Shelf-stable food items have, needless to say, never been more popular. The bean business, in particular, is booming — according to recent reports, Goya’s sales have increased some 400 percent. But for those whose legume repertoires are beginning to feel a tad stale, it might be worth considering other areas of the canned and tinned universe, many of which are also quickly gaining traction. Anchovies, long the topping “held” from a dish, are taking center stage on Instagram (in sandwiches, on heaps of linguine), and humble canned tuna has shifted from the back of the pantry to front and center. Not to mention the fact that there’s something specifically delightful about eating a perfectly salty, spicy, or sweet item (whether it’s a smoked oyster or a sour cherry) plucked straight from a completely contained package. To find out the tinned, jarred, and canned foods chefs and home cooks are stocking their pantries with, we asked everyone from Ernesto’s Ryan Bartlow, who suggested a tin of splurge-y white asparagus, to Nom Wah’s Julie Cole, who recommended stocking up on Campbell’s Cream of Celery — which she calls “the Ferrari of canned soups.”
Best tinned and jarred fish
Don Bocarte Anchovies
Four of the chefs and home cooks we talked to topped their list of tinned goods with Don Bocarte Anchovies. “The creme de la creme of anchovies are Don Bocarte salt cured anchovies packed in olive oil,” says Nialls Fallon, a partner at Hart’s, Cervo’s, and The Fly. “They taste like butter and melt in your mouth — I could drink the oil when I’m done it’s so damn good.” Fallon told us that the anchovies come from the Bay of Biscay and are “painstakingly gutted and fileted by hand, then packed in large barrels in concentric circles with salt added after each layer.” Then they’re aged for several months, and rinsed and packed by hand in Spanish olive oil. Danny Bowien of Mission Chinese is a fan, too, as is Julia Sherman, of Salad for President and Angie Mar, chef at the Beatrice Inn.
Agostino Recca Anchovies Fillets in Olive Oil
Michael Schall, co-owner of Bar Camillo and Locanda Vini e Olii says that his restaurant’s “No. 1 choice” for tinned food are these anchovies from Agostino Recca. “I am just addicted to them, as are a lot of our customers.” (This customer can attest to their addictive qualities.) Schall says the anchovies have a just-right amount of saltiness, and are “big enough to feel substantial if you are eating them by themselves.” But if eating straight anchovies sounds like a lot, Schall says they’re great for cooking, too: “Melt them in the pan with some olive oil and a clove of garlic, toss with freshly cooked spaghetti, and you have one of the best all-time afternoon pasta dishes.” Chef and farmer Phoebe Cole-Smith is a fan of the Agostino Recca anchovies, as well.
Cento Anchovy Flat Fillets in Olive Oil
For something a bit less expensive, Carolina Santos Neves, executive chef of American Bar, recommends this Cento tin, which she says, despite the low price are still high-quality enough to eat on their own.
Ortiz Sardines In Olive Oil
Bart van Olphen, sustainable fishing advocate, chef, and author of The Tinned Fish Cookbook, is a fan of Ortiz tinned goods, as well, and told us about these sardines. “I love sardines, but buying the right quality makes the difference between having a great experience or never wanting to eat them again,” he says. “Ortiz is famous for its quality. The cooking process is very particular. The sardines are gutted and then precooked before being trimmed to the size of the can. Cheaper brands only cook the sardines once.”
Cabo de Peñas Razor Shell Clams in Brine
If clams are more your thing, Sherman told us that these from Cabo de Penas — “I love all the tinned seafood by Cabo de Penas,” she says. “But these are especially good. They are super clean and briny — eat them straight from the can.”
Ramon Pena Cockles in Brine
My favorite splurge is a tin of cockles from Ramon Pena in Spain,” says Fallon. “They’re expensive, but worth it.” Fallon says the cockles, which are tiny clams, are the size of a dime and tear-shaped. The cockles are pricey because of how difficult they are to harvest: “They are hard and dangerous to source, by hand from the rocky coastline, then meticulously and perfectly cooked, removed from their shells, and placed in order in a round tin,” Fallon says. “Their milky white color is surrounded by clear briny salty water — it’s so elegant, and pure and really a treat.”
Cabo de Peñas Small Sardines
Nick Perkins, partner at Hart’s, Cervo’s, and The Fly, says that Cabo de Penas is also the go-to brand of tinned fish for his restaurants. “They’re just old school and really solid,” he says. “They also just do really solid sardines and mackerels, which are cost effective.” His favorite are the brand’s baby sardines.
“These are sustainably certified sardines, and beautifully hand-packed with high-quality olive oil,” says Fallon. “A real savory, firm and earthy style.” He told us he’ll go for the classic plain olive oil, or the ones packed with dried chillies.
Matiz Sardines in Olive Oil
This pack of sardines comes recommended by Alissa Wagner, co-owner of Dimes (who also told us about her favorite spices). “They’re a great option for both your health and the health of our planet,” she says. “Sustainable and packed with Omega 3’s, these little fish are a great upgrade for simple salads or enjoyed on some grilled bread with roasted cherry tomatoes and fresh herbs.”
Bela Sardines Lightly Smoked Organic Cayenne Pepper
Andy Xu, Executive Chef at The Odeon, told us that Bela is his preferred sardine brand: “They’re lightly smoked, so there’s an added depth of flavor,” he says.
