How to grind cinnamon sticks: 3 Best Methods
Cinnamon is a versatile spice that adds a warm and sweet flavor to both sweet and savory dishes. Whether you have cinnamon sticks or powder at home, grinding cinnamon sticks can make them easier to use in your recipes. In this article, we will explore the three best ways to grind cinnamon sticks: using a coffee or spice grinder, a microplane, or a simple Ziploc bag and meat tenderizer.
Understanding Cinnamon Sticks
Cinnamon sticks, also known as cinnamon quills, are pieces of bark from the cinnamon tree. These sticks are rolled into hollow tubes and typically measure about 7 to 10 centimeters in length. Cinnamon sticks have a reddish-brown color, and the inside is darker and powdery with a smooth texture.
Cinnamon sticks and cinnamon powder are commonly used to flavor foods, beverages, sauces, and various dishes. While cinnamon sticks can be used to add flavor to a dish, they are usually removed before serving. Cinnamon powder, on the other hand, is easier to incorporate into recipes because it melts into other ingredients.
Why grind cinnamon sticks?
In some recipes, cinnamon sticks are used by soaking them in a liquid or with other ingredients to impart their flavor before being discarded. However, there are recipes that specifically call for the use of ground cinnamon. Cinnamon powder offers convenience and ease of use because it blends seamlessly with other ingredients. Grinding cinnamon sticks gives you the option of using both forms of cinnamon in your kitchen.
When stored properly, cinnamon sticks retain their flavor for a long time. By keeping cinnamon sticks on hand, you can grind them whenever you need cinnamon powder. This allows you to enjoy the benefits of both whole cinnamon sticks and ground cinnamon powder while saving money.
Method 1: Coffee/spice grinder
Using a coffee or spice grinder is one of the easiest and most effective ways to grind cinnamon sticks. These grinders are specifically designed for grinding spices and produce excellent results. While the capacity of these grinders is usually limited, it is sufficient for most recipes that call for ground cinnamon.
To grind cinnamon sticks using a coffee or spice grinder, follow these steps:
- Make sure the grinder is clean and free of coffee or spice residue that may affect the taste of the cinnamon.
- Determine the number of cinnamon sticks you will need to grind and check that they will fit in the grinder’s small bowl. If the sticks are too long, break them in half.
- Avoid overcrowding the grinder to ensure proper grinding. If necessary, work in small batches.
- Place a few cinnamon sticks in the grinder and grind to the desired consistency. Grind longer if necessary.
- Transfer the ground cinnamon to a small bowl and repeat the process with the remaining cinnamon sticks.
Using a coffee or spice grinder will give you a fine powder and eliminate any fibrous pieces that may remain. This method is quick and efficient, making it an excellent choice when you need to grind a small amount of cinnamon sticks.
Method 2: Microplane Zester
A microplane zester is a versatile tool commonly used for zesting citrus or grating hard cheeses. It can also be used to grind cinnamon sticks, especially when you need a small amount of powdered cinnamon to garnish desserts or flavor smoothies.
To grind cinnamon sticks with a Microplane Zester, follow these steps:
- Make sure the Microplane Zester is clean and free of residue such as peel, cheese or chocolate.
- Select a cinnamon stick of appropriate length, avoiding sticks that are too long to prevent accidents.
- Hold the cinnamon stick close to the base, leaving enough space to prevent your fingers from touching the zester.
- Depending on the design of the microplane, grate the cinnamon stick up the blades or in an up-and-down motion, shaving off tiny pieces of the stick.
- When using the microplane directly over a dessert, spread the cinnamon powder evenly by moving the microplane over the surface.
- Stop grating when you reach the end of the cinnamon stick to avoid injury.
Using a microplane zester is ideal when you only need a small amount of powdered cinnamon. It is a quick and easy method that requires minimal effort. However, if you need to grind multiple cinnamon sticks, this method can become tedious and you may have some waste as you may not be able to grind the last bits of each stick.
Method 3: Ziploc bag and meat grinder
If you don’t have access to a microplane grinder or a coffee/spice grinder, you can use a simple method involving a Ziploc bag and a meat tenderizer or rolling pin. This method allows you to grind a larger quantity of cinnamon sticks at once without the need for special equipment.
To grind cinnamon sticks using a Ziploc bag and a meat tenderizer, follow these steps:
- Place the desired number of cinnamon sticks in a sturdy Ziploc bag, making sure the bag is securely sealed.
- Place the bag on a cutting board or other sturdy surface.
- Using a meat tenderizer or rolling pin, gently pound the cinnamon sticks inside the bag. Apply even pressure to crush the sticks into a coarse powder.
- Test the consistency of the ground cinnamon. If necessary, continue pounding until the desired texture is achieved.
- Open the Ziploc bag and transfer the ground cinnamon to a small bowl or container. Repeat with any remaining cinnamon sticks.
While this method may require more physical effort than using a grinder or microplane, it is an effective alternative if you don’t have access to specialized tools. Keep in mind, however, that the resulting powder may be slightly coarser than the other methods.
Grinding cinnamon sticks allows you to make the most of this flavorful spice in your recipes. Whether you choose to use a coffee or spice grinder, a microplane, or a Ziploc bag and meat tenderizer, each method offers its own advantages, depending on the tools you have available and the amount of cinnamon you need to grind.
Using a coffee or spice grinder produces the finest and most consistent results, making it ideal for recipes that require a smooth texture. A microplane zester is perfect for small amounts of cinnamon powder and offers convenience and ease of use. On the other hand, the Ziploc bag and meat tenderizer method is an easy and accessible option when specialized tools are not available.
By understanding the different methods of grinding cinnamon sticks, you can enhance the flavor of your dishes and enjoy the versatility of this delightful spice. Experiment with these techniques to find the one that best suits your needs and enhances your culinary creations.
Can I use a blender instead of a coffee or spice grinder?
Yes, a blender can be used as an alternative to a coffee or spice grinder. However, blenders are typically designed for larger amounts of ingredients, so it may be difficult to achieve a fine powder consistency with small amounts of cinnamon sticks. When using a blender, it is recommended to work in larger batches to ensure effective grinding.
What is the best way to store ground cinnamon?
To preserve the flavor and aroma of ground cinnamon, store it in an airtight container in a cool, dark place, such as a pantry or cupboard. Avoid exposure to heat, moisture, and direct sunlight, which can degrade the quality of the spice. Properly stored, ground cinnamon can retain its flavor for up to six months.
Can I grind cinnamon sticks without special equipment?
Yes, if you don’t have a coffee or spice grinder, you can use a simple method involving a Ziploc bag and a meat tenderizer or rolling pin. While this method requires more physical effort, it can effectively grind cinnamon sticks into a coarse powder suitable for many recipes.
What do I do with leftover cinnamon sticks?
Leftover cinnamon sticks can still be used to add flavor to various recipes. You can add them to hot beverages like tea, cider, or mulled wine for a warm and aromatic touch. They can also be used in simmering potpourri or as a natural air freshener by boiling them with water and other aromatic ingredients.
Can I grind cinnamon sticks ahead of time?
It is generally recommended to grind cinnamon sticks as needed to preserve the freshness and flavor of the spice. However, if you prefer to grind in advance, store the ground cinnamon in an airtight container to minimize exposure to air and moisture. Use ground cinnamon within a few weeks for the best flavor.
Can I use ground cinnamon in recipes instead of whole cinnamon sticks?
Yes, ground cinnamon can be used in place of whole cinnamon sticks in most recipes. However, keep in mind that the flavor intensity may be slightly different. As a general rule, 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon is about the same as one cinnamon stick. Adjust the amount to taste.