The Kitchen Ingredient Paula Deen Never Touches - Exclusive

If you ask Paula Deen, she'll proudly tell you she's not a certified chef. "I'm a cook. I've never been to school. I graduated from my grandmother Paula's kitchen," as she put it. But Deen is a culinary legend all the same, and she knows her way around a kitchen. The Southern cuisine connoisseur and TV personality can deep fry just about anything, turn Twinkies into a gourmet dessert, and uses more butter in her recipes than you can even imagine (via Paula Deen). Of course, if you've watched her shows, checked out her YouTube channel, or read her cookbooks, you know that Deen can and will cook with just about anything, from green tomatoes to alligators (yes, seriously).

But it turns out there is one ingredient that you won't ever find in Deen's kitchen. In an exclusive interview with Mashed, Deen dished on the kitchen staple that she'd never put in any of her recipes. And no surprise — it's butter's worst enemy.

Paula Deen says you should never cook with margarine

Paula Deen makes no secret of her love of butter. There's nothing better, and there's certainly no substitute for it. "Don't touch margarine," she said. Deen continued, "I do love me some real butter," but quickly added, "I wouldn't touch margarine." 

Part of her disdain for this popular butter alternative goes back to its origin. "From what I understand, margarine was originally designed for uses in the mechanics' world ... and then it was changed around some to make it edible," she told Mashed. Deen is onto something. While margarine, as we know it today, was technically invented to be a cheaper fat substitute for human consumption, according to National Geographic, French scientist Michel Eugène-Chevreul, who first developed margaric acid, was actually looking for ways to make better soaps and candles (via Margaric acid was then used by another scientist, Hippolyte Mège-Mouriès, to make the margarine we now eat. 

Though, the beef tallow spread didn't go over smoothly. In fact, when it was first introduced in the United States, there were political cartoons depicting margarine being made with all sorts of non-foods, like paint and rubber boots. In reality, margarine is far from natural, and can only be made through a chemical process, usually hydrogenation (via Britannica).

Butter is always better, according to Paula Deen

For Paula Deen, if you're going to indulge, there's a better way to do it. "I think if we're going to eat that type of fat, let it be real and natural," she told Mashed. That means use real butter, which is made directly from the fatty parts of cow's milk (via Healthline). Today's margarine, meanwhile, is made with highly processed vegetable oils designed to mimic the rich, savory butter taste. 

According to Deen's logic, there's a clear winner: "God made the cow, and the cow made the butter, so it can't be too bad." It's also worth noting that newer science suggests that butter may be a better option than margarine, which can be packed with dangerous trans fats, depending on the brand, per Harvard Medical School

And at the end of the day, Deen also prefers the taste of the real thing to margarine, adding that "butter just brings such a flavor." When it comes to using it in dishes, she has a handy tip. "Sometimes, and I'm sure everybody knows this trick, use equal amounts of butter and olive oil," Deen advised. "The olive oil will keep the butter from burning, but you still get that butter flavor ... If you're sautéing a piece of fish, yeah. You can use a little butter and olive oil." Her ultimate advice? "Put it in everything." 

You can catch Paula Deen in the newest season of "MasterChef: Legends" on FOX.