Vanilla Beans Vanilla is the second costliest spice in the world, after saffron. Photo of vanilla beans by Joan Vicent Canto | IST.



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November 2008

Product Reviews / Main Nibbles / Salts & Seasonings

Vanilla: The World’s Favorite Flavor

Page 3: How To Buy Vanilla


This is Page 3 of a nine-page article. Click on the black links below to visit other pages.

How To Buy Vanilla

There are many brands of vanilla products, so it’s important to buy wisely.

  • Pay More For Top Quality. Price is a good indicator of quality. Real vanilla is expensive to produce so it should cost you more. McCormick may be a trusted name in spices and flavorings, but its pure vanilla extract has additional ingredients in it. The millions of customers who use it are happy—we used it ourselves before we tried all the others in this article. If you have a fine palate and want the best, read further as we share the results of our “taste test.”
  • Check The Color. Good vanilla beans will have a moist, pliable texture, thin skin and dark brown to almost black exterior. Extracts will be amber—not red, murky, or clear.
  • Match Vanilla Type To Recipes. Remember that the variety of the vanilla has a lot to do with its flavor profile; different qualities will suit different recipes. Mexican vanilla is known to be smooth but spicy; Madagascan or Bourbon vanilla has the “classic” taste and is considered the most versatile; Tahitian vanilla is sweeter and fruitier. The world’s leading artisan chocolatiers actually pair the type of vanilla to the varietal characteristics of the chocolate they are working with.
  • Buy From A Reliable Source. That jumbo bottle of vanilla at the warehouse store, while a terrific price, isn’t the best quality out there. If you’re a baker with a persistent palate, send for the winning vanillas in our taste test. Otherwise, look for an artisan or organic brand at your local natural food store.

In sum, not all vanilla is created equal. As with the other products you buy, read the label before buying.

And no matter how tempting it is to save money in the current economic environment, avoid the temptation to purchase imitation vanilla extract. Vanilla can seem pricey, but you use only a teaspoon or two in a recipe. Whatever the price, that precious teaspoon of liquid imparts a flavor that, for centuries, people have found to be almost priceless.  


Continue To Page 4: Taste Test ~ The Best
Vanilla Beans & Vanilla Extract

Go To The Article Index Above

Creme Brulee Cheesecake
Would you use imitation butter in your
delicious recipes? Of course not—so don’t
look twice at that imitation vanilla! See
the recipe for this delicious Burnt Caramel
Cheesecake Brulée

by San Francisco
chocolatier Michael Recchiuti.




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