How to Buy Saffron

Saffron is one of those intriguing ingredients I’ve always wanted to learn more about. I was held back by the double digit dollar amounts for a few gram of threads…it’s intimidating!

I finally got around to researching, purchasing and cooking with it for the first time. The results? Beyond satisfactory, so I thought I’d share what I learned.

  • 1 gram of saffron is about 1 tbsp
  • 8-10 servings of risotto or paella calls for 1/2 tbsp of saffron
  • saffron threads continue to release flavor for 12 hours
  • the flavor does not boil away in liquids — its chemicals respond positively to hot liquid or room temperature alcohol and acids (citrus)
  • sargol saffron is pure (sargol is an indicator of the saffron harvested and dried to maximize flavor)
  • color grade is important. Make sure to look for anything above 110 (minimum) and the color is red.
  • color = brighter the better, the darker not (I’ve seen deep magenta, almost a purple like hued saffron. Those are bad.)

Most important: buy in larger quantities. Most 1oz $80 dollar jar of saffron from specialty stores is about $2.80 a gram. At supermarkets, 1 gram of saffron is about $12-$20…and don’t worry about storage. Like most spices, store saffron in dark places away from light. It also keeps for several years.

Hope this helps and happy cooking!


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