American Albacore Tuna
Sometimes you just want good old-fashioned canned tuna. Van Olphen suggests trying this tin, which is from a brand founded by one of the families behind the American Albacore Fishing Association. “Their West Coast fishery was the first in the world to obtain a certification for seafood sustainability from the Marine Stewardship Council,” says Van Olphen.
Dongwon Tuna in Kimchi Sauce
“I’m honestly just eating a lot of canned tuna, like Jessica Simpson,” says Bowien of his quarantine meals. “In Korea, canned tuna is such a thing, and you can get it at 711, open it up, and just eat it — especially the kimchi-flavored ones.” Bowien says this tuna from Dongwon is one of his favorites. “I eat it a lot — it’s good quality canned tuna, not fancy — I literally open up the can and dump it on top of hot rice.”
Zallo White Tuna Belly in Olive Oil
Ryan Bartlow, chef-owner at Ernesto’s, says that when it comes to tuna, this, from Zallo, is an easy favorite. “It’s from Bizkaia, Spain, and is perfect eaten on its own, or doused with a little minced onions, salt, olive oil and espelette,” Bartlow says. “At Ernesto’s we serve them with our Gildas.” He also notes that the stately packaging makes it a great gift for the friend who can never have too much tuna (which, right now, is most every non-vegetarian friend).
Interpage International Cod Liver In Own Oil
Van Olphen told us he believes in the “head-to-tail philosophy” when it comes to fish: “Where we’re not just eating the fillet, but also the cheeks or liver, for example.” He describes these cod livers as “soft” and “elegant” and says they work with lots of different dishes. “One of my very favorite ways is to serve it with some reduced orange juice mixed with a bit of lime and sesame oil, sprinkled with pomegranate seeds and pink peppercorn on top,” he says.
Ever since I was little I’ve loved large smoked oysters or mussels,” says Carolina Santos Neves, executive chef of American Bar. “My pick these days are Reese and Patagonia Provisions for their sustainably sourced Mussels — I’ll eat them plain or on toasted buttered sourdough bread.”
Ekone Smoked Habanero Oysters
If you want smoked oysters with a bit more zing, Fallon says these Ekone oysters are one of his favorites. “You can have them as a snack with a beer,” he says. “They’re hot! And chewy, and smoky, and really good with mayo or cream cheese on a cracker.”
JOSE Gourmet Spiced Calamari in Ragout Sauce
“The baby squids are prepared by hand — they removed the tentacles and stuff them into the tube of the squid, then hand pack them with a rich tomato ragout sauce,” says Fallon of this spicy option. “Smoky and meaty in flavor and texture, really delicious.” He’s a fan of the baby octopus in olive oil, as well.
Best tinned and canned meats
Underwood Deviled Ham Spread
“I’ll admit that I haven’t had deviled ham spread for a very long time, but one of my favorite sandwiches as a child was this stuff on pepperidge farm white bread with a thin layer of butter,” says Cole-Smith. “I have a few tins of it in my emergency preparedness food kit, because it means I can quickly relive my childhood, using crackers as a vehicle.” Cole-Smith says that in a pinch, “and if you close your eyes,” the deviled ham spread is like “a ‘poor man’s jambon au beurre.’”
Hénaff French Pork Countryside Pate Pâté De Campagne
Perhaps you prefer pâté. Food writer Ashley Mason says that a can of this pork pâté will have you feeling like you’re enjoying “a lazy afternoon on the French countryside” in no time. “Just add a bottle of wine, a baguette, and some crunchy cornichons,” she says.
Best tinned and canned peppers and chiles
Formaggio Kitchen Piparras Peppers
“I discover a lot of my favorite cans and glass jar items from Formaggio,” says chef and food artist Laila Gohar. “They do a really great job at finding products from around the world that are really delicious.” One of her favorite jarred goods from Formaggio are these peppers. “They’re spicy and briny and add a nice bite to a lot of dishes,” she says. “I just like to nibble on them plain, too.”
Xilli Salsa Macha
If you’re looking for a chili sauce with a smoky flavor, Wagner suggests these Xilli Chipotles. “Blend them with yogurt and a little lime juice and salt for a fantastic sauce,” she says. “I love this one on fish tacos.”
Best canned and tinned beans and legumes
Best tinned and canned fruits and vegetables
J. Vela Extra Thick Primera White Asparagus
These tinned white asparagus also come recommended by Bartlow. “We use this product in the restaurant in two different dishes,” he says. “It’s a component in our Ernesto’s salad, as well as a white Asparagus pintxo in the pintxo bar … white asparagus conserva is always in the house.”
Ortiz Piquillo Peppers Stuffed With White Tuna
Mason says that the Spanish peppers used in these are “fire-roasted before being stuffed with fatty Spanish tuna.” Mason suggests having them with cheese and crackers, or if you want something more hearty, “Swap the Ritz for a toasted, sliced baguette and you have tapas.”
Fenn Shui — Pickled Fennel Root in Rice Vinegar, Ginger, Thai Chile
Mason is also a fan of this jarred fennel root, which is pickled in rice vinegar with ginger, orange zest, and fiery Thai chiles. “They’re as crunchy and refreshing as cucumbers,” she says. “Try them in your next burger.”
Best tinned and canned sweets
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