CI taste tests ground cinnamon

CI taste tests ground cinnamon

At one time, you could search for cinnamon on the spice aisle at the grocery store and see just a plainly market bottle staring back at you. No country of origin listed, no special variety mentioned. In most stores these days, the selection looks quite a bit different, with various brands and types of cinnamon to choose from.  Is there a difference between the brand that goes for $.75 per oz. and $8 per oz.? And is it worth tracking down the fancier spices even if you need to go to a mail-order catalog to do so?

In the latest issue of Cook’s Illustrated (Nov/Dec 2009), the test kitchen set out to answer these questions with a lot of cinnamon and a panel of taste-testers. Cinnamons were rated by heat, complexity and texture, in fairly plain applications (mixed into applesauce) and in baked goods. By the end of the experiment, the tasters determined that there was a clear difference in spice from brand to brand. The favorite cinnamons – which did tend towards the expensive – had complex flavors that came through distinctly even in baked goods. The “recommended with reservations” cinnamons were milder and less likely to stand out on their own in a cookie recipe. Favorites included Penzey’s Extra Fancy Vietnamese Cassia Cinnamon, Durkee Ground Cinnamon and Smith And Truslow Organic Cinnamon. The “recommended with reservations” cinnamons included many easy to find store brands, like Spice Islands Saigon Cinnamon, McCormick Gourmet Saigon Cinnamon and McCormick Ground Cinnamon.

In all cases, the freshest cinnamons performed the best. Often, these were the mail-order spices which weren’t sitting around in storage at a grocery store. You can  still get the most out of your cinnamon no matter which brand you use by replacing your jar (if you don’t go through it quickly, which I tend to do) at least once each year.

5 comments

  1. I completely agree that fresh cinnamon is the best! When I’m baking cookies or fresh breads I usually grate my own cinnamon from cinnamon sticks I purchase at the farmer’s market. My older bottles of ground cinnamon I keep and use to make my kids cinnamon toast (cinnamon sprinkled on buttered toasted bread). I’ve also used older cinnamon in recipes but doubled the amount called for in the recipe if my cinnamon is over 6 months old.

    Thanks for the post! Very informative!

  2. Great post! Cinnamon is such a powerful ingredient, a good one should be used. Beyond just the taste, I like to support organic and green companies, which I think make quality ingredients.

  3. This is interesting. Despite being a total cinnamon addict, it had never crossed my mind that there might me varying degrees of “heat”, etc. Note taken to replace my jar at least once a year (though I’m sure I go through it much more quickly than that!).

  4. I agree that this is very informative as well. Penzey’s has always been my favorite because I love the flavor and find the prices to be pretty reasonable. For some reason I often find more expensive spices at our ordinary supermarket than at Penzey’s.

  5. Anyone who hasn’t tried that Vietnamese stuff from Penzey’s is really missing out. YUM.

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