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Jan 15, 2009 10:43 AM

Do you toast your saffron?

I want to make risotto, and I've never toasted it before; just added the threads in.

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  1. Never heard of toasting them in a dry pan by themselves.... think they would burn. But you do "bloom" saffron - kinda like sweating garlic in a pan.... add your fat (oil, butter, ect.) don't have it to hot and then add your saffron. The saffron then releases it's flavor to the fat that is then used to base your sauce or whatever. Gives you a very nice full flavor and eaven color.

    1. I personally don't do it, but I saw a famous Spanish chef on TV in Mexico once do it. He put them on a soup spoon and put the spoon over the flame for a second or two. He said it was the key to bringing out the flavor. I'll try it sometime, but my paella is always so good, that I never though I needed to do it.

        1. re: likescrab

          You usually only soak the saffron in milk for breads and desserts, never for a risotto--just soak it in cup of hot broth for 15-20 mins before adding it to the rice. In Spain, it's very common to toast the saffron. I've heard it on many occasions. I can't remember who the guy was, but he was one of Spain's most famous chefs, and he said it was an essential step in paella making to toast the saffron--I didn't buy that though, but it can't hurt.

        2. I usually mash them in a mortar and then let them steep in hot liquid. (I'm not sure that you actually need to grind them, but it's how I was shown to do it, and everything always comes out fine...)

          1 Reply
          1. re: nickblesch

            I think the main advantage of toasting the saffron is that it dries it out so it crumbles/grinds better. Whether I toast it or not depends on how moist it is: With cheaper Spanish saffron, I generally toast. With premium Iranian saffron I just crumble it up with my fingers.

            The moisture content is good for the producer (adds weight to a very precious product) but not good for the consumer. I hear that the moisture makes it more prone to spoilage--I have noticed that after a year or so it gets a metallic, fishy odour and has to be pitched.

            I have started using Iranian saffron and recommend it highly.

            If you want cheaper and more easily available Spanish saffron, you can get it at just about any Indian grocer--it is often behind the counter to prevent pilfering. If you do buy it, buy a smaller quantity as it is perishable.