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Jan 14, 2009 06:51 PM

Measuring whole spices vs. ground spices

Any tips on measuring whole spices such that you'll end up with the 1 teaspoon or whatever of ground spice?

I'm working with a cookbook of mostly Indian recipes and the ingredients are listed and measured in their ground form. Of course, I prefer to grind them from whole spices.

Is there a formula? I'm guessing that you want a little more of a whole spice to wind up with the required amount of ground spice; i.e., a heaping tsp. of whole coriander seed to end up with a level tsp. of ground coriander seed.

If it doesn't really matter a lot, that's fine with me, too!

Thanks, all!

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  1. It doesn't really matter a lot. sure, you could do a heaping tsp of whole spice, but when will the REST of the stuff in your recipe (rice, veggies, meat) be exactly the amount called for? And the difference is not a lot; if you were doing a larger volume, it would matter more.

    1. How about finding out for yourself? For example, if some recipe calls for 1 tsp of cumin, measure out 2, grind it, and measure the result. Any excess will keep till the next time you need cumin.

      In general I don't think it really matters, as long as you get the general proportions right. Traditional cooking wasn't based on exact measures. One cook might use the equivalent of 3/4 tsp in a dish, another 2tsp of the same spice. In addition, sometimes your chicken will weight 3 lb , another 3 1/2 or 4. Onions, which are an important ingredient in Indian cooking, don't come in standardized sizes. Do your recipes call for 3 (medium size) onions, or 2 cups of finely diced onion?

      If you are making stews and sauces, you can adjust the proportions to taste. Often, for example, recipes call for a pinch (or more) of garam masala at the end to brighten the flavors. What the ingredients of your garam masala mix? Most likely many of the same spices that you ground and used earlier in the dish (cumin, cinnamon, ginger, etc. With practice you might find yourself tweaking the proportions. You might, for example, not want as much turmeric, which in large quantities can be bitter. Or want more ginger or black pepper for bite. Or not like the work involved in grinding hard fenugreek seeds. Or run out of cardamom pods. Or find coriander leaves to much coarse husks in your mix. There are lots of reasons to deviate from a printed recipe.

      1 Reply
      1. re: paulj

        Thanks, jaykayen and paulj. Yes, it doesn't really matter unless it's something like cayenne which always comes ground anyway, but there you always balance off what the recipe asks for with your memory of how much you can handle.

        I'm not going to worry about it. I approximate, and all is fine.

      2. I usually like to roast and grind spice mixes (indian, mexican, ect.), but I do it in small batches. Since I will use the same mix several times over the course of a week or two I just roast off a cup or so of mix grind it and store it in an airtight jar. I go through it in 2 weeks for less, and I don't have to hastle with roasting for each recipe. Saves time and you really don't lose much flavor - if any.