The Cucumber Ina Garten Recommends For Tzatziki

When Ina Garten makes a recommendation, is there anyone who doesn't listen? (Atlanta Magazine reports the beloved Food Network star and cookbook author even won over the legendarily opinionated Anthony Bourdain, who once shared with an Atlanta audience that he thought she was the only host on the channel that could cook.)

On the Food Network's YouTube channel, Garten shared a recipe for rosemary rack of lamb with a homemade tzatziki sauce. With its two base ingredients — cucumber and yogurt — on the watery side, tzatziki can be tricky to get right (via Kitchen Savvy). Garten, however, offered up a few foolproof tips for the sauce, starting with the best cucumber for the job. 

Though you may think all cucumbers are essentially the same, you would be astonishingly incorrect. According to Leafy Place, there are close to 100 different varieties of cucumbers, though our grocery stores often carry less than a handful. So which type does the Barefoot Contessa suggest for perfect tzatziki?

To avoid watery tzatziki, use a specific cucumber

Cooking Clarified explains that different types of cucumbers carried in supermarkets have different characteristics. Pickling cukes — the ones with bumpy skins, like Kirby's or gherkins — have a bitter flavor. Meanwhile, your standard garden cucumber will be squat with thick skin (via Leafy Place). Garden cucumbers are also fairly watery, and it's often recommended to let them drain after slicing before using them in recipes. Hothouse cucumbers, also called English cucumbers, are long and thin, often found in the produce section encased in plastic wrap. The Spruce Eats reports these cukes were bred to remove the unpleasant characteristics (the bitterness, thick skin, and large seeds) found in the other varieties.

In her YouTube recipe, Garten shares that the ideal cucumber to make tzatziki is the hothouse cucumber, because it is less watery than other counterparts. She still removes the seeds before grating and then wrings the cucumber bits through a kitchen towel to cut down further on excess water. (For a similar reason, her tzatziki recipe also calls for Greek yogurt. Since it's already drained, using this type of yogurt cuts down on prep time.)

A versatile ingredient, not only does tzatziki pair perfectly with Garten's lamb, it's wonderful on a chicken gyro and makes a tasty addition to egg salad.