Spice Cutting

Product Selection

A spice cutting is the industry’s way of evaluating spices, herbs, and seasonings, and comparing them to the competition. The key is to choose spices that are used most often and will allow the greatest distinguishing characteristics from the competitor’s.

While price, availability, and good service should always play a part in any ingredient decision, the quality of the product itself should be the single most important factor.

Maximizing Palatability

Spices and herbs can fatigue the taste buds quickly if tasting too much too fast. In order to evaluate all items equally, split the samples into several groups:

First — Mild, non-fatiguing items

Middle — Visual items

Last — Spicy, fatiguing items

Also, using ‘no salt’ crackers or apple slices between tastings will help cleanse the palate and lessen the fatigue of taste buds.

Cajun Seasoning

Preparation Instructions

  • Heat oil in fry pan over Medium High heat.
  • Add chicken tenders. Cook over Medium High heat until center of chicken is no longer pink and juices run clear. Turn off burner.
  • Sprinkle 1 teaspoon Cajun Seasoning over chicken. Stir with spatula to evenly coat. Cover and let sit for 5 minutes on Low Heat for flavor to develop.
  • Use apple slices to cut the heat of the seasoning.
  • Can also cut 1/4 tsp. Cajun Seasoning in 1 cup hot water.

Visual Appearance

Ground Red/Brown powder, small particle size.

Taste

Spicy hot, slightly sweet flavor.

Aroma

Spicy full-bodied and pungent, a blend of traditional Southern country seasonings.

Unique Characteristics of Product

Cajun is defined as a combination of French and Southern country cuisine. Typical ingredients may include: garlic, onion, thyme, cayenne pepper and a small amount of salt.

Inferior Product

Inferior quality blend is not very well-balanced. Often times it does not include garlic, onion or thyme flavors.

Cinnamon, Ground

Preparation Instructions

  • Microwave 1-cup water on HIGH for 2 minutes.
  • Add ½ tsp. Ground Cinnamon to water and stir.
  • Let stand 15 minutes for flavor to develop.
  • Strain Cinnamon tea through paper towel to remove spice particles.
  • Evaluate the Ground Cinnamon by tasting the water.
  • Solution may thicken

Visual Appearance

Medium brown colored ground product that is fine and uniform in particle size. It may be erroneous to judge this product on a deep brown color, because good volatile oil content can come from light to dark brown cinnamon.

Taste

Sweet taste, woody bite, pungent.

Aroma

Strong chemical odor due to cinnamic aldehyde.

Unique Characteristics of Product

From the outer bark of tropical evergreen tree that is known as a cassia tree.

Inferior Product

It should be noted that this is an agricultural product, and the color of the product has no effect on the flavor.

Cumin, Ground

Preparation Instructions

  • Add 1/4 tsp. Ground Cumin to 1 cup of warm Tomato Juice and stir.
  • Let stand 20 minutes for flavor to develop.
  • Taste the Cumin and Tomato Juice mixture.

Visual Appearance

The ground product is yellowish-brown in color with a strong, distinctive, aromatic, warm flavor. Fluffy with fresh aroma and high volatile oil content. Consistent fine ground visual appearance.

Taste

Strong, authentic flavor evoking images of Indian and Mexican cuisine.

Aroma

Soapy, musty, carvone (rye-like), grapefruit.

Unique Characteristics of Product

Good quality Cumin can be identified by its fresh carvone (rye-like) aroma. Good quality Ground Cumin will not taste dirty, earthy or have a heavy musty flavor.

Inferior Product

Has a sawdust-like appearance with visible sticks and stems. Fibery appearance is due to a roller mill vs. cryogenic milling process. A roller mill will leave the product looking grainy, with less flavor and aroma.

