The Maple Syrup Ina Garten Can't Stop Using

As mere mortals, we may never be able to whip up a five-course meal with the ease and flair of a true professional like Ina Garten. But that doesn't mean we can't buy the same ingredients so we feel that much closer. Ina is known to call for a "good" vanilla or olive oil or ... *insert ingredient here.* But of course, if you don't have the good stuff or can't make your own, "store-bought is fine."

Things can get complicated when you see all the options on the shelves, though. For example, maple syrup comes in four different colors, but as a rule of thumb, according to the University of New Hampshire, the darker the syrup, the stronger the maple-y flavor. It's totally up to personal preference (or what's available to you) which shade you stock up on, but when we get a recommendation straight from the mouth of Ina Garten, we are going to trust her expertise.

Bon A​​ppétit got an inside look at the Barefoot Contessa's pantry, and they're sharing all the secrets, from her favorite brand names to must-have pantry staples. The good news for your budget and limited pantry real estate: Ina takes a practical approach and doesn't "use unusual ingredients that you'll only use once" — so you won't be left with a big container of something that you added just a tablespoon of to one specific recipe. But either way, maple syrup is worth going through more than a spoonful at a time. It may strike you as a breakfast condiment and nothing more, but trust us (and Ina): It has a ton of uses any time of day.

Why maple should be a staple

If maple syrup is one of those frequently-used pantry staples for Ina, doesn't that mean it should be for you, too? Among fall flavor fans, maple doesn't seem to get the same attention as pumpkin, but it's time to start giving credit where it's due (and not just for one season). Pure maple syrup has a distinct yet surprisingly nuanced flavor that Consumer Reports emphatically separates from one-note, processed pancake syrup. As a result, it pairs exceptionally well with a range of ingredients both savory and sweet; if you're still bent on sticking to fall classics, the good news is maple plays wonderfully with both pumpkin spice and apples. And because it can go with just about everything, it's probably best to keep it on hand all year round, because you never know when you'll need it.

Maple is so versatile that there's no shortage of inspiring maple recipes to light up your tastebuds and get you in the mood for whipping up something scrumptious. Maple margarita? Roasted squash and maple soup? Maple glazed corned beef? Probably best to just make everything on the list. You know, for research ... You can even use maple syrup to replace sugar in just about any recipe you want, says Pure Maple from Canada, and it adds a nice depth of flavor that's absent with sugar alone. You might even get some extra nutrients compared to sugar, Consumer Reports advises.

Which maple syrup does Ina Garten use?

We've established that maple syrup isn't just for pancakes and waffles; it's a versatile, minimally processed ingredient essential enough that Garten herself always keeps a supply. But she isn't using Mrs. Butterworth's (no shade to Mrs. B's) when she cooks up her famous maple baked beans.

Ina is no brand snob — she just knows what she likes and what works best. For example, she told Bon A​​ppétit that her go-to tomato sauce is Rao's Homemade. (Stars: They're just like us!) Bottom line, when asked what makes a "good" ingredient, the Barefoot Contessa revealed that all it really means is "the best that your budget allows."

As for the maple syrup, if you can't collect your own from a local maple tree, Stonewall Kitchen Maple Syrup will do just fine. Freshly harvested and bottled in Maine, it is the perfect shade of golden brown and provides a surprisingly delicate sweetness to any dish. No wonder it's Ina's favorite! Whether you're brushing bacon with maple syrup for a hint of sweetness to go with the smoke, or making maple the star of the show with maple scones, frosting, or cookies, this condiment deserves a place on your shelf, as indispensable and celebrated as olive oil and good quality salt.