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Katie Lee swears by this 1 inexpensive ingredient for almost any dish

Katie Lee dishes on why everyone's pantry should be stocked with this simple savory spice.
Katie Lee's Lemon Pasta + Chicken and Broccoli Twice-Baked Spaghetti Squash
Katie Lee's favorite pantry essential is incredibly easy to find but very, very versatile. Nathan Congleton / TODAY
/ Source: TODAY

Most chefs have one ingredient they just can't live without.

For Giada DeLaurentiis, it's all about the parmesan — but not the cheese itself. Instead, De Laurentiis uses the flavorful rind in just about everything with a liquid a base, from tomato sauces to broths and stews. For Alex Guarnashcelli, turnips are the ever-present (and, in her opinion, wildly underrated) vegetable staples in her kitchen.

But for Cooking Channel star Katie Lee, her go-to ingredient is probably something many home cooks already have in the cupboard: garlic powder. The cookbook author and frequent TODAY guest told TODAY Food that she keeps both garlic powder and garlic salt on hand. Whether she's prepping a meal on the beach, or in her kitchen at home, Lee says she always has something garlicky accessible nearby for a great flavor boost.

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"I actually reach for my garlic powder and garlic salt all the time," Lee told TODAY at the Cointreau Awards Night in New York City. "I'm a fan of using fresh [when you can], when you want a punch that ... is a concentrated punch of flavor. And I just I find that the garlic salt especially takes things to the next level."

When it comes to spice brand names, Lee doesn't prefer anything special or expensive. In fact, she swears by pretty much any store brand of powdered garlic or garlic salt to help flavor her favorite dishes.

Since Lee and husband Ryan Biegel, whom she married last fall, enjoy making pasta (Lee told TODAY that an oil-based penne or rigatoni is her hubby's favorite), garlic salt is the perfect item to have around, especially when mincing garlic isn't on the agenda after a long day.

Of course, garlic salt's usefulness isn't limited to pasta. Lee thinks it's perfect for proteins, too.

"I just add it to different things," the cook said. "If I'm making chicken breasts and I am in a hurry, I'll do garlic salt and pepper and sear them in a skillet. And that's really all you need. A squeeze of lemon at the end, and dinner's ready."