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I have a packet of ground garam masala and if I make a stew with it it tastes very bland and has no taste. Two of the ingredients in the garam masala include pimento and cinamom which I know contain lesser amounts of capsaicin.

However even so I cannot taste any heat in the stew. Is this because the capsaicin content is too low or does the capsaicin lose potency with oxidation and time?

The problem with saying yes is that most chilli powders seems to be hot even after they have been oxidised over time.

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  • Cook too long, and the capsaicin will degrade. I check heat at end of cooking process. Oct 17, 2019 at 1:04

2 Answers 2

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Garam masala is not a "hot" (piquant) spice mixture. It doesn't taste spicy because it's not supposed to. I'm not sure if cinnamon contains capsaicin, but it certainly doesn't contain a lot; otherwise it would taste hot, like cayenne does.

I suggest that you try to think less about chemicals and more about tastes. Taste some garam masala; that's what (your) garam masala tastes like. (The taste will change somewhat during cooking, but it's not a night-and-day difference.) If you're going for heat, taste other spices until you find one that's what you're looking for.

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    For tasting you may want to dilute or mix into a suitable liquid, as dry spices taste different and the sensation is dominated by the mouthfeel (I've tried it, they're actually quite hard to even identify). Suggestions: mix into yoghurt, mashed potato, or melted butter which you then spread on bread. In fact compare between these, with carefully measured proportions, and you'll see how different one spice can taste
    – Chris H
    Oct 16, 2019 at 7:10
  • @ChrisH Good point about mixing it. I think the key there is moistening, not dilution, and yogurt or butter are both good ideas: You want both water and fat. I disagree about the bread, though, which is going to dilute the flavor. Just taste the stuff. It's an experiment, not a meal. :-D
    – Sneftel
    Oct 16, 2019 at 9:01
  • I've tried tasting garlic butter before, and (for me) the overwhelming greasiness makes telling much about the flavour very hard. I think you would want to dilute with neutral flavour to a bit stronger than you'd use in a dish, rather than tasting merely moistened spices, assuming you want to get an idea of what they'll do in real food. If you really want to compare fresh-ground against aged then appropriately moistened probably is the way to go
    – Chris H
    Oct 16, 2019 at 9:17
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    One bit of persistent confusion I've seen is people conflating "spicy" as in spices and "spicy" as in piquant. I don't know if this is just a US English problem or if it happens other places as well, but it is often frustrating.
    – Preston
    Oct 20, 2019 at 18:14
  • The word "Garam" actually means hot in Hindi, so there is hotness there. The ones sold in the market are tempered to make them suitable for western tongues, so they don't have any heat in them. Native Indian ones must be hot. But I think the heat comes from pepper and not from chili.
    – user79421
    Nov 20, 2019 at 9:03
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Pimento is yet another vague pepper term - some people in some places define it as hot, others don't. I've never seen garam masala called hot though, so whoever labelled that was probably using a mild definition of pimento. A basic curry recipe might even use just garam masala plus chilli powder for the spice - with all the heat coming from the chilli.

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