Worldwide icon-chevron-right We asked chefs: What’s the weirdest thing in your freezer right now?
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We asked chefs: What’s the weirdest thing in your freezer right now?

From ant eggs and cough drops to placenta and flour, here's what chefs freeze.

By Morgan Olsen
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What's the weirdest thing that you have in your freezer right now? We'll give you a minute to rifle through the frozen pizzas, pints of ice cream and long-forgotten veggies. You see, we like to think that the contents of your freezer can actually say a lot about you. Those fancy ice molds reveal your penchant for classed-up cocktails, while the frost-bitten casserole from your mother whispers of your childhood.

We posed the same question to some of the world's best chefs, and their answers offer a glimpse into their restaurants and their personal lives. There are some good pro tips along the way, too, like the idea of stashing away leftover egg whites for future use. Bundle up and follow us to the frozen tundra to explore all the weirdly wonderful things chefs keep in their freezers—from cough drops and knives to pork ruffles and placenta.

Craving more insider insight from the world's best chefs? You're in the right place. Talk to the Chef! is a new weekly food series that taps into the minds of culinary leaders around the globe. The conversation changes just as often, and we'll chat with chefs about everything from condiments and podcasts to kitchen equipment and emerging trends.

What do chefs keep in the freezer?

Chanthy Yen
Photograph: Brandon Beerwort

Chicken skin

“The weirdest thing I have in my freezer right now is chicken skin. After deboning a whole chicken, I like to diversify my meals by respectfully utilizing every part of the animal while reserving the skin for later use. With all the saved scraps and skin, I like to make my popular and authentic chicken skin dumplings with fermented cassava dough in black cardamom curry. Or turn them into a fun chicken skin cracker dusted with a fine helping of Tajin.” —Chanthy Yen, founder of Touk and chef of Parliament Pub & Parlour in Montreal

Elizabeth Haigh at Mei Mei
Photograph: Courtesy Mei Mei

Pandan leaves

“Pandan leaves. We had a shortage over the last [lockdown] and Brexit, so my freezer is full of them as we can't run our business without them.” —Elizabeth Haigh, chef-owner of Mei Mei in London

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Chef Erick Williams
Photograph: Gary Adcock, Studio37

Bourbon

“The weirdest items are the unusual amounts of vegetables, shrimp, sausage and bourbon. The pandemic caused us to stock up, which we don’t generally do. I also love very cold bourbon.” —Erick Williams, chef-owner of Virtue in Chicago

Mark Moriarty
Photograph: Courtesy Fine Dining Lovers by S. Pellegrino

Barley grass

“I have some fresh barley grass and freshly milled grains in there that I was trying things out with. There is a beautiful nutty, malty, almost roast meat flavour from the milled barley grains when they’re brand-new, so I was trying to preserve that by freezing, as opposed to leaving them in a dry cupboard. They’re a traditional Irish ingredient as well, so I like to cook them in different ways to give food a uniquely green slant.” —Mark Moriarty, chef of The Greenhouse in Dublin

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Narda Lepes en Comedor
Photograph: Bob Lightowler courtesy of Fine Dining Lovers

Lo po kao

“A whole lo po kao (turnip cake), which I should eat but I just cannot. My most beloved Chinese restaurant closed during 2020 and as we are friends with [the owners], t hey kindly gave me a whole lo po kao and I just can’t eat it. I feel it's the end of an era. There’s also some weird experiments in ice cubes that my daughter made that we are not allowed to touch.” —Narda Lepes, chef-owner of Narda Comedor in Buenos Aires

Chef Mamia Jojua
Photograph: Courtesy Restaurant Kazbek

Knife

“All the products that I keep in my freezer are pretty familiar to me, but for people who do not work in the kitchen, it would probably be strange to find that there is always a knife in my freezer. It is important for me that the knife is cold when I work with certain foods.” —Mamia Jojua, chef of Kazbek in Moscow

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Flour

“Well, we have a lot of flour. We have freezers full of flour. We like to keep it in the freezer as it stays as fresh as possible for our dough.” —Bin Li, chef of Murger Han restaurants in London

Marwa Alkhalaf
Photograph: Patricia Niven

Egg whites

“Probably egg whites. Many recipes require either egg whites or egg yolks, and I hate wasting it, so I freeze it to use later in another recipe. You can freeze egg yolk as well, but it’s trickier to handle.” —Marwa Alkhalaf, chef-director of Nutshell in London

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Matt Manning
Photograph: Tegan Smith Photography

Baby food

“Since our 8-month-old started solids a few months ago, my wife has been painstakingly whipping up different brightly coloured concoctions that she stores in small individual containers in our freezer. I am told they are veggie superfood mixes, and every time she serves one to my son, she gives him a rundown of what is in his puree in a terrible French accent. I swear that kid eats better than we do.” —Matt Manning, chef-owner of Grub & Vine in Cape Town

James Cochran
Photograph: Sim Photography

Bones

“If someone was to open my freezer, they’d see a lot of bones – I see stock. It could freak some people out, but it’s important you’re not wasting anything when preparing and cooking meat, and the stock they’ll make will definitely be worth it for the flavour it’ll give your next meal. After a roast, if you haven’t got time to make the stock there and then, freeze the bones and do it later.” James Cochran, chef-owner of 12:51 by Chef James Cochran in London

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Nornie Bero of Mabu Mabu in Melbourne
Photograph: Parker Blain

Emu fillets

“I don’t think I’d call it weird, but I’ve definitely got some abalone and pippis and some emu fillets – it’s waiting for an epic cookup.” —Nornie Bero, owner of Mabu Mabu in Melbourne

