Since no home cook worth his or her salt should ever have the bad luck to run out of this, I immediately had the Hubster add it to our weekly grocery list.
For those thinking that this Girl Clown erupts into a wailing hissy fit unless there’s a vase of flowers on display that I must see while cooking, let me enlighten you.
Kitchen Bouquet is a sauce that makes nearly every red meat-based stew, gravy, sauce and soup taste way better. It can also be added to baked beans, pork dishes and even crumbled tofu. More potent than mere salt or pepper, the entrees I use this bottled tastiness in include shepherd’s pie, onion pot roast and beef vegetable soup.
It's important to note here that some folks think that Kitchen Bouquet doesn’t much enhance the taste of any given dish. Instead, they’re of the mind that its rich brown color tricks our brains into believing that food tastes better with a few shakes.
I disagree in the strongest of terms.
While eating experiences are absolutely tied to color as well as smell and taste, I know I’m right since I’ve tasted my entrees just before adding Kitchen Bouquet and then immediately after. There’s a definite and zesty upgrade in flavor.
I knew nothing of this magic elixir until the Hubster and I got married.
Even then, my spouse had never heard of Kitchen Bouquet until his early 30s, when he worked as a newbie salesman for a corporate food company. When a straight-faced nutritionist informed him that Kitchen Bouquet was what professional cooks use to dab behind their ears to prevent them from tearing up while chopping onions, he had no reason—at least not at first—not to believe it.
On my end, my mom was a good cook who never became a great one because she worked with a tight budget. As a result, she might have thought Kitchen Bouquet was a luxury item—way too fancy schmancy for our family. Or, it could also be that the sauce simply wasn’t on her radar.
But my mother was wrong about Kitchen Bouquet being only for the luxe among us.
The four-ounce bottle we buy costs four dollars, and lasts me a good half year and often longer. This is because the sauce is condensed; hence, one or two teaspoons does the trick when it comes to reaching the desired flavor and color. So, crunching the numbers, Kitchen Bouquet costs mere pennies per use.
I thought there wouldn’t be a lot of information about the history and uses for Kitchen Bouquet online, but I was wrong.
Culling facts from half a dozen sites, it turns out this unique product was invented neither by a chef nor a butcher, but was instead formulated by a European candy maker named K.G. Tournades. This all began about 140 years ago, when Tournades started experimenting with ways to make caramels. But, despite the fact that his end game might have been wanting a produce a new confectionery, somewhere along the way Tournades took a hard turn and created a savory gravy. Nonetheless, Kitchen Bouquet’s primary ingredient, although not at all sugary in taste, is caramel color.
Water and a sweet vegetable profile that includes carrots, parsnips and turnips rank number two and three. Kitchen Bouquet is also kosher, gluten free and vegan. But don’t think it’s that natural: the bottle’s yellow label proclaims that Kitchen Bouquet is “Produced with Genetic Engineering.”
Here are more facts.
According to The Clorox Company, which bought the brand in 1971, the original concoction is one of the company’s oldest items, and the only confidential asset, in the Clorox Archive. Indeed, the Kitchen Bouquet recipe is handwritten on an index card which had been glued to a wall in Tournades’ kitchen. Also, that card is still attached to its wooden siding.
While the product hasn’t changed all that much since originally written down, the marketing has.
For instance, a Kitchen Bouquet leaflet from 1923 was geared toward the busy, modern woman who had just won the right to vote, with the promise that one needn’t spend hours preparing a meal to make it taste great. Then, in post-World War II, a 1949 pamphlet was distributed to young wives that featured tips on how to make inexpensive cuts of meat “taste like a million!”
New ways to cook in the 1980s also benefited from Kitchen Bouquet. One cookbook of this era advised that brushing a mixture of the sauce and egg onto raw meats before placing them in a crockpot or microwave made for a rich brown coating—much like how the dish would look if it had been seared on the stovetop or heated slowly in an oven.
Being a researcher at heart, it was fun to discover all of this background, as well as finding new recipes. Even though I use Kitchen Bouquet a couple of times per month, this is stuff I’d never known about before.
But here’s what I do know: no kitchen is complete without it.