Ina Garten’s ‘Gotten More Intense’ About 1 Aspect of Her Cooking Over the Years

Ina Garten takes classic dishes and turns up the volume. On her cooking show, Barefoot Contessa, the best-selling author shares ways she gets more flavor in her food. Whether it’s using coffee to intensify the flavor of chocolate or roasting chicken with the skin on, she’s all about having lots of flavor in every bite. It’s something that’s taken her years to do in her simple Barefoot Contessa way. 

The Barefoot Contessa’s ‘more intense’ about flavors in her cooking

Ina Garten smiles as she holds a spoon on the Today show in 2017
Ina Garten on the Today show | Nathan Congleton/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

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During a 2010 interview with Epicurious shortly after the release of her seventh cookbook, Barefoot Contessa: How Easy is That? Fabulous Recipes & Easy Tips, Garten shared how her approach to cooking and entertaining’s changed over time. 

“I think what interests me hasn’t changed at all, but my insistence on flavor has gotten more intense,” she said. “When I make a recipe that I used to make in 1980, I’ll think it’s interesting, but it probably took longer than it needed to because I know how to do things simply now. And it usually doesn’t have enough flavor.”

What does Garten do to amp up the flavor in her recipes? She often uses seasonal ingredients as well as fresh herbs and vegetables from her garden. It’s located just steps away from the “barn” where Barefoot Contessa’s filmed. She’s also been known to stress the importance of using salt correctly

Ina Garten’s favorite flavor is ‘good’ vanilla

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This probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise to Barefoot Contessa fans. For years, Garten’s used “good” vanilla extract in the kitchen.

“I think my favorite flavor of all is vanilla,” Garten told The Food Network‘s FN Dish in 2018. “Not just any vanilla, good vanilla.” 

“I would use it as cologne if I could,” she added. 

What does the celebrity chef mean when she says “good vanilla” on Barefoot Contessa or in one of her cookbooks? She means high quality — and typically expensive — vanilla. Garten’s preferred store-bought brand of vanilla is Nielsen-Massey. Their Madagascar Bourbon pure vanilla extract costs $7 an ounce. 

Garten also makes homemade vanilla, which she’s done for decades. A jar of 35-year-old vanilla extract is her “favorite thing in the kitchen,” she said while giving The New York Times a tour of her “barn” in November 2020. 

“This is it. This is my homemade vanilla. This has been going for 35 years,” Garten said before explaining how to make it. “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.”

That’s it. Two ingredients and time makes Garten-approved “good” vanilla. As the Barefoot Contessa says, how easy is that?