Giada De Laurentiis Says Bay Leaves Are Absolutely Worth It

Home cooks have long debated if the use of bay leaves is actually needed for recipes. Even food star Ina Garten told The New Yorker she wasn't sure if they made a difference in her dishes. This is in part because the leaves don't emit an overpowering aroma or taste. The ingredient is typically called for in soups and stews and infuses a subtle black pepper and minty profile to broths. But even though the flavor it emits is minuscule, celebrity chef Giada De Laurentiis said it's crucial in giving your meals the right balance and making them less heavy.

Her website Giadzy explains that "while you might not be able to pinpoint bay leaf flavor in a sip of soup, you'll notice when it's not there. It gives soups and stews that oomph!" De Laurentiis says the key to extracting the flavor of the bay leaves is by simmering them over low heat. This method helps break them down and will help to impart the perfect "slightly pine, eucalyptus-type flavor" to your next beef stew or braised potato and garlic entree.

How to cook with bay leaves to impart a well-rounded flavor

Before tossing bay leaves into your next chicken vegetable soup, slow cooker lamb roast, or spaghetti sauce, make sure they are still fresh. To do this you can simply rub one with your fingers and then smell it to see if it carries an aroma or snap it in half and see if it has a scent. If you can't smell anything it's likely gone bad and you'll want to throw it away, but if it's just a weak aroma you can just add additional leaves to your meal to get the same flavor profile.

However, if you're working with fresh bay leaves that are still potent, it's recommended to just put one or two whole dried leaves in your broth or sauce and let it simmer on the stove. Low-and-slow recipes are the key here, so the herbaceous ingredient has time to release its subtle flavor. To get the most out of bay leaves, you'll want to let them cook for roughly an hour or more. Once your entree is ready, just scoop out the leaves and now you'll be ready to enjoy a complex and incredible-tasting meal that will impress even the pickiest of eaters.