Maridem un Gran Coronas amb sopa de suc de mongetes
Foto: Edgar Ortíz

Board game chips

“In our freezer, you could find board game chips – but they are edible! During lockdown, delivery has increased considerably and the restaurant proposed is a playful menu that goes with a simple game board. We’ve prepared edible coloured board game chips made with coloured white chocolate. We keep them in the freezer.” —Ada Parellada, owner of Semproniana in Barcelona

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Lord Maynard Llera
Photograph: Courtesy Lord Maynard Llera

Pork ruffles

“The weirdest thing in my freezer right now is the pork ruffles. It is the connector of the internal organs to the pig’s body, which is known as a mesentery. It serves as a wall to hold the small intestine in place. It is typically fried as a Filipino appetizer or snack and matched with beer. We call it 'chicharon bulaklak.' One time, I cooked it at home and the kids tried and they loved it. That’s when I know I have to add it on my menu.” —Lord Maynard Llera, chef-owner of Kuya Lord

Carlos Gaytán
Photograph: Diego Padilla

Escamoles

“Escamoles (ant eggs) are one of my favorite ingredients. In Mexico, we use them a great deal in fine dining. They are a delicacy, and it takes a lot of labor to get them. I like to cook them with butter and serve with tortilla and avocado.” —Carlos Gaytán, chef-owner of Tzuco in Chicago

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Nina Compton
Photograph: Denny Culbert

Game

“A variety of game that might seem weird if you didn't live in Louisiana. Hunter friends have me stocked on boar, duck, venison and quail. Plus one Totino's Supreme frozen pizza.” —Nina Compton, chef-owner of Compère Lapin and Bywater American Bistro in New Orleans

Chef Agustin Ferrando Balbi
Dishtag Limited

Kokotxas

“Right now, as I am writing this, it has to be kokotxas, the throat of the cod fish. It’s a super delicious ingredient that I [use to] make ‘al pil pil’ when the homesickness strikes. Kokotxas are a very traditional ingredient in Spanish cuisine, one that my grandmother Lola would sometimes cook for me when she got homesick as well. I guess this has become a tradition that will be passed down generations.” —Agustin Ferrando Balbi, chef-founder of Andō in Hong Kong

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Emily Yuen of Bessou
Photograph: Teddy Wolff

Cough drops

“I always store cough drops in my freezer. Don’t knock it till you try it! When you have a sore throat, the frozen cough drops really provide relief and soothes your throat.” Emily Yuen, executive chef of Bessou and Bessou at Time Out Market in New York City

Miguel Castro Silva
Photograph: Jorge Simão

Vegetable stock

“I don’t think it is very weird, but I have a vegetable stock frozen in small portions. It makes the difference to enhance flavors when cooking.” —Miguel Castro e Silva, chef-owner of Cantina de Ventozelo, Casario and deCastro Gaia in Portugal

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Pat LaFrieda
Photograph: Eric Vitale

Buck head

“I have an eight-point buck head from deer season which my friend/chef harvested. Until the taxidermist is ready to accept it, he’s my pal.” —Pat LaFrieda, CEO of Pat LaFrieda Meat Purveyors in New York City

Heather Costas
Photograph: Courtesy Time Out Market Boston

Black rice

“We ended up getting the call on closing down the market back on March 15, 2020. That day will always be in my brain as when Covid officially hit. So in my freezer I have a quart of black rice dated 3/15/20 that I can’t throw out. I do not plan to eat it either. I think it reminds me of how much can happen in a year, and I don’t want to forget that, both the good and the bad that came from this all.” —Heather Costa, chef-owner of Revolution Health Kitchen at Time Out Market in Boston

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Tim Siadatan
Photograph: Elena Heatherwick

Placenta

“Placenta from our daughter’s birth. The antibodies were good for breastfeeding.” —Tim Siadatan, co-founder of Trullo and Padella in London

Saransh Goila
Photograph: Courtesy Goila Butter Chicken

Black limes

“I have a bunch of black limes, which a friend gifted me! They leave a beautiful musky flavour in my biryani, and I use them sparingly for special occasions.” —Saransh Goila, founder of Goila Butter Chicken in Mumbai

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thai dang, chef, jaclyn rivas, portrait
Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

Muối kiến

“Muối kiến or ant salt. Yes, whole ants that have been toasted with chili, salt and lemongrass. This type of ant has a rich and sour taste. It was a gift someone gave me from Vietnam in a small town.” —Thai Dang, chef-owner of HaiSous and Thai Dang at Time Out Market in Chicago

May Chow
Photograph: Courtesy May Chow

Pork intestines

“During Covid, one of the things I’ve been most amazed to find is a frozen Korean braised pork intestines ready for home BBQ. As a chef, I can’t explain my love for innards, and it's definitely not something you cook at home on the fly as it requires cleaning and preparation. And it's that kind of food you get at a late-night izakaya type of thing that obviously doesn't deliver during Covid. So grilling this on a cast iron while drinking a whiskey soda or beer at home really does it for me.” —May Chow, chef-founder of Little Bao and Happy Paradise in Hong Kong

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Uni paste

“Uni paste from Japan, roasted pork lard from Hong Kong and bottarga from Taiwan. They are all ingredients that are used in small amounts at a time, so I keep them in the freezer to savour during the year.” —Erchen Chang, owner of Bao in London

 Prashant Chipkar
Photograph: Sambhav Mehra

Spice mixes

“The weirdest thing in the freezer as we speak is a packet of kokum, a dried fruit used to flavor Goan curries, and a packet of homemade xacuti masala, a typical spice mix from Goa used to make my favorite comfort food: Goan prawn curry and rice. Lots of people may not know this, but keeping spice mixes in the freezer is the best way to increase their shelf life. The temperature allows the volatile oil to solidify and thereby retain the flavor of spices longer.” —Prashant Chipkar, executive chef and culinary director at Masti and chef at Time Out Market in Dubai

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