Before you ask, blooming herbs and spices has nothing to do with gardening and everything to do with cooking. By heating them in your choice of fat (we like oil or butter or both) before adding other liquids, you will release more flavor, up to 10 times more, than you would if you simmer the same seasonings in another liquid.
Why TF Do You Need to Bloom Spices?
Blooming spices extracts more usable flavor than just about any other cooking method. Blooming is especially useful if you have older spices—and let’s be honest, even though your mother warned you about cleaning your pantry, you probably have old spices.
There are two primary reasons why you should bloom your spices. The first is chemical, the second is physical. Before you ask, yes, it takes more time. But what else do you have to do?
You don’t have to be a chemist to know that there’s chemistry in cooking and baking. If you remember anything from high school science, you should know that heat causes chemical reactions. In cooking, heating the spices in oil causes the fat-soluble flavor compounds to be released into the oil, butter, or other fat.
The reason this works is that the primary flavor compounds in most spices and herbs, including stand-bys like bay leaves, parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme, are fat-soluble. By heating the herbs and spices in fat the flavors bond with the fat and you get more flavor out of them.
Once the chemical change takes place (thank you heat), you can more effectively distribute the flavor of the spices bloomed in fat (oil, butter, etc.) than you could by adding them directly to the liquid or stirring them in at the end.
How TF Do You Properly Bloom Spices?
This is easier than it sounds:
- Place your empty saute pan over medium-high heat.
- Add your oil or fat (butter, for example).
- When the oil starts to shimmer, add your whole or ground spices to the oil.
- Keep them moving around the pan while they “bloom.”
- When you notice a nutty, fresh, or even toasty fragrance, it’s time to take them off the heat.
- Remove the spices from the fat and continue cooking as instructed by the recipe. When it’s time to add the spices, use your bloomed spices and watch the flavor come to life!
This technique can be used to improve the flavor of any dish. Regardless of whether the recipe calls for it or not, follow these simple steps and you’ll improve the taste of just about every dish you serve. Have a favorite chile recipe? Bloom the chile and cumin before adding it to the crockpot. Cooking up a pot roast? Bloom the garlic and savory seasonings before searing your meat in the oil and see the difference.
Just remember that ground spices can burn quickly. So keep them moving and don’t take your eyes off of the pan once you add the spices to the fat.
Have blooming tips or recipes to share? Post them here!