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a variety of ground vs. dried spices

Ground spices pack more potent flavor than whole spices. They’re ideal for baking, as well as for sauces, soups, stews, and marinades — anything with a smooth texture. When cooking on the stovetop, add ground spices to the pot briefly before adding liquid, so they have a chance to toast and release their essential oils.

Whole spices impart their flavor more slowly and are best for long-simmered recipes like stews and soups. For easy removal, tie them in a piece of cheesecloth before dropping them into the pot.

Tempering your whole spices — toasting or sauté­ing them before stirring them into a steaming pot of deliciousness — releases the aromatic oils and enhances their flavor, so they’ll have more impact on whatever you’re cooking.

Spices never truly go bad, but when their aromas begin to fade, you’ll want to replace them. Whole spices have an average shelf life of two to four years, and you can expect your ground spices to stay usable for two to three years.

Some recipes call for whole and ground spices, which will add layers of flavor to the dish. But there aren’t any hard-and-fast rules: If you prefer the more subtle flavor of whole spices in a stew, there’s no reason you shouldn’t use them. (Find our tips for sourcing high-quality spices at “6 Tips for Sourcing High-Quality, Fair-Trade Spices“.)

This was excerpted from “8 Herbs and Spices to Cook With More” which was published in the November 2022 issue of Experience Life.

Camille Berry

Camille Berry is a wine and food writer based in San Francisco.

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