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The Gourmet Cooking Place

Spice Blends
and Mixtures

How to use your herbs and spice

Your spice collection is like having a magic wand, and having the right touch will
turn your culinary creations into masterpieces.

A few simple tips and tricks to get the most from your herb and spice investments.

Many herbs and spices complement each other and yet, be thoughtful in their combinations. Avoid using too many at one time. Spices and herbs are used to enhance the natural flavor of food and not disguise or obscure it.

How to add herbs and spices:

  • To prevent clumping, always use a dry spoon to measure the portion required.
  • Always release the natural oils and flavors of leaf herbs like oregano, thyme or basil: Crush between your fingers and in the palm of your hand before use.
  • Never sprinkle seasoning directly from the container over cooking food. The rising steam may leach into the container and diminish the potency of the spice or herb. The moisture can cause the seasoning to spoil more quickly.

When to add herbs and spices:

  • Herbs added near the end of cooking create a brighter, more distinct flavor, for deeper, more blended flavors, add your seasoning near the beginning of the cooking cycle.
  • Dried herbs and ground spices release their flavors readily and quickly. In long cooking recipes, such as stews and sauces, add these closer to the end of the cooking time to minimize the "cooking off" effect.
  • Whole spices release flavor more slowly than ground and are ideal for using in dishes with longer cooking times.
  • When cooking with whole spices and bay leaves, create a "Bouquet Garni". Tie the stems of leafy herbs with thread or wrap them in cheesecloth or even place them in tea ball before adding to foods for easy removal.
  • To season uncooked foods, like as salad dressings, fruits or fruit juices, add your spices and herbs several hours before serving to allow flavors to develop and "marry" or blend. Alternatively, the liquid with the seasonings may be heated briefly to release the flavor, and then allowed to cool.
  • For salad dressings, add the spices to the vinegar early and allow standing before adding the oil.

How much do I add:

Unfortunately there are neither guidelines nor general rules for the correct amount of spices and herbs to use. The variation in the pungency of each spice and herb differs. Stored seasonings may lose some flavor over time. Their effect on different foods varies. Different combination of herbs and spice also change their effects.

  • One guide I use is, if it smells good... it tastes good!
    Smell and taste are closely related and the smell is a great indicator of the final taste of any dish.
  • It is best to start with recipes that have been well tested or from a reliable source. The amounts can be adjusted later to suit and personalize individual tastes.
  • When no recipe is available, try starting with 1/4 teaspoon per 4 servings, per pound of meat, or for each pint (2 cups) of sauce or soup; adjust as necessary.
  • Cayenne and garlic powder, are generally stronger than many seasoning so decrease to 1/8 teaspoon and then adjust as necessary.
  • Spices with high capsaicin content like hot pepper and pepper flakes increase in intensity while cooking. Use in small increments to allow the flavor to intensify during the cooking process.
  • One final thought about adding seasonings, what every good cook knows is: always,
    and I do mean always... cook to taste! If you like it, it's right!
    No recipe is perfect and if perfection is what you seek, make it your own.

Adding herbs and spices to your cooking repertoire will create unlimited possibilities. By using different variations and combinations you can turn the bland to the exotic.

With a little knowledge and a well stocked spice cabinet that tired ole chicken becomes a center piece of your Italian, Polynesian, Mexican, or any regional theme you desire.

Visit our World Cuisines Spice Guide to learn the secrets to re-creating your regional favorites from all over the world..

With a little creativity you can always expect...

Good Food, Good Friends, and Good Life.