How to Release and Enhance the Flavor and Aroma of Spices

Having a variety of spices in your kitchen-cupboard or spice rack is a good idea, but they can become stale and most need to be prompted to yield their floras and aromas yield their full potential in various dishes.

Having a culinary use guide for spices is also important so you know which spice goes with which food.

Finally it is handy to have a chart showing which spices pair with various food ingredients so when you a planning to cook a dish you can see which spices go best with that food type.

This article provides meets all of these requirements: storage and handling, releasing flavors and best uses for spices.

Buy small quantities of fresh spices as you need them as they don't store well when ground.
Buy small quantities of fresh spices as you need them as they don't store well when ground. Source: Public Domain

Storage and Refreshing of Spices When Stale

Spices get stale and lose their punch and aroma quickly, especially when ground. Use the sniff test to see is they are still alive.

There is nothing worse than cooking a lovely dish and finding that the spices were insipid and failed to perform.

The best option is to buy whole seeds and whole spices. For ground spices buy small quantities regularly rather than buying in bulk. The excess will be wasted when the spices go stale.

Always buy from suppliers that have a high turnovers they go stale on the shelves. Store spices in airtight containers, kept in a cool, dark place, not in open drawers of a spice cabinet.

Try to add label with purchase dates. Oddly the best place to store spices is in the refrigerator. The the cooler spices are kept, the livelier will be the aroma and flavor.

Releasing the Flavor and Aroma of Spices Prior to Adding to Dishes

Spices require hard treatment to release their flavor and aromas. Only when you make them scream will they deliver their true potential.

Spices need to be baked, roasted in pan or toasted to enliven them. For whole spices, put a heavy frying pan on the stove and preheat dry to a moderate temperature. Add the spices, stirring frequently to gently cook them for 1-3 minutes.

Don't burn them, but the fragrance will tell you when they are ready. You can also enliven spices by placing them on a tray and heating in the oven. Spices can also be toasted under a hot grill. 

Grinding Spices to Release their Full Quota of Flavor and Fragrance

A heavy pestle and mortar is fine for small seeds and spice ingredients. Add a little salt to help the grind. Whole Nutmeg and Cinnamon can also be rasped with a suitable tool. For large quantities of spices and larger items use a coffee grinder, an electric spice grinder or even a general purpose grinder when other ingredients are added.

Use Infusion Methods to Add Flavor While Avoiding Unwanted Surprises

Star anise, fennel, cardamom and even vanilla can be too overpowering for someone who eats them whole. Use a bag or remove these items before serving the dish. This allow their fragrance and flavor to be infused into the soup of other dishes, while removing them before serving

Tempering Spices in Hot Oil at the Start of Preparing a Dish

Tempering is the process of adding spices to hot oil, briefly before the other ingredients are added. Cumin, chilli, mustard, garlic and curry leaves should be tempered in hot oil. It is worthwhile to temper spiced rubs and marinades before they are used. After all the purpose of the marinading is to transfer the flavors to the meat. If the spices are only doing half their job, the results may be disappointing. Slash thick pieces of meat to help the rub to penetrate.

Balancing and Blending Mixtures of Spices

Sometimes the recipes overdo the spice list and the combination can be nondescript and too overwhelming. Adding seasonings such as salt, soy sauce, sugar, lemon and lime juice can often help balance and smooth-out flavors. You may need seasoning to offset the bitterness of the spices. Remember to adjust the spice mixtures to suit your own taste preferences.

Uses of Spices in Cooking

The toe tables below summarise the best spices to use for various dishes and the optimal use for spices. This can be used to pair spices with food.

