11 Tips from Chefs for Shopping at Farmers’ Markets

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Farmers’ markets are a summertime staple, just like corn on the cob, fresh tomatoes, and watermelon—all of which you can find at a farm stand. Here, 11 chefs share their secrets for getting the best deals and produce fresh from the farm.

1. HEAD TO THE MARKET WITHOUT A LIST.

Bill Briwa, a New York chef and culinary instructor, advises shoppers to forgo the ingredients list. Since farmers’ markets provide seasonal, local fare that changes weekly—instead of grocery stores’ standard variety of shipped-in produce—your shopping should take a different approach. "Keep an open mind. You’re going to see some great produce here, but you may not know what it is just yet," Briwa says. "You’ll recognize it when you see it, and that’s when your menu planning should start."

2. BUDGET FOR SPONTANEOUS PURCHASES.

While it’s smart to set a budget for your farmers’ market excursion, don’t be afraid to set aside a few dollars for non-food purchases. Chef and food writer Gail Simmons suggests not spending all your budget at one place, instead leaving some wiggle room for unexpected finds like flowers or early-season fruits.

3. BE SUSPICIOUS OF NON-NATIVE PRODUCE.

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Lenny Russo—a St. Paul, Minnesota, chef—recommends understanding what’s grown near you to ensure you’re getting top-quality produce. "If you go to a market in a northern climate and see vendors selling oranges, you can go ahead and assume that these people are actually buying stuff from some sort of clearing house or packing house, and then reselling them," he says. If fresh, local fare is what makes your mouth salivate, avoid these vendors and opt for in-season produce.

4. BUILD RELATIONSHIPS WITH FARM VENDORS.

Meeting area farmers is the best way know you’re getting truly local produce and products. Tamara Reynolds, chef and author of Forking Fantastic!, suggests building friendly relationships with the farm stands you frequent. You’ll learn about how your food is grown and harvested and also open the door for special requests or cooking advice. Plus, you’ll have the chance to share feedback (both good and bad) on the items you purchase.

5. AVOID IMPULSE BUYING.

Farmers’ markets allow you to select from a variety of heirloom and unusual produce varieties. So to avoid being overwhelmed, curate your purchases like a chef. Food Network chef Geoffrey Zakarian advises shoppers to just look for the first 30 minutes, ask for samples, then decide what’s worth purchasing. Taking a calm approach helps you avoid overspending and overbuying.

6. PRESERVE THE BEST DEALS.

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Top Chef competitor Sam Talbot suggests thinking ahead—like, way ahead—when you’re out shopping. If you’re skilled at preserving foods, take advantage of seasonal bounties when they come around. "I like to buy it fresh and preserve and pickle it all for winter pies for Christmas gifts," he says. Your future food cravings will thank you.

7. BARGAIN FOR UGLY OR BULK PRODUCE.

Many chefs agree that trying to bargain for lower prices as soon as the market opens just won’t work. But in some cases, you can score a deal on misshapen foods or large quantities. Brooklyn chef Matt Benero recommends chatting with vendors about how you’ll use the produce. If you're looking to can or preserve fruits and veggies, farmers may cut you a deal on ugly produce, bulk amounts, or produce they really need to get rid of.

8. DON'T DISREGARD NON-ORGANIC VEGGIES.

Selecting produce from certified organic vendors is one reason many people spend Saturday mornings at farmers' markets. But don’t just brush off market vendors that don’t have the certification; instead, ask how they grow their food. Chicago chef Stephen Wambach explains that some farms still follow organic practices but don’t carry the certification (a process that can be cost-prohibitive).

9. CUT DOWN FOOD WASTE WITH A SHOPPING ROUTINE.

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Top Chef judge (and chef) Tom Colicchio advocates against food waste by only purchasing ingredients you’ll use that day (or soon after). Instead of stocking up for a week’s worth of meals, make shopping a daily task—a more viable option for regions with daily markets. "Put it into your routine, on the way home from work, hit the farmers’ market and get what you need for the night," Colicchio says. Plus, your fridge and counters won’t be overwhelmed by produce.

