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I make bulk lentil stew every week as a form of meal-prep. The first step in my ad-hoc recipe is to fry some onions in oil.

If I add spices to these onions after they have cooked a bit, the spices stick to the bottom of the pot, which in turn causes the lentils to stick to the bottom later. It's worse if I try to add potatoes at the same time, which is related to this question.

If I'm making a stew, does it matter at what point I add the spices? Are lentils sticking to the bottom unrelated to the spice stickiness?

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If your spices are sticking to the bottom you may have the pan too hot, and/or not enough oil. Spices need definitely benefit from some frying to release their flavors, however too hot and you can burn them, and if there's not enough oil they tend to clump, stick and sometimes burn. I like to turn the heat down a bit below medium before frying off my spices, and keep my oil bottle close by in case they clump. If they clump and stick I will drizzle more oil in until they loosen up.

If your pan gets sticky carbs will tend to stick to the bottom, a technique to prevent this is to deglaze the pan with some water, this will loosen the stuff on the bottom and reduce additional sticking.

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  • I sometimes just pour into a second clean pot when I start to notice sticking problems. It can be a lot of work entirely getting rid of a burn prone layer at the bottom of a pot of soup you cannot see through. Lazy? Perhaps. But It's pretty effective at preventing soup disasters, especially if you remember to turn the heat down to where it should be. – Wayfaring Stranger Mar 13 at 22:55
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Oven solution.

  1. Toast spices in the bottom of your dry pot. Whole spices (e.g. peppercorn, cumin, coriander, cinnamon) toast better.

  2. Pour spices out into ceramic bowl or saucepan (they are hot!).

  3. Fry onions in hot pot.

  4. Add wet stuff (wine? cognac? V8 juice?) to deglaze pot bottom + onions. Scrape it around with a spatula to loosen up good brown onion bits.

  5. Grind toasted spices.

  6. Add lentils, spices, potatoes.

  7. Bake.

Stove top cooking can be problematic with a metal pot and long cook times because the bottom gets hot and stuff sticks and burns. A solution is the oven. Cook your lentil stew in the oven at low heat (250F). It turns out fine and you don't have to worry about sticking to the pot bottom. If you are worried about pot bubbling over you can put a cookie sheet under it to catch juice.

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