Top Chef Secrets: 4 Game-Changing Pre-Made Ingredients!

Remember when everyone was watching Hulu’s TV series The Bear? Yes, those of us who worked in restaurants may have found the show triggering, because of how real it captured the life of a chef; from the stressful work environments to life at home. One scene that was incredibly truthful was Carmy (the main character and chef of the The Bear) deciding to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich as his dinner of choice after a long shift at the restaurant.

Now you are probably thinking how can a chef eat something like that? Chefs should be making themselves top notch meals from scratch. Chefs and cooks work tirelessly every day to make sure hundreds of diners are having wonderful dining experiences. They are standing for fourteen hours a day in hot kitchens. They’re exhausted! It’s not shocking to see them cutting corners on food at home to save on time and energy. Many chefs choose to use pre-made or even frozen ingredients in their home kitchens. This may not be their mission in their restaurants, but it can be in the comfort of their own homes. We asked chefs what things they choose to use pre-made in their home kitchens, and this is what they said.

1. Broths and Stocks

Getty Images

Chef Maria Lara-Bregatta, owner and chef of Vermont’s Cafe Mamajuana (a 2022 James Beard Award semifinalist), thinks a stock can be “too much work” to make from scratch at home. She opts for pre-made cartons. Making a stock from scratch requires hours out of your day, a lot of preparation, and constant attention. No wonder the pre-made stuff is popular.

2. Condiments and Salad Dressing

Fred Hardy, Katherine Tucker, Ana Kelly

It doesn’t matter how well the food is cooked or seasoned, condiments are always available. I don’t care if the fries are hand-cut and double fried in duck fat—ketchup and/or mayonnaise is a must for dipping (not sorry). Whether chefs like to make their own in their restaurants, it’s easy to accept that condiments are worthy of just buying already prepared. Chef Tonii Hicks, who is used to making most condiments from scratch in commercial kitchens, would rather buy them pre-made, especially mayonnaise and salad dressing.

3. Ice Cream


When working in pastry prep, Hicks was used to making ice cream base as part of the weekly kitchen prep list. When it comes to the comfort of her home, off-the-shelf suffices. Ice cream is another treat that can require a lengthy amount of time to make, and that is not including the churning time.

4. Pastry and Baked Goods


My grandmother was a baking purist and she insisted every cake, cookie, or pie had to be made from scratch. She eventually ate her words when aging changed her mind and she opted to cut corners in the baking department. She was no longer making pie crust from scratch.

Pastry Chef, food writer, and recipe developer Justin Burke, also believes pre-made baking ingredients can still create top quality products. Burke loves to use pre-made puff pastry. He would rather spend time on the filling and garnish than the tedious process of homemade puff pastry. Another product that Burke loves to use is boxed muffin mix. After thinning out the batter, he likes to turn it into pancakes—genius!