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How long should you cook spices out for?

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 

When you make a curry or something like that how long should you cook the spices out for?  When I make a basic curry sauce I generally cook the spices out for quite a while. Should you cook them out for a long time or should it just be a quick thing?

Ow by the way when I say cook out I mean fry them in the pan with some onions before I add the rest of the ingredients

post #2 of 16

I believe the point of doing that is to bring out the oils in the spices. You can generally tell when that happens by the aroma. As in much of cooking, when you can smell it, you're done. A few minutes is typically enough. Indian cooking often asks for toasting the spices either in a dry pan first or in a bit of clarified butter (ghee). Naturally this is a good technique whatever food you are cooking as it has a powerful impact on a dish but does not take very long. Of course, then the rest of the ingredients would be added prior to any more length in cooking time. 

post #3 of 16

Depends on what dish you are making. Example you can tie herbs in a bunch and pull them out at any time same goes for bay leaves  or'  Bouquet Garni' as its called sometimes in classical cuisine.

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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post #4 of 16
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by chefwriter View Post
 

I believe the point of doing that is to bring out the oils in the spices. You can generally tell when that happens by the aroma. As in much of cooking, when you can smell it, you're done. A few minutes is typically enough. Indian cooking often asks for toasting the spices either in a dry pan first or in a bit of clarified butter (ghee). Naturally this is a good technique whatever food you are cooking as it has a powerful impact on a dish but does not take very long. Of course, then the rest of the ingredients would be added prior to any more length in cooking time. 


I tend to say it is done when it is lost that kind of dusty smell. When you smell them at first they kind of smell like they have been thrown in the air  a few minutes ago and you are smelling the remanence.  After a  while of cooking they loose that smell and you can't smell the spices so much.  I'm wondering if I might be cooking them for 2 long and taking some of the flavour away.

I'm a  bit confused by what you ment in your last sentence that I have highlighted?

post #5 of 16

Toast or sauté the spices just until you get some aroma. That tells you the oils are being released. then add other ingredients and if the dish requires long cooking time, let it go. All you want is an initial release before the next step. As chefedb said, it depends on what you are cooking. Once the oils have been released, you want the flavor to go into the other ingredients. 

From your description I would say you are cooking the spices too long. And btw, your spices should be fresh. There should be no "dusty' smell to begin with. 

post #6 of 16
Thread Starter 

I would disagree with that I think you can make nice curries with dried spice. Although they are nicer fresh dried is fine I think.

post #7 of 16

I was referring to dry. People often forget or don't know that even dry spices have a shelf life. They are often allowed to sit in storage for far too long. The oils oxidize and dry out too much, leaving the spice a mere shadow of what it should be. A dish made with fresh dry spice will have a far more pronounced flavor with less of any spice then the same dish made with spices that have been sitting past there prime. 

When you open a container of fresh dried spice, you should get an aroma of that spice. When you open a dried spice past its life, you get a "dusty" smell. Any volatile flavor oils that still remain may create an aroma for a moment when toasting but nowhere near the impact a freshly dried spice will have. Six months to a year is a general rule although more or less for some spices. 

post #8 of 16
Quote:
Six months to a year is a general rule although more or less for some spices.

 

That is pretty much the rule I use, especially when it comes to ground spices.  I try to keep ground spices for no more than 6-8 months.  Whole spices, on the other hand, can last quite awhile.  I try to rotate them out every 12-15 months but I have to admit that I have a number of whole nutmegs that are pushing 3 years and they still are great, freshly grated (used them a lot this season for Eggnog) and I have a jar with a some cardamon pods in it that is pushing 2 years and they are still full of flavor and aroma.

post #9 of 16

I generally like to buy whole spices and grind as I go. Much more flavor that way. Same basic idea as fresh ground coffee or black pepper. Once you grind things they go flat quickly.

 

In addition, I shop for my spices at a local natural foods store that has them in bulk in 2 qt jars, so I can buy them a tablespoon at a time. How cool is that! They keep a good eye on rotating out spices that have been there awhile and they will order off the wall ones that I ask for because they like learning about them. Definitely a keeper!

Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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post #10 of 16

Keep in mind that your senses also acclimate themselves after a few minutes--think of it as failing to smell the cologne you sprayed on yourself after a few minutes.

 

You may think that the spices have lost their powerful scent, but in reality they haven't.

post #11 of 16
When the oils come out, your curry will look like it's separated. Vijs cookbook from Vancouver said so, and he's legit
post #12 of 16
Thread Starter 

Hello

I made a veg curry today. It was OK but lacked that bit of emth(if that is a word)

I just wondered is it better to add the spices right at the beginning or add them after you have added the veg? I'm not sure if they might cook out for to long by adding them before as I did.

I think next time I am going to by some more spices as I don't know how long they have been open for.

post #13 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by ChrisBristol View Post
 

When you make a curry or something like that how long should you cook the spices out for?  When I make a basic curry sauce I generally cook the spices out for quite a while. Should you cook them out for a long time or should it just be a quick thing?

Ow by the way when I say cook out I mean fry them in the pan with some onions before I add the rest of the ingredients

 

Indian curries and Western cuisine clearly use spices and aromatics vastly different.

 

For Indian curries specifically there is no definite answer as to how long a ground spice is cooked out. Spices may be ground and fried in ghee, used whole and simply simmered in the cooking liquid, toasted dry or any other way you can think of. The nuances of a curry develop from the way the chef utilizes their spices and what effect they are looking for. Every single spice has different characteristics and how they are cooked brings out different qualities. For example, a whole cinnamon stick can be lightly fried for 5 minutes or so in a fat and give no burnt sensation but ground cinnamon can only be dry toasted for about a minute before it takes on undesirable burnt taste. A whole cinnamon stick should be simmered in the cooking liquid throughout the entire cooking process to fully release its potential. Some spices like green cardamom are used for a nice aroma and ground powder can be sprinkled on at the last minute of simmering to give a dish it's full essence without any cooking out to mellow it's effect. Green cardamom pods can also be lightly crushed and fried in ghee at the beginning of cooking to mute it's effect somewhat if you don't want it to be at the fore front of the flavor of the curry. A bay leaf tastes much different simply simmered in a liquid as it does when it is crushed up and fried in oil. As you can see there are an infinite number of ways spices can be cooked and prepared to give the effect you are going for. Want a really spicy curry? Dry toast chile powder and add it towards the end of cooking. Want a less spicy curry? Slit a fresh chile and deseed it, let it simmer throughout the cooking process. The best advice as to how to use certain spices is to experiment, taste and research because there are so many different ways a spice is used in a curry that there is no way to master it quickly.

 

For Western style cuisine the use of spice is much more limited. Again, the desired effect determines how the spice is used. For a Greek lamb stifado dried orange peel will be simmered in the cooking liquid but in Italian cuisine a gremolata might be made with fresh, raw orange zest sprinkled over braised lamb. Of course classic French cuisine utilizes spices very sparingly prefering to use fresh herbs instead. I don't need to go into sachet or bouquet garni since everyone knows how to use them.

 

Hope this helps in any way!

post #14 of 16
Thread Starter 

One thing I picked up form what you said was about the cardamom.  I actually use cardamom pods so they are fresh. Cardamom is  a taste I really like in  a curry if I were to add them a bit later on in the process would I taste the cardamom more?

post #15 of 16

Cardamom is one of my favorites and you are right to buy the pods for their freshness of flavor due to the essential oils being more intact. As to when to add the cardamom, it depends upon what exactly I am cooking. Generally I like to use it early in the process to get a mingling and marriage with the other flavors. However to highlight the floral aromatic qualities, many times I will decorticate some additional cardamom. Grind it with a mortar and pestle and sprinkle a little bit of it in the dish towards the end of the cooking as well. It adds a great finishing touch.

Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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post #16 of 16
Thread Starter 

I think that sounds like a good idea adding some more at the end.

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