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Jul 5, 2012 05:39 AM

How much saffron powder is a saffron thread?

Okay so it's not too unusual for me to see saffron threads being used in recipes and here's the problem; powder is so much easier to acquire but how much powder is a saffron thread really? I honestly can't find a good answer when I googled this!

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  1. This is a puzzle, too, I'm sure.

    How many threads in a 1/2 teaspoon or even 1 teaspoon of threads. Aren't they always hanging over a teaspoon? Geez!

    1. 1/4 tsp of saffron powder equals approx. 4 - 6 threads.

      1. Must be a matter of world geography........saffron threads are in every supemarket where I am, but I don't think I've ever seen saffron powder.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Harters

          I've seen it but could never afford it. Trying to afford the threads just about breaks the bank in my kitchen.

        2. A little OT, but about saffron. First time I ever bought it (MANY years ago) was for some recipe I saw on a cooking show... back when you actually LEARNED how to cook from them... but that's a different topic all together. Bought bottle of one of the name brands in most supermarkets... little paper packet folded up with threads inside. Remember it being expensive and... not doing much more than give a nice yellow color to the dish... who KNOWS how long that jar was sitting on the shelf??

          10 Replies
          1. re: kseiverd

            It's one of the things I look out for in Spanish supermarkets. Not cheap even there but a better chance of getting really good quality.

            1. re: kseiverd

              But did that show teach you how to use the saffron to its maximum potential? It shouldn't be hard to find recipes from recent Cooking Channel shows that use saffron just like that old one.

              One of the saffron powder purveyors claims that threads need a long steeping time, and hence powder is better for cooks that are short on time. But I wonder about the purity of the powder and the claims of people who sell it. I have learned (from recent cooking shows) that 'colorante', a non-saffron coloring mix is widely used in Morocco and Spain, despite the traditional production and use of the real stuff in those countries.

              As others have noted, in US supermarkets (and spice stores), the threads are more common than the powder. For example Penzeys does not list a powder

              Penzeys warning about powder (also gives equivalences
              )"Saffron contains 450-500 saffron stigmas to the gram. The stigma are also called threads, strings, pieces or strands. 1 gram equals 2 tsp. whole, 1 teaspoon crumbled or ½ teaspoon powdered. Don't buy pre-powdered saffron because it loses flavor quickly and is usually cut with turmeric or something else. :

              1. re: paulj

                "Colorante" is, indeed, very popular in Spain. Comes in powder form and is made from maize. Does a fine job in colouring rice but, of course, adds no flavour and is not as subtle colouring as saffron. Needless to say, it is very cheaper than saffron. I also buy some of these packets when in Spain for those times when I'm not really arsed about the flavour of the spice.

                Turmeric is, of course, another spice that will do a good colouring job but can lend an odd flavour if too much is used.

                1. re: Harters

                  And in Latin America, achiote (annato) is widely used to color cooking oil, and anything fried in it.

                  I've been using Goya flavor packets to color my rice.

                2. re: paulj

                  A problem with "1 gram equals 2 tsp. whole" (I suppse by 'whole,' they mean 'threads') is that my scale only goes to 1 gram, and getting a smaller measurement is not possible in grams.

                  Also, I've seen recipes calling for 1/4 tsp threads. Now, how does one come up with that amount when the threads are hanging outside the teaspoon.

                  If a recipe suggests a number of threads to be used in a receipe, then one will have to consider that there are many different grades of threads.

                  1. re: Rella

                    Forget the recipes that call for grams or 1/4 tsps. You should either use pinches, or count the individual threads. :)

                    Frankly I've never felt rich enough to use saffron for more than color. So I use what I can afford, not what the recipe tells me.

                    1. re: paulj

                      For instance in COTM's July 2012 Fish Without a Doubt, the Paella recipe calls for using equal to about $1 worth of saffron (in my estimation) for good saffron threads. To me this is a minimal cost for an ingredient in the amount of food that this recipe makes, using clams, mussels, fish, chicken and rice.

                      1. re: paulj

                        "Also, I've seen recipes calling for 1/4 tsp threads. Now, how does one come up with that amount when the threads are hanging outside the teaspoon."
                        Dear Rella
                        I say again:
                        1/4 tsp of saffron powder equals approx. 4 - 6 threads.

                        1. re: todao

                          Sorry, todao - I don't use saffron powder; not sure what you are referring to. Yes, I realize the op posting refers to powder, so perhaps I am the cause of the confusion.

                        2. re: paulj

                          I have some older French cookbooks that use the "as many as you can afford" measurement for saffron and truffles.

                          Saffron and tumeric look too much alike for me to purchase powdered saffron.

                  2. I'm wary of saffron powder if only for the content of the pure saffron that must be in it versus the amount of filler. (and tumeric comes quickly to mind because of it's color. Their tastes could be told apart to a sharp tongue) I'd imagine that it would wholy depend on what's in it, filler or not.

                    This is something that unless they have some kind of standard to adhere to, it's very difficult to say how much powder may equal a thread.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Irregular

                      exactly what I was thinking, so easy to mix with turmeric. I'll stick with the threads.