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was this a fluke, or is this how it works

hi. i made a clean out the fridge stir fry today. i added a little pinch of red pepper flakes to the hot oil a few seconds before adding vegetation. i have had this can of red pepper flakes for a couple months, and i have never noticed it being very spicy/hot. but today, very hot. (which i loved, i love spicy food.) and it clearly permeated through the oil and made everything delicious. my question, was this a fluke, or does as it to the oil first some how make it spicier?

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    1. Yes, that's how it works.

      1. thank you very much you two. good to know. does it work the same if i were to use dried whole chilies? is it best to crush them, or leave them whole and remove them?
        does a powdered chili work, or would it burn too quickly/easily? (i dont mean the chili powder that is a blend of spices, just dried chilies ground up to a powder.)

        8 Replies
        1. re: charles_sills

          You don't need to crush whole chiles but I would either rough chop or slice them.

          I wouldn't use powder, however, cuz you'll end up with a paste.

          1. re: ipsedixit

            say i was using a very spicy chili, is it best to remove it after it flavors the oil, before the dish is served, or not remove it at all?

            and does this technique get used much in other dishes than stir frys? thanks again!

            1. re: charles_sills

              I think it's up to you when to remove them from the oil.

              I know that there are many types of cuisines and cooking styles that use this "technique".

              1. re: ipsedixit

                i guess what i should have asked, do the chillies pretty quickly give the oil as much spiciness as it can in moments, or minutes. if i take them out before adding the next ingredient, would it be noticably less spicy than if i took them out before serving?

                1. re: charles_sills

                  I'd be careful not to get the chillies too hot. Otherwise the oils will burn adding a bitter taste to your dish. This is the same as rubbing black pepper on a steak then grilling it. Inevitably the oils in the pepper scorch leaving a bitter taste on the steak. Can't understand why people do that. Watch a chinese or East indian chef at work with any sort of peppers/spices/herbs. They add them to the hot oil and then very quickly remove them or add other ingredients to reduce the heat so the oils don't burn.

                  1. re: Puffin3

                    thanks so much for the tip. i added more food pretty quickly by dumb luck. i wll keep that in mind from now on!!

              2. re: charles_sills

                I often use whole chile arbol (rather hot dried chile) by sauteing a few of them in oil or lard until the oil becomes pink, before adding other ingredients (such as when making refried beans.)