Cooking With Saffron: The Dos And Don’ts

Not only is saffron expensive, it is more expensive than any other spice. The reason is that the process of harvesting it takes a long time and involves a lot of precise work. That said, it is well worth the money if you use it properly. Not only does it bring an appetizing, bright yellow color to your dishes, but it can also bring an earthy and floral flavor to them as well. To get the most from your saffron investment, follow the dos and don’ts below.

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Do use the right methods to release saffron’s flavor.

Most spices require an extra step to release their flavor. The traditional way with many is to grind them. Black pepper, cumin, and cinnamon are spices that are traditionally ground, but not always. Saffron is no different.

Your options for extracting flavor from this spice include soaking it in water and then using the saffron threads and their decoction in your dish. This is the best way to get the full flavor and color of the spice in your dish. You can also grind it to a powder. Experts recommend that you grind saffron in a mortar with a pestle to ensure that the powder you get has an even consistency.

Do add saffron near the beginning of the cooking time.

This ensures that the spice’s flavor has time to infuse into the other ingredients.

Do use saffron with the right complementary herbs.

Saffron works best with moderate use of herbs like cilantro, basil, and rosemary. In desserts, it is traditional to pair it with vanilla as well as cinnamon.

Do measure saffron accurately.

As expensive as this spice is, you want to be precise in your measurements to avoid waste. Most recipes involve measuring saffron by weight, pinches, or by counting the threads. The recommended weights are very small and require a very precise scale; pinches are not very precise. This leaves counting the threads as the best way to get an exact amount of spice in your dish.

Do purchase saffron in small quantities.

Saffron does not have an indefinite shelf life, it will lose its flavor if stored long enough. Given the cost, you want to ensure that your saffron is relatively fresh when it comes time to use it. Only buy saffron that you intend to use within six months.

Do buy the thread form.

The thread form will last longer than the powdered form.

Do learn how to evaluate saffron quality by its appearance.

How saffron looks can tell you whether you are wasting your money or not. Threads should be deep red, uniform in shape, and pleasantly aromatic. They should also feel dry to the point of being brittle.

Don’t use saffron in combination with a lot of pungent ingredients.

Saffron is a supporting player, but it still requires a light hand with the seasoning to shine. The flavor is relatively mild and can be hidden in a heavily spiced dish, though the color won’t be in most cases. Using it in a mildly seasoned dish allows it to come to the forefront of the overall flavor profile.

Don’t overuse saffron.

Because of its mild flavor, you might be tempted to use more of it to get more flavor. This can happen with cooks who are inexperienced with the spice. Too much can make food bitter, and some claim that it makes food taste like chlorine.