The Care and Handling of Spices
Here at Spice Mogul, we are fierce advocates of freshly ground spices, however, grinding spices is by no means a one size fits all affair. The key to grinding is getting the right type of grind, (fine, medium, coarse or paste) while minimizing time, effort and of course heat. Exposing spices to heat during the grinding process will risk releasing the oils that contain the flavor and reducing the maximum release of flavor during the blooming process.
This page covers grinding techniques, equipment (and our opinions about equipment) and general hints on maximizing fun and flavor, while minimizing hassle, money and waste.
Below are a few handy rules of thumb for what to use and when for grinding your spices:
- Small quantities: use an electric propeller blade grinder or mortar and pestle
- Small coarsely ground quantities: use a propeller grinder, or even better a mortar and pestle
- Medium and larger quantities: use an electric grinder with propeller blades which tend to generate less heat
- When consistence of grind not important: use a blender
- For pastes: use a blender or food processor
Buying, Storing and Using Spices 101
So, just as a level set for everyone, below are what we consider the basic do’s and don’t of buying, storing and using spices (and dried herbs for that matter). A little bit of care and attention in this oft neglected area will yield superior results in the kitchen:
- Buy spices whole, versus ground, whenever possible.
- Buy in quantities that you will likely use up in 6 months time.
- Mark the date you buy your spices and dried herbs. If there are no dates on the package, take a marker and date each container when opened.
- Grind spices just before using. Grinding releases the volatile compounds that give a spice its flavor and aroma. The longer the spice sits around (either whole or ground), the more the compounds disappear and the flavors lessen.
- Store spices and herbs on the counter or close to the stove. Remember that just like with oils, heat, light, and moisture are enemies of a spices flavor and shelf life. Cool, dry and dark should be your watch words.
- Forget to check for freshness.
- Use pre-ground spices if you can avoid it. If you must, test for flavor by rolling a small amount between your fingers and taking a whiff. If it releases a distinct aroma, you’re ok. If you have to strain to smell it, pitch it and buy fresh. There is no sense in ruining a dish full of other ingredients because your spices are not up to their full strength.