Want a really easy tip to improve the food that you cook?
And trust me when I say that this tip will work for EVERYONE, no matter how much (or how little) you feel at ease in the kitchen.
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Want the answer?
Cook with fresh spices.
Sounds simple, right? It is simple, but it’s one of those things that you may not be aware of if you’ve never heard otherwise. I never realized the difference the quality of the spices I used could make.
Until a few years ago, I was cooking with spices that came with a spice rack I had found in college at T.J. Max. I’m sure at some point I had replenished certain spices, but always with spices that had likely been sitting on store shelves or in a warehouse for way too long.
Spices can get stale and lose their punch over time, especially when not stored properly. Too much heat can harm spices as well, which is why I stopped keeping spices above my stove.
Making the switch from conventional spices to fresh spices means better tasting food.
Using fresh spices in your cooking will make a huge difference in the taste of the food that comes out of your kitchen. Flavors will be bolder, sweeter, and spicier when seasoned with fresh instead of stale spices.
“Proper selection and addition of good quality spices to a dish can elevate the flavor of a dish with little effort and minimal cost.” -Aimee’s Spices 101 on SimpleBites.net
One more step in the right direction is purchasing certain spices whole and using a spice grinder when you need them. I use mine most often for grinding whole cumin, but also for thyme, nutmeg, cloves, and more. (We love this spice grinder— it’s super easy to use and produces great results).
A quick snapshot of making salsa yesterday. The smell of freshly ground cumin filled the kitchen!
I can clearly remember the first time I ground whole cumin– I was shocked by how much more fragrant it was when I started from the whole seed. Even today, as I opened up several spice jars to take a picture I immediately noticed the strong aroma coming from the jars.
Another thing to note, is that when you start shopping for fresh spices, you will find a much greater variety than what is offered at most conventional grocery stores. Various heats of chili powder, Mexican or Greek oregano, regular minced onion or toasted, and much more. Each variety offers a different quality to your food.
The spice store that I shop at also has their spices organized according to the region or style of cooking to which they belong. Purchase a fresh Asian blend to “spice up” your fried rice. Try a new aromatic spice from India. Pick up some cardamon, cinnamon sticks, fennel seeds, ginger, and black peppercorns to make the best homemade chai tea you’ve ever sipped.
But not only will the taste of your food improve, buying spices fresh and in quantities you control can save you money as well.
I regularly save money by buying spices at the spice shop. Not only are the prices better than the red-lidded bottles in the grocery store, but I can choose how much of each spice I need. I can buy a large bag of oregano and smaller amounts of cayenne pepper.
Put those fresh spices to use and make your own blends!
If you’re going to make the difference and buy better quality spices, be sure you don’t leave them sitting in the cupboard! Making your own spice blends is easy. You can make them ahead or make small batches for a dish as you need them.
Blends & Recipes to Try:
Places to Find Fresh Spices:
- A local spice shop
- Farmers’ markets
- International markets
- Online co-ops
Do you have a tip that improves your cooking? Please share!