Cooking With Spices - Tips For
Preparing, Toasting and Grinding

Before you begin cooking with spices, there are some steps you need to do to prepare the individual spices before using or combining with others to make your blends. These steps are easy to do, don't take up much time at all and the flavours, colours and aromas they add to your food are fabulous!!

There are three ways to using them in your cooking...

  • Using commercial pre-ground powders
  • Buying and grinding whole without toasting
  • Or toasting first then grinding

For this page I'll show you the steps and techniques I use for toasting and grinding whole spices...

Toasting, Grinding and Cooking With Spices

Step 1: On a low to medium heat add them to a dry pan and lightly toast. Keep them moving by stirring or shaking the pan, this will evenly toast them.

This only takes a few minutes and when you can really smell the aromas and they start to darken, they're ready.

Step 2a: Let them cool for a couple of minutes and then grind using either a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder.

If I want to make my food more traditional and authentic, I'll use my mortar and pestle (right), and grind the ingredients whilst cooking. But for convenience and speed...

Step 2b:...I tend to use my electric coffee grinder (right). Apart from speed this also grinds them finer than a mortar and pestle.

I recommend buying a separate coffee grinder just for grinding or you risk ending up with some unusual tasting coffee!

Step 3: Now you have your ground powder it may be a little chunky...

(Photo of unsieved cumin & coriander seed).

Step 4:... So the final optional step is to sieve. I find sieving is more important when using my mortar and pestle as it's a bit harder to get a really fine powder than when using the grinder.

If you do sieve, you'll get a much smoother powder without the chunky bits.

(Photo of sieved cumin & coriander seed).

Here is a short slideshow of how I toast and grind...

If you are interested in using the techniques above in your cooking, then have a quick look at my book. Full of easy-to-make blend and mix recipes from around the world.
Available as a digital book that you can download, so you can start toasting and grinding immediately. Click for more information.

Final Notes On Cooking With Spices

Whilst I always emphasise toasting and grinding before cooking with spices, for some it's just not practical.

Ones like ginger, garlic and chili are fine pre-ground. You can grind them yourself but you need a dehydrator and about 12 hours of drying time to get all the moisture out first.

Turmeric and nutmeg are two tough cookies that can be ground but you'll need a decent grinder with a strong blade, much stronger than the average cheapish grinder. So these are also worth buying pre-ground.

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