10. PICK PRODUCE BASED ON YOUR SCHEDULE.

It makes sense to buy the ripest produce on market day, right? Not if you’re waiting a few days for a special meal. Pace Webb, a Los Angeles chef who owns an invite-only supper club, suggests selecting ripeness by your meal plan: "For example, if you want avocados, ask the vendor to help you select a few 'for Thursday' so they won’t sell you ripe ones today." Don’t forget to ask the best way to store produce so that it’ll ripen to perfection.

11. KNOW HOW TO STORE YOUR FRESH FINDS.

Australian celebrity chef Curtis Stone warns against refrigerating fresh produce that will hold its own on the counter—particularly tomatoes, which taste best at room temperature. Avocados, peppers, apples, and stone fruits also usually do great outside the fridge, while leafy greens and vegetables keep best in a cold fridge drawer with tons of air circulation. And, always avoid storing fruits and vegetables together since the ethylene gas from fruits can speed along ripening of veggies. Even if there’s another market coming up, there’s no reason you shouldn’t fully enjoy your seasonal finds.

The 10 Best Air Fryers on Amazon

Cosori/Amazon
Cosori/Amazon

When it comes to making food that’s delicious, quick, and easy, you can’t go wrong with an air fryer. They require only a fraction of the oil that traditional fryers do, so you get that same delicious, crispy texture of the fried foods you love while avoiding the extra calories and fat you don’t.

But with so many air fryers out there, it can be tough to choose the one that’ll work best for you. To make your life easier—and get you closer to that tasty piece of fried chicken—we’ve put together a list of some of Amazon’s top-rated air frying gadgets. Each of the products below has at least a 4.5-star rating and over 1200 user reviews, so you can stop dreaming about the perfect dinner and start eating it instead.

1. Ultrean Air Fryer; $76

Ultrean/Amazon

Around 84 percent of reviewers awarded the Ultrean Air Fryer five stars on Amazon, making it one of the most popular models on the site. This 4.2-quart oven doesn't just fry, either—it also grills, roasts, and bakes via its innovative rapid air technology heating system. It's available in four different colors (red, light blue, black, and white), making it the perfect accent piece for any kitchen.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Cosori Air Fryer; $120

Cosori/Amazon

This highly celebrated air fryer from Cosori will quickly become your favorite sous chef. With 11 one-touch presets for frying favorites, like bacon, veggies, and fries, you can take the guesswork out of cooking and let the Cosori do the work instead. One reviewer who “absolutely hates cooking” said, after using it, “I'm actually excited to cook for the first time ever.” You’ll feel the same way!

Buy it: Amazon

3. Innsky Air Fryer; $90

Innsky/Amazon

With its streamlined design and the ability to cook with little to no oil, the Innsky air fryer will make you feel like the picture of elegance as you chow down on a piece of fried shrimp. You can set a timer on the fryer so it starts cooking when you want it to, and it automatically shuts off when the cooking time is done (a great safety feature for chefs who get easily distracted).

Buy it: Amazon

4. Secura Air Fryer; $62

Secura/Amazon

This air fryer from Secura uses a combination of heating techniques—hot air and high-speed air circulation—for fast and easy food prep. And, as one reviewer remarked, with an extra-large 4.2-quart basket “[it’s] good for feeding a crowd, which makes it a great option for large families.” This fryer even comes with a toaster rack and skewers, making it a great addition to a neighborhood barbecue or family glamping trip.

