You change the way you cook with herbs based on what type it is.
🎶 Herbalicious definition make them cooks go loco 🎶 Sorry I was channeling my inner Fergie 😞.
Let’s talk herbs.
Herbs have essential oils that provide their flavor. I’ve learned that in order to get the most out of those oils you need to consider how and, more importantly, when you’re using them.
And how do we do that? It mostly comes down to which type of herb we are using.
Hardy herbs hold up much better under heat. Their flavor releases slowly which means you should use them earlier on in the cooking process. In fact, hardy herbs are pretty pungent on their own. Heat will soften the herbs, removing some sharpness they may have when they are raw.
A nice benefit of hardy herbs is that you can use them whole, stems and all:
The stems can be pretty woody, especially rosemary and thyme. So make sure you remove them after you’re done cooking. You’ve extracted most of the flavor anyway.
Fun fact: Cilantro stems interestingly hold up like a hardier herb, but they can actually be diced and used like cilantro leaves. They are quite delicious and even more flavorful than the leaves! So please don’t throw them out.
Fun fact #2: Hardier herbs also hold up better as dried herbs, keeping more of their flavor over thyme (😉). To get more flavor out of your dried herbs, grind or crush them before using. And since herbs release their flavor better in a fat, you can also cook them in a bit of oil first so their aroma blooms nicely.
Delicate herbs lose their flavor quickly and easily! This means you have to be smart about when you add them.
You do not want to add delicate herbs early on in the cooking process. Heat mutes their flavor. Instead, use delicate herbs after something is done cooking or as a garnish right before serving.
When the leaves of an herb are plucked, torn, sliced, or bruised in any way, the glands that hold the herb’s aroma burst (💥) and release their flavor.
And you don’t want your cutting board to end up with more herb flavor than your food.
So don’t over chop delicate herbs. Tear them gently by hand or even snip them with kitchen shears. If you do slice them, make sure your knife is extremely sharp to prevent bruising.
Lastly, because delicate herbs release their flavor quickly, make sure to tear or slice them at the very last moment. For example, have you ever cut up basil in advance, and then it turned brown? Not only did it look less appealing, but I bet you it didn’t taste as “basil-y” either.
The fundamentals really are pretty simple:
(1) Know generally that herbs fall into two buckets: Hardy and Delicate
(2) Hardy herbs release their flavor slowly and hold up better under heat. Use them earlier on when cooking.
(3) Delicate herbs release their aromatic properties extremely quickly and easily! Here are three tips to keep the flavor in:
Where I learned this: The Science of Good Cooking and The Science of Cooking