Why is it not recommended to freeze spices

The Washington Post – Each week, Aaron Hutcherson and Becky Crystal answer questions and offer practical culinary advice in conversation with readers.

Aaron and Becky write and test recipes for Voraciously, the Washington Post team dedicated to helping people cook with confidence. They were recently joined by recipe editor Ann Maloney.

Q: Can I freeze ground paprika to extend its shelf life? It loses its flavor immediately after opening the package, and I hate throwing it away after using only a few tablespoons.
a: A lot of the advice I find seems to suggest that freezing spices isn’t ideal due to condensation and moisture that can be introduced, especially with constant opening and closing. Try not to buy more than you need and store it in a cool, dark place in a good jar or airtight container. That would help some. Another option might be to buy a mild dried pepper that you like, roast and grind until you have fresh paprika to use as needed. – Becky Crystal (BK)

Q: I bought a multigrain loaf of bread featuring sprouted wheat. It came pre-cut. For the first time in my bread loving life, the slices were too thick to be used successfully in sandwiches because all I tasted was bread and the bread was too soft to cut into thinner slices. I suppose I could make open-faced sandwiches and eat them with a fork and knife but then it’s a sit-down meal. I bet you have suggestions!

a: Some other ways to use bread might include French toast, bread pudding, and toppings, or turn it into toast or breadcrumbs. – Aaron Hutcherson (Uh)

Q: How can I grill peeled shrimp without the skin sticking to the meat?

a: A few things can cause this: young or older shrimp, grilling that isn’t hot enough and overcooking come to mind.

I love grilling shrimp with the skin on because it protects the tender meat and keeps it moist. I have a few tips that may help with sticking. First, bigger is better. I prefer the jumbo shrimp, but the large size will do. Just get the freshest shrimp you can afford.

Cover the grill and heat it over medium heat, about 350 to 450 degrees. You want it nice and hot before you start.

Then, watch the cooking time. Shrimp cook quickly, about three to seven minutes, depending on size, so keep a close eye on them. The shrimp should turn pink and the flesh inside should be opaque. Once you see this happening, pull out the shrimp and test to make sure they are done. Then quickly remove the shrimp to a plate. (If you boil the shrimp and overcook it, they will stick too.)

Do you put them on skewers with string? If so, sew only the thickest part of the shrimp. (You can also use a grill basket, which is a good option and keeps the crust intact.)

You have inspired me. I will be re-testing my favorite recipe and sharing it soon. Hope this is useful. – Anne Maloney (AM)

Q: I’d like to find some homemade adaptations of the “tacos” I knew as a kid, ones that use crescent rolls as the crust. My goal is something that still offers the taco experience but holds up better to eating (serving someone with some skill challenges that make tortilla tacos frustrating at best). Would regular crackers or cornbread work as a base? Should I bake either/both barbeques before adding the tacos and other stuff?

a: It’s hard to make suggestions without knowing the taco recipe you grew up on, but I think the crackers can be substituted for crescent rolls without having to make any other changes. – Uh

Q: Sometimes I make a batch of cooked chicken pieces to add to vegetable dishes to make a complete meal. I cut the breasts into pieces, add some kind of spice or herb mixture and some salt and cook in a regular frying pan. When I’m done cooking, they seem to be fine. Make sure to cook the center with a thermometer. If I grab a few pieces at the right time, it looks good. I put the rest in an airtight container in the fridge and each time after that, the chicken is tough and dry. I reheat it in the microwave. Not long. It’s very clear that I cook the chops in the first place. What internal temperature do they have to reach in order for them to be cooked enough to be okay to eat after just warming up, but not too hard and dry? I eat it anyway because who wants to throw in a perfectly good food, but it’s not as bland as freshly cooked chops.

a: Chicken does not suffer from the same type of impromptu cooking as other meats, so the USDA recommends a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 for all poultry. I find that refrigeration does not always keep the chicken as tender and juicy as it was when it was first made. I recommend trying a different method with more moist heat. Boiling in liquid is a great option, and you can even use broth or flavor the water in other ways for added value. I’m also a fan of steaming chicken – I often do it in a pressure cooker.

You can try to skip reheating, if a setting makes sense, such as a cold salad or sandwich. This may prevent the meat from drying out. Or cover and heat with a little liquid in the microwave. – BK

Q: In my older years, garlic became a spice that I unfortunately had to avoid. Do you have an alternative recommendation for recipes that call for garlic as the primary flavoring agent?

a: They will all be a little different, but shallots, shallots, onions, and green onions are all good possibilities depending on the recipe! – BK

Q: How do you know a watermelon is ripe – before you buy it? A grocery employee told me that ripeness is yellow at one end. I thought green meant ripe (with watermelon only). The watermelons were too big for me to pick and pinch, and I’m not sure what the watermelon looked like anyway. what you say?

a: Watermelon may be most closely related to it. Slap it and hear a hollow sound? Amy Goldman et al. do not believe this self-test is a reliable indicator, although if it appears unclear, it is very mature. Instead, Goldman suggests looking for a yellow, not white, or light green spot on the underside of the watermelon where it has rested on the ground. If the dark green streaks or spots are tinged with yellow, this is an indication of sunburn and a sign that the watermelon has been outside for a long time. A good watermelon should be gently rounded at the ends and with a dull, not very shiny skin. It should be heavy for its size. – BK

Q: I have some smoothie recipes that I like that use some avocados but not whole ones. They are on the sweet side. All the instructions I’ve found for freezing avocados say adding lemon juice. Does that spoil the flavor of the juice? If so, how do I store the unused portion?

a: I think the lemon would be quite at home in juice, and I doubt it would be very prominent anyway. You can also leave the remaining half of the avocado intact and treat the surface with a little lemon juice before wrapping it or placing it in an airtight container. That should prevent you for a day or two, and a bit of browning from oxidizing, if you get anything, it won’t be too bad once you mix everything together. – BK

Q: I currently have no interest in cooking myself and would love to have some ways to use simple and delicious recipes.

a: For simple and delicious recipes, I always turn to pantry meals. While yes, this is a kind of self-promotion for pantry recipes that I share regularly, it’s actually something I do regularly. Just last night I cleaned out my fridge, freezer, and cupboards to make dinner instead of ordering delivery (which I often do) – I ended up making pasta with sausage, beans from the can, garlic, and frozen broccoli. – Uh

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