Ree Drummond Shares Her Best Cooking Tips And Kitchen Advice - Exclusive Interview

The first thing you need to know about cookbook author and TV cooking star Ree Drummond, (or arguably better known as) The Pioneer Woman, is that it's not an act: she really is that nice of a person. Warm, affable, and genuinely happy to chat. During a recent interview she answered one of our questions about her favorite kitchen gadgets with a question of her own: "Do you have like 45 minutes?"

And she surely would have given that time to the topic: She is passionate about all things culinary, but in the most refreshing, laid back of ways. Despite all of her success, which includes a long-running Food Network show, authorship of multiple cookbooks (and other types of book, too), a line of kitchen products, and of course, the immense success of her website, Drummond's approach to cooking is both accessible and practical, making it ideal for families. Which makes sense, as Drummond seems unable to go more than five minutes without mentioning her kids and family in some context or another.

Don't mistake her down-to-earth and casual attitude though — this is a busy woman. From a new cookbook to new episodes of the show and an interactive Walmart Shop-Along event she was prepping for just days after our interview, Drummond is seldom at rest. This is why we made the most of our chat and asked about everything from the show to kitchen mistakes we should all avoid and hacks we should all keep in mind.

Ree Drummond on hosting a live shopping event

What are you most excited about for the live event with Walmart?

I'm really excited by the idea that this is actually kind of an inaugural live shopping event using this format. So what I love about it is that we'll have the energy of not having done this before, neither Walmart nor myself. So it'll kind of have that ... anything can happen vibe, but also I love the idea of just connecting with people in this real way or as real as it can get without being in person. 

So another thing I love about it is that often with my Pioneer Woman collection, when I launched new products on Walmart.com, they just roll onto the website and then I'll announce them as they launch. But in this case, the exclusive products are launching in real-time while the event is going on. So it'll give people who are big fans of the Pioneer Woman collection the chance to jump on new things and things that might sell out otherwise. They'll have the links live right next to the image of me interacting with them. So they'll be able to shop as they go or check things out as they go. And I think it's going to be fun. I do best during live off-the-cuff events like this, and I'm not very good at being natural when I have a big plan or a script. So part of that is I think why I've enjoyed filming my show with my kids through the pandemic months is we just kind of film it as it happens and mistakes and everything. So that's the fun part for me.

Does engaging with fans in a live forum like this offering any unique challenges?

The challenges are you don't know what's going to happen. You don't know what's going to be asked or whether there'll be a technical issue, but the flip side of that is I think that actually feeds the energy of events like this. And I know during the pandemic and when everybody was isolated, virtual live events like this became a lot more commonplace. So I think it's a language so many of us speak now where we might not have done things like this before. So a live event isn't necessarily new to me, but live on new technology with interactive shopping and my daughters helping me, kind of showing things and modeling things. They're going to be a lot of moving parts, but again, I think that's what's so fun about it. And I think this real-time engagement with readers of my website or viewers of my TV show is really like nothing else. You can read comments and reply to comments with texts but having a video virtual live events I think is a whole different kind of energy.

What the Pioneer Woman can't live without in the kitchen

What are your can't live without kitchen gadgets?

Do you have like 45 minutes? A good knife or knives, I like Santoku or Nakiri style knives. One of my exclusive launch items on the live shopping event is a knife set that's brand new. So a good knife. I love a flat whisk, the whisks that you can put against a skillet and press it and it turns it, it flattens against the bottom of a skillet. I love a sheet pan. I can't live without them — I get nervous if I have fewer than 12, 13 sheet pans ready to go, just they're so versatile. I could go on and on, but I think it's hard to do anything without a really good knife.

And are there any kitchen tools or gadgets that you think are just overrated?

That's hard to say because just because I don't use something doesn't mean other people don't, there are certain appliances along the way that I haven't necessarily attached to. I think it can be redundant to have both a blender and a food processor. So I tend to like the food processor because it can do so much from a culinary perspective. But for me, I try to find things that have a dual purpose, so either a blender or a food processor, so that your countertop doesn't get completely covered with appliances before too long.

Ree Drummond says your biggest kitchen mistake is probably self-imposed pressure

What are some of the biggest mistakes people are making in the kitchen?

Biggest mistakes? That's a good question. Again, I always hate to point out something as a mistake [but] I would say putting pressure on oneself to — and of course, you're talking to a home cook who cooks for teenagers and cowboys — but I think giving yourself permission to work in a shortcut or convenience ingredients should never be something anybody feels guilty about. For instance, using frozen bread dough for pizza crust if you feel like it, or using a really good microwave-in-bag rice if you're making some kind of casserole instead of taking the time to make the rice, this has been my approach in 2020 and beyond.

