Grind dried cloves for curries, stews, marinades, and more. Easy food prep methods from mortar and pestle to coffee grinder, and food processor to your simple knife blade. Discover the best way to grind cloves today.
A pinch of fresh cloves can open up new dimensions of delectability in everything from savory entrees to indulgent desserts, but only if you know how to bring out the best in them.
The key is to grind down the whole buds to unlock their full range of complex flavors and help them better assimilate into whatever you’re adding them to. This article will cover why and how best to grind cloves.
Why Is It Necessary to Grind Cloves?
As the saying goes, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Cloves are no exception.
While this potent spice is delightful in the right doses, excess amounts can be positively overpowering. Biting down on one of the hard, woody buds whole (or worse, a mouthful of them) puts you at risk of being unable to taste much of anything else for some time afterward. So whether you’re using cloves for a curry or marinade recipe, you need to temper the flavor by grinding cloves first.
The Best Way to Grind Cloves
Most culinary whizzes agree that the most effective means of reducing cloves to a size more suitable for cooking is an old-fashioned mortar and pestle.
This timeless kitchen combo is much easier to work with than other handheld implements and will give you far more control over the final grind size than an automated appliance. Achieving a fine grind is of crucial importance, as overly large pieces may throw off both the flavor and texture of the item you’re preparing.
Without further ado, here are half a dozen ways to get your freshly-toasted cloves ready for their big debut.
Mortar & Pestle
As mentioned, a mortar and pestle is probably the number one way to get cloves recipe-ready. Hand-grinding is exceedingly simple, gives you the greatest amount of control over your grind size, and makes cleanup a breeze. It also provides a sense of intimacy and satisfaction that other methods don’t.
- Place a small handful of whole, toasted cloves in the bowl of your mortar (a little goes a long way).
- Use the fat, blunt end of your pestle to pulverize the cloves until they take on the desired texture. Use small, circular motions and work close to the sloped sides of the bowl to trap and crush bigger chunks rather than just pushing them around.
- Transfer the ground cloves to a separate measuring dish or airtight container for storage.
The coffee grinder method will probably be the most convenient for most home cooks. Its main advantage is speed—it only takes a few seconds to pulse several grams worth of whole buds into a fine powder.
The main disadvantage of this method is that it can make it difficult to arrive at a uniform consistency. Plus, your coffee grinder will leach the unmistakable taste of cloves into everything else that goes in it for days unless properly cleaned afterward.
- Add your whole cloves to your coffee grinder. Be sure to leave ample room for them to circulate inside.
- Grind the cloves continuously for 30-60 seconds, or until they reach the grind size you’re after. Shaking the grinder periodically will help you achieve a more even grind.
- Empty the contents of the grinder into a measuring dish or airtight storage container.
- Scrub out your coffee grinder thoroughly using warm, soapy water.
Handheld graters and zesters can work surprisingly well for grinding whole spices.
They offer a similar degree of control and customization as a mortar and pestle, just with one fewer component to worry about. The only trouble is the danger that they can pose to your fingertips and the slow, tedious way they force you to proceed as a result.
- Hold the grater firmly in your non-dominant hand over a cutting board or measuring dish.
- Grab a whole clove bud with your dominant hand. Try to grip it as far down on the tapered end as possible.
- Gently sweep the bud back and forth over the surface of the grater, being careful not to let your fingers get too close to the tool.
- Grate as much of the clove as you safely can, then either discard the remaining portion or set it aside to reuse later.
- Repeat the process with the rest of your buds.
- Use your ground cloves right away or transfer them to an airtight storage container.
A pepper grinder may seem like a sensible choice for processing cloves and other whole spices, and it is—with a couple of caveats.
Cloves are much harder than peppercorns, so you’ll have your work cut out for you. You should also be prepared to accept some inconsistency in terms of grind size. The latter may be an issue if you intend to use your cloves for baking or drink-making purposes.
- Empty and clean your pepper grinder before adding your cloves. Otherwise, it may retain some of the bite of the black pepper.
- Funnel your whole cloves into the inner chamber of the grinder.
- Position the bottom of the grinder over your measuring bowl or storage container.
- Turn the wheel at the top of the mill to grind the cloves directly into the awaiting container (some elbow grease may be necessary).
- Keep grinding until you’ve processed all of the cloves.
Blender or Food Processor
Neither of these appliances is ideal for grinding spices, as they don’t typically come equipped with the right sorts of blades. However, they can be made to work in a pinch.
Should you end up going this route, you’ll have a much easier time using a flat grinding blade, which will break the cloves down rather than just sending them ricocheting around.
- Fit your appliance with a flat grinding blade (like the kind you’d find in a coffee grinder).
- Dump your whole cloves into your grinder or food processor.
- Use the “Pulse” button to grind the cloves until no large pieces remain. It may help to alternate between short, intense bursts and longer stretches of continuous grinding.
- Move the ground cloves to a separate container for portioning or storage.
Lastly, if you find yourself without any of the other tools highlighted here, you have the option of painstakingly chopping up your whole cloves with a large knife.
It will be tedious, time-consuming work, but it will do in a pinch, especially considering that you don’t have any other option.
- Lay out a small handful of cloves in a loose cluster on a cutting board or cut-proof countertop.
- Take hold of your knife in your dominant hand. Place your opposite hand on the backside of the blade near the tip.
- Use a quick, smooth rock chop to cut the cloves into progressively smaller pieces.
- Continue chopping the cloves steadily until they’re as fine as you can get them.
- Place the cloves in a measuring dish or storage container and use them at your earliest convenience.