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Anyone who watched Barefoot Contessa on Food Network knows that the celebrity host, Ina Garten, has quite a few opinions on food products. She’s always providing her faithful viewers with recommendations and urging them to make certain items from scratch. Thankfully, Garten is best known for her signature line: “store-bought is just fine.”

However, what you’re buying at the store definitely matters, and sometimes only upscale brands will do. That’s why Barefoot Contessa’s top recommended brand of vanilla is so pricey. Still, she says it’s worth it.

Ina Garten believes in using store-bought ingredients, not premade

Ina Garten
Ina Garten | Mike Smith/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

Barefoot Contessa recognizes that there’s a huge difference between buying all the necessary ingredients for a cake at the grocery store and just picking up a premade cake in a plastic container. She wants her viewers to understand the difference too.

“When I say ‘store-bought is just fine,’ I’m not talking about going to the grocery store, buying really bad birthday cake, and claiming that you made it yourself,” Garten told Food Network. “What I am saying is you can use ingredients from the store, like a pound cake or vanilla ice cream, that are just as good as homemade.”

There’s one common baking ingredient that Barefoot Contessa uses in many recipes and sometimes makes from scratch. But when she says store-bought is acceptable for this item, she’s only talking about one fancy brand.

‘Barefoot Contessa’ insists on using ‘good vanilla’ that costs $7 per ounce

Sometimes the smallest ingredients make the biggest impact. This is true for Garten’s recommendation of using Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon pure vanilla extract, which she recommends on her website.

The brand is sold at select grocery stores, upscale retailers like Williams-Sonoma, and Amazon Prime. Purchasers should get read to spend a good amount, because this brand costs an expensive $7/ounce. That’s a far cry from the cheaper vanilla options more readily available at the store.

But to hear Garten tell it, the extra cost is worth it. He favorite brand is available in size options from 2 ounces to 128 ounces, depending on your budget.

No matter what brand you buy there’s a huge difference between pure vanilla extract and imitation vanilla, Garten cautions. It’s vital not to cheap out and buy the fake stuff.

Sometimes she makes vanilla from scratch


Barefoot Contessa Ina Garten Always Has These 3 Things in Her Freezer

Garten opts for store-bought vanilla sometimes but is also known to make her own at home. During a video tour of her kitchen, Barefoot Contessa showed off one of her “favorite things.” It was a jar of homemade vanilla extract.

“This is it. This is my homemade vanilla. This has been going for 35 years,” Garten said in the video. “What I did was I took a jar and I put vanilla beans in it. They’re expensive, but you don’t have to do it very often. And then I poured in vodka. You can use very inexpensive vodka, no time for Grey Goose.”

The celebrity chef insists homemade vanilla is so easy to make plus makes for a great holiday or hostess gift. And it’s cheaper than the store-bought brand she recommends, so why not?