Why It’s Better To Grind Your Own Spices
Grinding your own spices: tips, tricks, and why you should do it
Grinding your own spices might seem like an unnecessary step in preparing a meal, but there are plenty of reasons why you should consider doing so. In this post, we’ll uncover why it’s better to grind your own spices and we’ll explain exactly how to do so!
How to grind your own spices and why you should do so
Why grinding your own spices leads to a superior end-product
It’s no secret to chefs around the world that fresh is best when it comes to most ingredients, but why? Well, there are two primary reasons—aroma and flavor—both of which will affect the quality of your dish.
You probably already realize the sense of smell directly impacts the intensity of taste, so it should be no surprise that a more fragrant spice will incorporate more flavor into a dish. Pre-ground spices have already lost so much of their natural fragrance just sitting on a shelf and, as you would suspect, the longer they have been sitting, the more true this becomes.
That intensity of the taste we mentioned is not only impacted by our sense of smell. Flavor is also an obvious contributor, and so much of it is preserved inside whole spices. Immediately after they are pulverized, however, that flavor diminishes exponentially. As such, spices that have been sitting on your spice shelf for months, aren’t going to contribute much vibrancy to a dish at all!
How to grind your own spices
There are a several ways you can go about grinding your own spices at home, but most have the same first step—toasting.
Toasting your spices before they are ground helps to release those essential oils that host the aroma and flavor associated with each spice. This step only takes a few extra minutes, but is well-worth it! Just grab a skillet and heat it to medium on a stovetop. Add your whole spices and use a wooden spoon to push them around so they toast evenly and don’t burn. After 2 or 3 minutes, pull them off and take them out of the pan to stop them from over-toasting. A bonus of this step is that your house will smell wonderful!
Now, to grinding your whole spices! You’ll want to ensure your spices have cooled slightly before grinding, but then, you have your choice of tools.
Mortar and Pestle
There is something about using a mortar and pestle to crush and grind spices that just feels so good—almost meditative. It allows you to really connect with your ingredients in a way that you would not otherwise be able to.
Designated spice grinders can range in price from under $10 to hundreds of dollars, but the average price seems to be right around $30. They come in multiple variations, some with detachable cups, some without, and in both hand-crank and electric versions.
Coffee grinders and spice grinders can be used interchangeably. We only separated them in this instance to stress a very important course of action you will need to take if you should choose to use a grinder that is used daily for grinding coffee beans. It really should go without saying, but we will anyway. Wash your grinder well before using it to grind your spices. After it is well washed, smell it; if a coffee aroma exists, there are still some essential oils remaining and they will definitely permeate any other spices you grind in that vessel, so you’ll need to clean it again. This time, use white vinegar for cleaning and let it air dry before grinding your spices.
Bag and Mallet
This method will not give you a fine grind, but it does the job of releasing fresh flavor. It is perfect for recipes that will be strained, in brines, or in instances where you want that cracked spice consistency.
More tips for grinding your own spices
We mentioned the importance of toasting your own spices as the first step, but there is actually one precursor to that step that is even more important—ensuring your spices come from a reputable source and haven’t been sitting on a shelf in a warehouse for ages. Although keeping spices whole does contribute to their freshness longevity, it does not ensure flavor immortality. Even whole spices will become lackluster if they have been sitting unappreciated for too long.*****
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