Culinery Uses of Common Spices

Common Uses
relishes; pies; puddings; cooked fruits; poached fish; braised meats and sausages
cakes; bread; cookies; biscuits; pastries; and sauces 
compound butters; fish; marinades; salads; egg dished; pesto and various tomato dishes
Bay Leaf 
stocks; soups; sauces; curries; stews and braised meat dishes. 
Bouquet Garni 
soups; stews; stocks and sauces. 
rye bread; sauerkraut ; cabbage and various Eastern European dishes
curries; pickling; stews and Danish pastries
soups; sauces; seafood and fish dishes and various egg dishes
egg dishes; soups; salads; various sauces; dressings; and chicken and fish dishes
Chili Powder 
stir fries; grilled and barbecued meats; curries; stews and various sauces.
sauces; fish soups; cheese dishes; egg dishes and salads
salads; sauces; soup; salsa; eggs and dressings. 
hot beverages; ham; desserts; pastries; breads; stewed fruits and preserves
cakes; fruits; pastries; pickling; hams; braised meats; sauces; stocks and marinades
dressings; salsa; gingerbread; curry; pork; stocks; sausages and pickling
rice; meat; fish; sauces; soups; vegetables; curry dishes; cheese dishes; egg dishes; salsa; sausages; curry powder blends and chili blends
vinegar; sauces; vegetables; fish & shellfish; soups; salads; marinades; sauerkraut; soups and pickling
sausages; marinades; tomato sauces and pickling 
Japanese cuisine; Caribbean dishes; Chinese dishes; chutney; pickling; curry dishes; fruits; desserts and baked goods
Juniper Berry 
game dishes; marinades and sauerkraut 
preserves; vegetables; fish; sausages; fruit; desserts and baked goods
sauces; salads; vegetables; soups; stews; poultry; pates; sausage; lamb; veal and beef
sauces; soups; jellies; potatoes; carrots; peas; fruit beverages; tea; fruits and lamb
stocks; soups; sauces; grilled meat and roasts 
Mustard Seed 
prepared mustard; sauces; pickling and salsa 
salads; pickling and mustard products 
breads; desserts; vegetables; veal; chicken; soups; cream sauces; pies and baked goods
marinades; salads; meats; stews; sauces; soups; tomato sauces; Mexican dishes and Italian dishes
garnishes; dressings; salads; sauces; seafood; meats and fish
potatoes; vegetables; salads; sauces; stews; fried and garnish 
Poppy Seeds 
dressings; salsa; cakes; cookies; fillings; pastry; rolls and breads
marinades; salads; stews; soups; sauces; beef; fish and lamb
various meats; curry; sauces; soups; potatoes; rice and baked goods
fish; salads; stews; soups; poultry; meat and stuffing
sauces; fish; meats; soups; stuffing; vegetables; eggs and salads
bread and roll garnish; salads; stir-fries and baked goods
Bearnaise sauce; chicken; fish; salads; dressings and eggs dishes 
salad dressing; poultry; meats; sauces; stocks; chowders and soups
chow-chow; rice; eggs; salads; relish; pickles and curry powder

Which Foods Pair with Various Spices

Spice Options
Beans (dried)
thyme; savory; sage; pepper; parsley; chili; cayenne and cumin
thyme; tarragon; savory; sage; rosemary; pepper; parsley; oregano; mustard; marjoram; garlic; cumin; curry; cilantro; chili; bay and basil
thyme; sage; saffron; rosemary; garlic; dill; cumin; coriander; cinnamon; cardamom; caraway; basil and anise; poppy seeds; oregano; orange peel; lemon peel
basil; caraway; celery seed; chervil; chili; chives; mint; mustard; nutmeg; paprika; parsley; pepper; sage; tarragon; thyme; coriander; cumin; dill; garlic; horseradish; lemon peel and marjoram
curry; cinnamon; bay; basil; allspice; thyme; tarragon; savory; sage; saffron; rosemary; paprika; mustard; lemongrass; ginger; garlic; fennel and dill
parsley; savory; thyme; chili; curry; dill and marjoram
thyme; tarragon; sage; pepper; parsley; paprika; oregano; marjoram; lemon peel; ginger; fennel; dill; curry; chives; chili; chervil and basil
oregano; mustard; lemon peel; ginger; garlic; dill fennel; curry; chives; celery seed; cayenne; marjoram; tarragon; savory; sage; saffron; thyme; rosemary; parsley; bay; basil and anise
cardamom; cinnamon; allspice; anise; cloves; coriander; ginger and mint
rosemary; parsley; oregano; mustard; thyme; tarragon; savory; mint; marjoram; garlic; dill; curry; cumin; coriander; cinnamon; bay and basil
parsley; paprika; oregano; marjoram; dill; coriander; chives; chervil; thyme; tarragon; rosemary; poppy seed; celery seed; caraway and basil
Salad Dressings
parsley; paprika; oregano; mustard; marjoram; horseradish; garlic; fennel; dill; thyme; tarragon; saffron; rosemary; pepper; chives; celery seed and basil
garlic; dill; chives; caraway; basil; thyme; tarragon; rosemary; parsley; oregano; mint; marjoram and lovage
parsley; marjoram; garlic; fennel; dill; cumin; chives; thyme; savory; sage; rosemary; pepper; chili; chervil; bay and basil
lemon peel; ginger; fennel; cloves; rosemary; orange peel; mint; nutmeg; mace; cinnamon; cardamom; anise; angelica and allspice
thyme; coriander; tarragon; savory; rosemary; parsley; oregano; marjoram; lemongrass; gumbo file; ginger; garlic; fennel; dill; curry; chili; cinnamon; bay and basil

Spices really make simple meals special.
Spices really make simple meals special. Source: Public Domain
These days you can buy small quantities of spices in small packets, which is better than buying them in bulk.
These days you can buy small quantities of spices in small packets, which is better than buying them in bulk. Source: Public Domain
Spices add flavor and aroma. Learn how to activate your spices to maximize their benefits
Spices add flavor and aroma. Learn how to activate your spices to maximize their benefits. Source: Public Domain
Learn how to get maximum benefits from spices in this article
Learn how to get maximum benefits from spices in this article. Source: Public Domain