Cinnamon is an integral spice in the kitchen, especially during the fall and holiday baking seasons, and I know that I’m not the only one who goes through a lot of it! Cinnamon should be both sweet and spicy, and you can both smell and taste the flavorful oils from the bark when you open a new container of cinnamon. Like other spices, cinnamon should be replaced every year (or so) to ensure that you’re getting as much flavor as possible out of your spices. When buying cinnamon, however, some brands may be better than others and the testers at Cook’s Illustrated set out to see what type of cinnamon you should be stocking in your kitchen.
In some taste tests, there is a clear winner. In this one, however, there was not. There are three main types of cinnamon – Ceylon, Indonesian and Vietnamese – and all three turned out to be well-liked by tasters. The Ceylon cinnamons tended to be sweeter and milder than the other two and the test kitchen thought that would have an impact on the results. It turned out that the spicy compounds in the cinnamon actually dissipated during baking, which meant that even though the cinnamons were easy to differentiate in uncooked applications (such as on rice pudding), they were all pretty much equal in baked goods and cooked foods. Every cinnamon brand tested, with the exception of one, received a solid recommendation and would make a good addition to your pantry. The recommended brands included: Morton & Bassett, Penceys, McCormick, Simply Organic, Frontier, McCormick Gourmet, and Spice Islands. The only brand that was not recommended was Badia, which was sourced from Indonesia and contained soybean oil to help with “processing” but unfortunately ended up tasting musty to the tasters.
The last time the test kitchen reviewed cinnamons was back in 2009 and the test kitchen found that mail-order spices tended to be fresher and more potent than their grocery store-shelf counterparts. It sounds like we’ve come a long way in improving our cinnamon since then!