8 Spice Secrets from Carla Hall

8 Spice Secrets from Carla Hall
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8 Spice Secrets from Carla Hall

Read on to learn Carla Hall's spice secrets.

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Spices she always has in her pantry

Cumin, cinnamon, coriander, turmeric, ginger powder and dry thyme are spices Carla is sure to always have stocked. "Even in my basic, basic pantry, I'm going to have those," she says.

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The most underrated spice

Carla says not enough home cooks use whole cinnamon. "I think people will put the cinnamon stick in something to infuse it—in a sauce, apple cider or chocolate—but I don't think people think to roast the cinnamon stick and then actually grate it into something," Carla says. "To actually toast and grind your own cinnamon is just so amazing. I think it will change your opinion on how you use the cinnamon stick."

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Spices she uses the most

Carla works through her cinnamon and cumin the fastest in the kitchen—but if it came down to one, she uses cinnamon the most. "I love cinnamon in both sweet and savory dishes," she says.

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Biggest mistake people make

Carla says most home cooks don't know to put their spices in the dish at the beginning of the cooking process. "If you are making a stew, you should put [the spices] in with your onions so they can toast and the oils can come out," Carla says.

Adding a spice at the end of cooking a dish or just sprinkling it on top when it's done won't allow the spices to come through in the taste. "It's terrible...You can see I feel very strongly about it. It's a very simple thing that can be corrected that I want people not to do—just in case they invite me over," Carla jokes.

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Dried or fresh?

It depends on the dish, according to Carla. "[Fresh spices] will burn if you're doing a spice rub or grilling, so to incorporate them in a rub, I use the powdered form," she says. "If I'm doing a marinade or a sauce, I use the fresh [version]."

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How to keep them fresher longer

Carla warns that air and steam kill spices, so opening their containers and not closing them carefully can ruin them. Her trick? Not discarding that paper foil seal that comes with a new container. "Keep the foil on the spice," she says. "Don't depend on that shaker. Keep the foil [attached], pour [the spice] out to measure, then use the foil and then the top to keep [spices] fresh."

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Spice that's worth the price

Carla thinks saffron is worth splurging on, but don't bother with the powdered version. "I would never get saffron powder—not to be a snob," Carla says. "If you can't use saffron [strands], just use something else instead of the powder. The taste is so different. You don't get that delicate bitterness that you get when you use the strands...It changes the flavor."

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Odd pairings she loves

Carla uses poppy seeds, ground cinnamon, paprika and white pepper together. She says it's "kind of odd," but she uses it in her poppy seed pork tenderloin with a fresh herb crust.

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The Chew host Carla Hall knows that spices can transform the simplest of dishes into something totally new and delicious—which is why she keeps a ton of them stocked in her pantry. So many, in fact, that she says her husband asks why they have such a large amount at home.

Check out the slideshow above to learn which spices Carla Hall always has on hand, how she keeps them fresher for longer and the one big spice mistake most home cooks make.

If you love Carla, check out her new cookbook, Carla's Comfort Foods: Favorite Dishes from Around the World.

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