Buy it: Amazon

5. Chefman Turbo Fry; $60

Chefman/Amazon

For those of you really looking to cut back, the Chefman Turbo Fry uses 98 percent less oil than traditional fryers, according to the manufacturer. And with its two-in-one tank basket that allows you to cook multiple items at the same time, you can finally stop using so many pots and pans when you’re making dinner.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Ninja Air Fryer; $100

Ninja/Amazon

The Ninja Air Fryer is a multipurpose gadget that allows you to do far more than crisp up your favorite foods. This air fryer’s one-touch control panel lets you air fry, roast, reheat, or even dehydrate meats, fruits, and veggies, whether your ingredients are fresh or frozen. And the simple interface means that you're only a couple buttons away from a homemade dinner.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Instant Pot Air Fryer + Electronic Pressure Cooker; $180

Instant Pot/Amazon

Enjoy all the perks of an Instant Pot—the ability to serve as a pressure cooker, slow cooker, yogurt maker, and more—with a lid that turns the whole thing into an air fryer as well. The multi-level fryer basket has a broiling tray to ensure even crisping throughout, and it’s big enough to cook a meal for up to eight. If you’re more into a traditional air fryer, check out Instant Pot’s new Instant Vortex Pro ($140) air fryer, which gives you the ability to bake, proof, toast, and more.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Omorc Habor Air Fryer; $100

Omorc Habor/Amazon

With a 5.8-quart capacity, this air fryer from Omorc Habor is larger than most, giving you the flexibility of cooking dinner for two or a spread for a party. To give you a clearer picture of the size, its square fryer basket, built to maximize cooking capacity, can handle a five-pound chicken (or all the fries you could possibly eat). Plus, with a non-stick coating and dishwasher-safe basket and frying pot, this handy appliance practically cleans itself.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Dash Deluxe Air Fryer; $100

Dash/Amazon

Dash’s air fryer might look retro, but its high-tech cooking ability is anything but. Its generously sized frying basket can fry up to two pounds of French fries or two dozen wings, and its cool touch handle makes it easy (and safe) to use. And if you're still stumped on what to actually cook once you get your Dash fryer, you'll get a free recipe guide in the box filled with tips and tricks to get the most out of your meal.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Bella Air Fryer; $52

Bella/Amazon

This petite air fryer from Bella may be on the smaller side, but it still packs a powerful punch. Its 2.6-quart frying basket makes it an ideal choice for couples or smaller families—all you have to do is set the temperature and timer, and throw your food inside. Once the meal is ready, its indicator light will ding to let you know that it’s time to eat.

Buy it: Amazon

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Why Do We Say ‘Spill the Beans’?

This is a Greek tragedy.
This is a Greek tragedy.
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Though superfans of The Office may claim otherwise, the phrase spill the beans did not originate when Kevin Malone dropped a massive bucket of chili at work during episode 26 of season five. In fact, people supposedly started talking about spilling the beans more than 2000 years ago.

According to Bloomsbury International, one voting method in ancient Greece involved (uncooked) beans. If you were voting yes on a certain matter, you’d place a white bean in the jar; if you were voting no, you’d use your black bean. The jar wasn’t transparent, and since the votes were meant to be kept secret until the final tally, someone who accidentally knocked it over mid-vote was literally spilling the beans—and figuratively spilling the beans about the results.

While we don’t know for sure that the phrase spill the beans really does date all the way back to ancient times, we do know that people have used the word spill to mean “divulge” at least since the 16th century. The Oxford English Dictionary’s earliest known reference of it is from a letter written by Spanish chronicler Antonio de Guevara sometime before his death in 1545 (the word spill appears in Edward Hellowes’s 1577 translation of the letter).

Writers started to pair spill with beans during the 20th century. The first known mention is from Thomas K. Holmes’s 1919 novel The Man From Tall Timber: “‘Mother certainly has spilled the beans!’ thought Stafford in vast amusement.”

In short, it’s still a mystery why people decided that beans were an ideal food to describe spilling secrets. As for whether you’re imagining hard, raw beans like the Greeks used or the tender, seasoned beans from Kevin Malone’s ill-fated chili, we’ll leave that up to you.

[h/t Bloomsbury International]