Ina Garten’s Best Cooking Tips

We rounded up our favorite tips from the brilliant Barefoot Contessa herself.

Ina Garten standing in front of her kitchen and smiling

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Her warm, cheerful personality and delicious, uncomplicated recipes have made Ina Garten a household name. From chocolate cassis cake to a perfectly roasted chicken, she has hundreds (if not thousands) of recipes under her belt. Each one is renowned for being foolproof and yielding perfect results at home. Here are our favorite pearls of wisdom from Ina.

Simple Is Best

In an interview with bookstore organization IndieBound, Ina said, “While people like really interesting meals when they go to restaurants, they really prefer very simple food at home.” Makes sense. After an eight-hour day at work, what’s tempting is a delicious homemade meal and time to relax around the table, not a complex recipe with lots of fiddly steps. Ina’s favorite weeknight meal is pan-roasted vegetables and chicken. We’ve got a recipe that uses a single baking sheet.

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Cook with the Season

Ina told Epicurious, “Buy things in season, and then only do what you need to do to make [food] taste as good as it can taste.” For example, she enhances the flavor of plums with cassis, a black currant liqueur. Summer is the best time to follow this advice; simply stroll through a farmers market and pick up the most delicious-looking foods, then build your meal around that. This advice also ties into the first tip, keeping things simple; it’s comforting to know that a fresh peach enjoyed on the patio at the end of the day, juice dripping down your chin, can be the best dessert.

Parties Are About People, Not Food

When talking about the most important elements of a party, Ina lists relaxed hosts, guests you really want to see, good music-and then the food. A party is about visiting and having fun, she says. Instead of slaving away in the kitchen to make perfect appetizers or multiple courses, Ina serves a main dish and a dessert. (And the dessert often includes items from a bakery or fresh fruits.) For nibbles before dinner, Ina serves nuts or olives. Our staff recommends these Roasted Cumin Cashews.

Consider an Alternative to the Dinner Party

Ina’s favorite time to entertain? Sunday afternoon. She reasons, “Everybody’s done all their chores, they’re relaxed, nobody’s falling asleep or looking at their watch, saying, ‘Can I go home and go to bed?’ And the food is easy.” She suggests a single course and some good wine. Then you have plenty of time to clean up and enjoy your evening before Monday morning rolls around!

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New Cooks Should Start with Two Basics

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Follow the Recipe Precisely

While some of us cooks are loosey-goosey with our interpretation of recipes, Ina follows them exactly, even measuring ingredients to the half-teaspoon. And she writes her recipes with equal precision. After she writes a draft of a recipe, she hands it to her assistant and watches as she makes the recipe. When the assistant has a question or makes a mistake, Ina rewrites the recipe to add clarity and precision. Here at Taste of Home, we take pride in our own robust recipe testing, and we salute Ina!

Want to Enhance the Flavor of Chocolate? Use a Bit of Coffee

This one’s a simple tip you can start using today! When making brownies, a chocolate torte or chocolate pudding, add some coffee to the mix. According to Ina, it provides a depth of flavor. We’ll have to try that out with our decadent chocolate recipes.

Collect (and Keep Using!) Your Favorite Cookbooks

Ina’s cookbook library is built in her “barn,” a workshop, test kitchen and inspiration zone next door to her home. Lining the shelves are classic cookbooks like The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking and The Silver Spoon.

Have Fun and Love Every Minute!

Just about every time we see Ina on TV, read an interview or crack open her cookbooks, her enthusiasm and joy are apparent. In an interview with Epicurious, she says, “To say I’m lucky is an understatement.” Cooking and sharing food should be fun, not a chore!

We hope our list is helpful and has inspired you to cook like Ina! It’s obvious why she’s one of America’s most beloved cooks.

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