Garlic, Powder

Preparation Instructions

  • Microwave 1-cup water on HIGH for 2 minutes.
  • Add 1/4 tsp. Garlic (powder or granluated) to tea ball and submerge; OR add to water and stir.
  • Let stand 15 minutes for flavors to develop.
  • Remove tea ball; OR strain Garlic tea through paper towel to remove spice particles.
  • Evaluate Garlic by tasting the water.
  • Take a few bites of unsalted crackers to cut the build up of garlic in the mouth.

Visual Appearance

Garlic Powder – Creamy white – beige powder, no lumps.
Garlic Granulated – Tan with coarse granules.

Taste

Dehydrated Garlic should have the fresh, warm, pungent taste of garlic. Additional flavor notes: sulfur, toasted, caramelized. Should have a strong, balanced flavor without overpowering harsh notes.

Aroma

Dehydrated Garlic should have an aroma similar to fresh.

Unique Characteristics of Product

One pound of Dehydrated Garlic can replace 5 pounds of raw unprepared garlic.

Inferior Product

Dark particles are an indication of low or poor product quality and aroma.

Oregano, Whole Leaf

Preparation Instructions

  • Microwave 1-cup water on HIGH for 2 minutes.
  • Add a rounded 1/2 tsp. Oregano Leaf to tea ball and submerge; OR add to water and stir.
  • Let mixture stand 15 minutes for flavors to develop.
  • Remove tea ball; OR strain Oregano tea through paper towel to remove leaves.
  • Evaluate Oregano by tasting the water; carefully avoiding the leaves, if possible. Biting into a leaf can leave bitter notes in the mouth.

Visual Appearance

Should have the appearance of small green, bud-like leaves.

Taste

Mexican Oregano has a harsh, bitter, medicinal flavor. Mediterranean Oregano is a different genus and species with a rounded, hay-like, minty flavor.

Aroma

Harsh, sharp aroma in Mexican Oregano. Hay-like and green minty aroma in Mediterranean Oregano.

Unique Characteristics of Product

Oregano is grown in the wild and is primarily picked or harvested by hand.

Inferior Product

Very fine and dusty, not a whole leaf. Product may be adulterated if the leaves are squared off and cut-looking. It will not have a strong, balanced flavor due to low volatile oil content.

Paprika, Spanish

Visual Appearance

Deep red appearance, uniform particle size.

Extractable Color

100 Minimum.**

** Extractable Color: The amount of pigment that can be extracted from the product and is a measure of quality. Extractable color does not correlate with visual product appearance.

Aroma

Minimal.

Unique Characteristics of Product

Paprika is sensitive to light. Store in a cool dark place.

Parsley Flakes

Visual Appearance

Green, leafy. Medium green to bright green color. Product’s color is its most important attribute. Parsley should be dustless. Minimal brown or yellow leaves.

Taste

Mild flavors, including grassy and green.

Aroma

Grassy.

Unique Characteristics of Product

Parsley is very light sensitive and should be stored in a dark place.

Inferior Product

An inferior quality product will typically contain an excessive amount of yellow and brown leaves and a high amount of stems or dust.

Pepper, Black Ground

Preparation Instructions

  • Microwave 2-cups water on HIGH for 2 minutes.
  • Add 1/4 tsp. Black Pepper to tea ball and submerge; OR add to water and stir.
  • Let stand in hot water for 15 minutes for flavors to develop.
  • Remove tea ball; OR strain Black Pepper tea through paper towel to remove spice particles.
  • Evaluate Black Pepper by tasting the water; use unsalted soda crackers to cleanse the palate. Be careful not to bite into a black pepper flake; this will cause an intense burning sensation.

Visual Appearance

Product should have a uniform mesh size and a gray/black color.

Taste

Hot, pungent, burning, musty.

Aroma

Hot, pungent, strong, musty.

Unique Characteristics of Product

Black Pepper fines are undesirable, but it should be noted that they provide a strong pepper flavor.

Inferior Product

An inferior quality product will have excessive amounts of fines, which adhere to the sides of glass pepper shakers. While cutting, the inferior product may taste hotter since fines easily release their volatile oil. It will have a very dark appearance with little flavor.