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The 52 Canned Goods (From Cockles to Corn) Chefs Keep in Their Pantries

Photo: Bobby Doherty, Styling by Jamie Kimm

The early months of the pandemic reacquainted many of us with shelf-stable food items — according to reports, Goya’s sales shot up 400 percent in March 2020 alone. Anchovies, long the topping “held” from a dish, quickly took center stage on Instagram (in sandwiches, on heaps of linguine), and humble canned tuna shifted from the back of the pantry to front and center. And while grocery-store trips have certainly become less threatening since that time, the virtues of canned and tinned foods remain: They’re versatile, long-lasting, and surprisingly flavorful. 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 stock their pantries with — pandemic or not — 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.”

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.

Best tinned and jarred fish

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.

“I’ve ate more than my fair share of anchovies — just ask my editor, who has politely tried to explain there are other things to write about— and I don’t think there are any better on the planet than these,” says Grub Street writer Chris Crowley of these sea salt anchovies from Nettuno. “They’re kind of a splurge, but they go a long way: preserved only in sea salt, they’re plump and possibly as close to a hit of pure MSG as you can get.”