All of my kids were home [last year] and all of a sudden my house was full of people over six feet tall and cooking just became not a pleasure anymore because it was more about just the assembly line and getting them fed, so I started giving myself permission to break out more of those short-cut ingredients. So it's mostly from scratch, but throwing in something that saves two hours. I think just putting pressure on yourself to make every single thing from scratch can sometimes give you paralysis by analysis and make you not want to cook at all.

Do you have any general quick cooking tips, the kind of things you wish more people knew about home cooking?

Just the benefit of mise en place and getting out your stuff and prepping your stuff before the cooking starts I think. I don't do that exclusively, but the times when I do I'm always so glad I did. So I think what's underrated is getting your ingredients out, chopping, prepping, even your seasonings, because I can't tell you the number of times I've been in the middle of a quick skillet dish and I need chili powder and it's buried in my pantry behind pots and pans and other things. So I think that's underrated for sure.

The food Ree Drummond can't live without and the ones she wants more people to cook with

What is one food you can't live without?

Cheese. Every kind of cheese.

Is there an underrated food you just wish people knew more about would buy more of and try more of?

I love raw okra. Again with me [it's about] convenience recipes, so frozen green vegetables are a triumph — green beans, peas, that whole category, it really opens up worlds and there's not an enormous amount of difference if you're making like a casserole or a soup or a stew if you use a bag of frozen green beans.

Do you have a favorite fast food item?

Anything in the hot, very spicy Tex-Mex realm. Just any kind of taco that sets my mouth on fire.

On [favorites], if you could pick one celebrity chef who you have not worked with, but would love to work with who would that be?

It's a toss-up between Martha Stewart and Ina [Garten].

Ree Drummond shares behind-the-scenes secrets about her TV show

Is there anything that happens behind the scenes of the show that you wish viewers got to see?

Well during the pandemic, I actually started filming with my kids because my crew is from the U.K. and they still haven't been able to come back and start filming again. So Food Network gave me permission to use iPhones and my kids and I have gone on to film over 50 episodes that have actually aired on Food Network. So the kids have seen a lot of behind-the-scenes in terms how the sausage is made! 

We do have a back kitchen and in the lodge where I work, where a lot of the food prep and food is stored. So the kitchen where I cook is a real kitchen and it's a kitchen I use for my family and all of that. But we do get to do a lot of the prep in sort of a more utilitarian space and then bring it out to the pretty kitchen and do the cooking. And then another thing I'll point out, that's a little bit of a behind the scenes, is that a lot of times on food shows — mine included — if you see a beautiful closeup of a dish being cooked while I'm also cooking, sometimes those are two different versions and two different batches. They sometimes do a whole dish [like that], and then they cut them together. So just a little inside info.

How Ree Drummond's life has changed since The Pioneer Woman started airing

How has your life changed since "The Pioneer Woman" started airing?

In a lot of ways it hasn't changed. I still live in the same house, live on the same ranch. My kids are basically grown. My youngest was 7, actually 6 when I started filming my show and he's 17 now. So I've literally had this TV scrapbook of my children growing up as I've made this cooking show. In other ways, it's opened up, not just opportunities, but kind of worlds for me. I've gotten to know people that I would never have got to know — my camera crew, for instance, from the U.K. But I also communicate with people who watch my show in South Africa and Australia and different areas of the world. So it's really opened up my perspective, my world in so many ways, it's been quite a journey.

What are you most looking forward to personally and professionally as when we finally get out of this pandemic?

I'm looking forward to having events again, book signings or just appearances in my small town, I have a store, a bakery, and restaurant, and we've been open, but I haven't been in to have meet and greets, obviously just to avoid congregating too many people in one space. So I'll really look forward to that and just interacting with fans, which takes it back to the live shop along — that's really what I'm looking forward to the most, just meeting people who have supported me through the years, watched my show and just kind of chit-chatting with them.

I do best off the cuff — I'm not very good at being natural when I have a big plan or a script. So part of that is I think why I've enjoyed filming my show with my kids through the pandemic months is we just kind of film it as it happens and mistakes and everything. So that's the fun part for me.

Look for Ree Drummond's new cookbook hitting shelves in October 2021 and check out her Walmart Shop-Along event on May 27.