we have Garten to thank for clueing us in on this secret.