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Useful Tips for Using Herbs and Spices

Useful Tips for Using Herbs and Spices

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Tips for Herbs and Spices

Herbs and spices are essential ingredients for cooking, adding flavor and aroma to dishes. However, it can be challenging to use them effectively. This article provides useful tips for maximizing the flavors of herbs and spices, including how to wash and chop them, how to make a bouquet garni, how to use dried herbs, and how to crush and grind spices. By following these tips, you can elevate the taste of your meals and create delicious and aromatic dishes that will impress your guests.

Maximizing Flavor

  • Washing herbs: Quickly shake herbs under cold running water and dry them on paper towels.
  • Using stems: After using the leaves of fresh herbs such as parsley or dill, finely chop the stems and use them to flavor stocks, sauces, and stews.
  • Flavoring with sage: To add a rich, intense flavor to chicken or pork roasts, tuck whole sage leaves just under the skin of the chicken or into small slits cut into the fat of the pork before roasting.
  • Replacing chives: Scallion tops are similar in flavor and color to chives. Chop them and use them as a substitute when chives are not available.
  • Using kitchen scissors for chopping parsley: To chop parsley easily and quickly, remove the stems, wash and dry the sprigs, and place them in a large cup. Use a pair of kitchen scissors to snip the parsley inside the cup.
  • Preparing mint for releasing flavor: To obtain the maximum flavor from fresh mint leaves, bruise them first to release their volatile oils. Place them in a small bowl and pound gently with the end of a rolling pin. Use immediately.
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Making a Bouquet Garni

  • Adding citrus flavor: Introduce a delicate citrus flavor to a bouquet garni by adding a thinly pared strip of orange, lemon, or lime zest to the mixed herbs. Use to flavor soups, sauces, or casseroles.
  • Mixing flavors: Combine sprigs of rosemary, parsley, and thyme with a bay leaf and a stick of celery to flavor red-meat dishes and rich bean dishes.
  • Flavoring fish: Add delicate herbs such as parsley, chervil, or dill to a bouquet garni for dishes including white fish.
  • Adding tarragon for a scented flavor: In chicken or pork dishes with white wine or cream sauces, add a sprig of tarragon to the bouquet-garni mix.
  • Using horseradish: Add a bruised root of horseradish to a bouquet garni to flavor stocks or sauces for beef dishes.
  • Preparing basil: To avoid losing the flavor and color too quickly from delicate-leaved herbs such as basil, tear the leaves with your fingers instead of chopping them with a knife. Add savory dishes at the end of the cooking period.

Useful Tips for Using Herbs and Spices 2

Dried Herbs

Dried herbs are a convenient substitute if fresh herbs are not available. However, they have a much more concentrated flavor than fresh herbs, so you will need to reduce quantities. As a general rule, use about half the amount of dried herbs that you would of fresh.

Using Dried Herbs:

  • Thyme: To remove the leaves of dried thyme from their woody stems, place the sprigs on a clean paper towel, fold them over, and rub the herbs vigorously. If using a small amount, rub the herb stems between your fingertips.
  • Bay leaves: Soak dried bay leaves in water for a few minutes before threading them onto skewers between cubes of meat, chicken, or fish. The leaves will add flavor to the meat without burning.
  • Stalks: Scatter the stripped, dry stalks of thyme or rosemary onto the coals of a barbecue to give a smoky, herb flavor to the food that is being cooked.
  • Preparing rosemary: To strip the leaves quickly from the woody stems of rosemary, hold the tip of each sprig in one hand and strip the leaves off with a finger and thumb, pushing against the direction of growth.
  • Using a tea infuser: If you want to enhance the flavor of a dish without leaving bits of herbs behind, put the herbs into a tea infuser, and stir them into the dish at the end of cooking.
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Useful Tips for Using Herbs and Spices 3


Most spices can be added directly to dishes during cooking. However, it is well worth spending a little time to crush, bruise, or roast them first to bring out as much flavor as possible. Once ground or bruised, spices should be used immediately to prevent the loss of flavor.

  • Avoiding mess: Crush whole spices by placing them in a small plastic bag and hitting them several times with a rolling pin or a meat mallet.
  • Mixing spices: Mix together 75 percent black or white peppercorns and 25 percent whole allspice. Keep them in a peppermill ready to grind onto grilled meats or fish. You could also mix black, white, pink, and green peppercorns to spice up plain chicken.
  • Making chili powder: Roast four dried, red chilies at 400°F (200°C) for 10 minutes. Remove the stems and seeds, then use a mortar and pestle to grind the chilies into a ready-to-use powder.
  • Removing seeds: To obtain a really strong flavor from a vanilla bean, use the tiny, oily seeds rather than infusing the whole pod. To extract the seeds, cut the pod lengthwise using a sharp knife. Then add the seeds directly to sweet dishes.
  • Bruising a whole piece of peeled, fresh ginger: Place it on a cutting board and hit it with the flat base of a heavy pan. If bruised ginger is added to preserves or hot drinks, its flavor will be infused quickly.

In summary, this article emphasizes the importance of using herbs and spices to add flavor to your dishes. With the right techniques, you can maximize the taste and aroma of your ingredients, making your meals more enjoyable. By following the tips provided in this article, you can enhance your cooking skills and create delicious dishes that everyone will love.