Spices do not grow pre-ground in jars on their respective trees and whole spices are not simply for mulling wine, although that is definitely one of the best uses for them. They’re for grinding in your spice grinder, which is another way of saying “your other coffee grinder you only use for spices.” Two of the same appliance taking up precious space in your kitchen? Definitely. Here’s why.
Pre-ground spices have their concentrated essential oils exposed to air (yes, even if you keep the cap on), which evaporate, slowly zapping the spice’s flavor and leaving you with a stale bottle of what could have been delicious, earthy cumin had you only ground it yourself. Whole spices, however, are self-contained and, stored in a cool, dry place, will retain their oils for years.
Let’s take spice-heavy Indonesian curry Beef Rendang, for instance. It calls for whole spices in the recipe to be toasted (which releases the oils) and ground in the first step, which is single-handedly responsible for the intensely spiced flavor of the finished product. You couldn’t achieve that with bottled ground coriander, pepper and fennel, not even close.
Now about the two coffee grinders: keep one for coffee and one for grinding whole spices. You don’t even have to label them, a quick whiff will determine which is which. Don’t use a mortar and pestle unless you want to be pounding spices all night. Give the spices a quick toast in a hot dry pan, let them cool briefly, then transfer to the grinder, give it a whirl, dispense the results into the dish in progress — it’s probably important to mention that ground spices still have to be cooked for a while — and wipe down the grinder with a damp paper towel for next time.
Ready to see a genuinely noticable difference? Test our your knowledge with these recipes:
- Kefta, Tomato and Egg Tagine
- Kashmiri Chicken
- Best Basic Falafel
- Vegetarian Black Bean Chili
- Spiced Coconut Lentil Soup
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