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I've got a big bag of Sichuan pepper but I've often found that when I cook with them it's difficult to avoid grittiness from the outer kernel. I don't have this problem when I visit Sichuan Chinese restaurants and the pepper was bought from a big Asian supermarket.

What do I need to do to prepare them to avoid the grittiness? Is it really as fiddly as picking out the peppercorn from each kernel or is there something simpler that I need to do?

  • Good question! I always wondered this myself. – Doug May 28 '16 at 23:35
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Grind your peppercorns in a spice grinder, then put them in a large, fine meshed sieve and tap them over a large bowl. The spice will fall through and the husks will stay in the sieve. Should take about 5 minutes max.

Alternatively, buy them pre-ground.

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Yes. The grittiness is completely due to the peppercorn. Remove it. Usually only the husk is used.

  • Sigh. Fiddly work. I guess I'll buy a paste or other preparation next time! – Treblekicker Jul 17 '10 at 18:23
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    hmmmm. @TrebleKicker you seem to suggest in your question that you think it is the husks that are causing the grittiness, and you are going to remove the husks and just use the kernel, but this answer suggests that what you want to do is the opposite, ie, ditch the kernels and eat only the husks... – Sam Holder Jul 17 '10 at 19:07
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    From wikipedia apparently: "Sichuan pepper has a unique aroma and flavour that is not hot or pungent like black or white pepper, or chili peppers, but has slight lemony overtones and creates a tingly numbness in the mouth (caused by its 3% of hydroxy-alpha-sanshool) that sets the stage for these hot spices. Recipes often suggest lightly toasting and then crushing the tiny seedpods before adding them to food. Only the husks are used; the shiny black seeds are discarded or ignored as they have a very gritty sand-like texture. It is generally added at the last moment." – Sam Holder Jul 17 '10 at 19:09
  • Either way it's fiddly work and probably worth buying something other than the raw peppercorns ;) – Treblekicker Jul 17 '10 at 22:17
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    Yeah, the big container of Szechuan peppercorns I got in Chinatown have only the husks, no seeds at all. – Harlan Aug 9 '10 at 2:11
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Fry whole peppercorns in oil, discard the peppercorns and use the oil. Saves for a few days in fridge with diminished quality.

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    If you do not want to prepare the oil in a larger batch in advance: Just submerge the peppercorns in your hot cooking oil in a sieve before adding other aromatics. You can also buy szichuan pepper oil in bottles (sometimes called prickly oil), but these will introduce additional ingredients usually. – rackandboneman May 30 '16 at 13:35
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Unfortunately for you, it looks as if you bought one of the cheaper made products that does not remove the seed from the husk. I agree that removing them one by one by hand could be fiddly work! There are three suggestions to fix this though.

  1. You can leave them in the sun for an afternoon and the pods will open up nicely and usually will drop the black fruit by themselves than you can you a properly sized mesh strainer to sieve them and get your leftover husks quite easily!

  2. Leave them as-is and simply bundle them in a bit of cheese-cloth then add them to your dish. When finished cooking simply remove the bundle and their essence will be imparted in the dish (however, the fun of eating the husk and it's inherent tingling/numbing sensation might be lost, but the flavor should remain!

  3. Source them more carefully next time. I suggest buying from an online spice dealer to maximize the quality and freshness that you want.

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Yup, just checked the berry, hull is flavorful and grinds easy but the black center is pure shiny grit. Learned this the hard way after an otherwise great dish.

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