Watch enough episodes of “Chopped” and “Top Chef,” and you’ll notice a familiar refrain in the judges’ critiques: “not enough seasoning.”
With enough practice, anyone can master a tender, medium-rare steak, a flaky pie crust, a perfectly balanced vinaigrette. Learning to marry flavors together with herbs and spices, however, takes a little bit more finesse.
Here’s a chef secret that will help you get more vibrant flavor out of just about anything you cook. It’s simple: Buy whole spices, toast them, then grind them.
Wondering why you’d you go through all that trouble when you can buy cinnamon, cumin, pepper, and just about every spice imaginable pre-ground?
When spices are ground, the aromatic oils that give them both flavor and aroma start to fade. If you’re cooking with cinnamon ground yesterday, it’s no big deal. And if you use a spice often, you’ll probably go through it before the taste becomes dull. But if that jar is more than a year old? You’re probably not getting much out of it.
Instead, buy spices wholes—valuable oils intact—and prepare them at home. Here’s how to do it:
To get you started, we recommend buying the following spices whole:
Note: This tip doesn’t apply to roots like ginger or turmeric. It also won’t work for pre-ground spices, or spice blends like curry powder or chili powder.
Photo credit: Alicia Cho
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