At some stage in your cooking life, you’ll get tired of the packaged spices and decide to make your own at home. Freshly ground spices take food to a special new level; the tempting aromas in the kitchen alone will make it worth your effort. To grind spices you’re going to need a tool to get the job done. We’re about to look at five ways to grind spices using everyday items found in most kitchens. Let’s dive it.
6 spice grinding options
1. Heavy knife
If you own a knife set, choose a chef’s knife, cleaver, or anything that has a bit of weight to it. Size matters when it comes to grinding. Place the seeds on a chopping block and push down as hard as you can using the side of the knife. A decent-sized blade will do a reasonable job of crushing them.
Use a knife when you want to maintain the texture of the spices but need to release the oils and aromatics. Coriander seeds are a good example – they add a lovely crunchy texture to a dish if they aren’t processed into a powder. Cardamom seeds will benefit from a firm knife crush and can be plucked out at the end of the recipe when they’re still intact.
Using a knife is a great choice for those that like a quick clean-up afterward or for minimalists who don’t want loads of tools cluttering their cupboards.
2. Heavy-bottom pots
A solid pot can double as a useful spice crusher in the kitchen. Position the seeds on a chopping board and slowly press the bottom edge of the pot into the seeds with as much pressure as you can. Use a gentle rolling motion, back and forth, until all the seeds are crushed sufficiently.
Like the knife, a pot is another low-tech option for crushing spices, that allows you to use items already available in your kitchen.
Tip 1: Things can get a bit messy with spices shooting everywhere. To solve this, pop the spices into a zip-lock bag and then begin crushing.
Tip 2: For stubborn spices that don’t crush easily, consider bashing them with rolling pin or meat tenderizer. This is useful for harder spices like star anise.
3. Microplane grater
The microplane is an excellent option for grinding cinnamon, tonka beans, nutmeg, and other whole spices. This handy tool can also be used for grating garlic, ginger, citrus, and chocolate so it earns its space in the kitchen drawer.
Although a microplane looks a lot like a standard box grater, it is not. A regular grater won’t cut finely enough to release all the flavors contained in the spices. For a small investment, a microplane will serve you for many years.
4. Mortar and pestle
The mortar and pestle have been in use for thousands of years and there is a good reason for it still being used today. It gets the job done without the need for noisy appliances and there is something cathartic about using a technique that was used by the Egyptians in 1500BC.
A mortar and pestle do a better job of releasing the full range of flavors, compared to an electric grinder, which has a chopping motion. It also looks impressive on the countertop if you invest in a quality marble or clay unit.
If you’re crushing spices for one meal then it’s perfect for the job; you can also use it to make curry pastes, to bruise herbs, or even to make a pesto. However, using a mortar and pestle is fairly labor-intensive. If you’ve ever tried crushing cinnamon into a powder you’ll know what we mean! To process larger amounts of spice, for storing in jars, then you’re better off getting a grinder.
We recommend choosing a ceramic or marble mortar and pestle if you’re looking to buy one as they are capable of grinding extremely finely. Wooden ones tend to stain easily and the flavor from previous grinds will carry through unless it is well cleaned every time.
5. Electric grinder
For efficiently grinding large amounts of spice, an electric grinder is your best bet. If you already own a coffee grinder then this can double as a spice mill, but you’ll need to wash it thoroughly each time it’s used. A more practical option may be to invest in a cheap coffee grinder or even a purpose-built spice mill. One of these gadgets will pulverize their way through bark spices, cinnamon, blends, and any other spice you need to process. Grinding large spices such as star anise or small ones like cumin is easy with a grinder.
Cleaning up is more labor-intensive with an appliance. To make life easy, unplug the unit and then use a dry stiff-bristled brush to remove leftover spice. Finally, a damp cloth should wipe away any remaining residue.
If you don’t want another electric appliance in the kitchen, you may want to consider a hand-crank grinder? The old-fashioned manual units are quirky looking and can add a splash of retro to your kitchen. Attach one to the wall to save space valuable cupboard space.
Tip 1: Label a spice cleaning brush and keep it separate from other brushes, ensuring it doesn’t get used in water.
Tip 2: To remove unwanted odors or flavor, pulse a handful of rock salt or rice through the machine then remove and wipe with a clean cloth.
What is a spice? Avoid any confusion and learn how to tell a spice from a herb with our beginner’s guide.
Whatever tool you choose, before grinding, gently toast the spices in a pan for a few minutes. Occasionally shake the pan, ensuring they don’t brown. You’ll know they’re ready when the aromas start wafting through the kitchen.
Grinding spices can be as simple or high-tech as you want to make it. The reality is you don’t need to spend a lot of money to add fragrant fresh spices to your recipes. A sturdy kitchen utensil and some focused wrist action will have you on your way to delicious curry pastes in a few minutes. Once you dabble with spice grinding, you’ll likely want to do a lot more. In this case, we’d suggest searching for an electric grinder that will allow bulk processing of spice without developing a repetitive strain injury.
Now it’s time to go ahead and make spice. What will be your first?