The Secret Ingredient Alex Guarnaschelli Uses In Savory Dishes

Few professional chefs are familiar household names, and even fewer are as familiar as Alex Guarnaschelli.

Most fans know Guarnaschelli from her work with Food Network, but her culinary career began long before their partnership. The chef has worked in some of the top restaurants in France, including renowned chef Guy Savoy's self-titled restaurant in Paris, which boasts three Michelin stars. Guarnaschelli was also the executive chef at Butter Restaurant in New York City. She currently hosts "Supermarket Stakeout," co-hosts cooking talk show "The Kitchen," and is a recurring judge on cooking competition "Chopped."

This is a chef who knows her stuff. Despite all her expertise, much of Guarnaschelli's work focuses on bringing professional culinary techniques and unconventional ingredients to the home cook. She hosts "Alex's Day Off," in which she invites viewers into her kitchen and shows them her approachable style of elevated cooking, step by step. As the header on her website reads, "My goal is to make you feel like we are at home cooking together." 

It's fitting, then, that her go-to secret ingredient for transforming any savory dish is one of the most seldom-reached-for, but readily accessible and shockingly common ingredients in the grocery aisle. You might even have a forgotten bottle of it hiding in the back of your fridge.

Alex Guarnaschelli's secret weapon is Worcestershire sauce

First things first: It's pronounced Wu̇-stər-ˌshir (WOO-ster-sher), according to Merriam-Webster. So, as you read, you'll be able to say Worcestershire sauce in your head instead of quickly scanning over it every time (like most of us do).

That's right: Alex Guarnaschelli's go-to secret ingredient for savory dishes is good old Worcestershire sauce. "It just seems to fill the gap in flavor that is so often missing," she says, via Food Network. "To me, it is a secret weapon because it can add a cooked-in saltiness even if it's added at the last minute." The chef recommends adding a splash to everything from scrambled eggs to clam chowder. 

Worcestershire sauce is a fermented condiment made from vinegar, molasses, anchovies, sugar cloves, chili pepper extract, and tamarind, per Chili Pepper Madness. The sauce was developed in Worcestershire, England during the early 1800s, via Oola, by a nobleman called Lord Sandys, who was trying to recreate a sauce he'd tasted in Bengal with the help of chemists John Lea and William Perrins. The flavor profile is distinct, almost similar to a fish sauce or soy sauce, according to MasterClass. It advocates using Worcestershire in a Caesar salad dressing, Bloody Mary, Tonkatsu sauce, in Swedish meatballs, or in steak marinade for an added flavor boost. (We even recommend adding Worcestershire sauce to your Brussels sprouts.)

If you want to learn more of her tips, Guarnaschelli has published three cookbooks all about them.