Best time to add Saffron to a Tagine (slow cooking)?

Joined Sep 5, 2008
Hey all!

Today I'm making a chicken Tagine with olives and (homemade) preserved lemons. Just saying it makes me salivate. /img/vbsmilies/smilies/smile.gif

Now I want to add Saffron to it, not so much for the color (I'll also add Turmeric) but because I just love the taste of Saffron. Thing is I'm wondering whether to rub and marinate the chicken with the saffron (along with all the other herbs and spices), or to wait until much much later in the process tonight, when the braising liquid is already simmering, to take a 1/2 cup of it and bloom the saffron threads into it and add it back to the liquid?

I've always learned to do it with the latter method, but most recipes I find suggest the earlier method. I'm wondering what the advantages of each method are?



Staff member
Joined Mar 29, 2002
Generally, a dried herb/spice will become itself better with a long cooking than a short one. Fresh do better added at the end.

And there is a good argument for even adding the same seaoning at different cooking points for a layered taste as most flavorings do taste different under different cooking times. Often dried at the start and some fresh at the finish.

With Saffron, I find it permeates and perfumes to its best from the start of wet cooking
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Joined Feb 1, 2007
I'd go with Phil on this one.

You don't have to wait for the broth to start cooking, though. Just bloom the saffron in about a quarter cup of warm water and add it in as part of the total liquid.

I do not understand any recipe that has you rub the protein with saffron, as it doesn't begin to release it's flavor until it gets moist. If you have dry saffron on the protein, there's the chance of it releasing in tiny, intense pockets when the moisture hits it, rather than infusing the entire dish.

So, best bet, is to either add it at the start, as I suggest, or follow your regular procedure.
Joined Sep 5, 2008
Thanks guys. The rubbing is wet - first I marinate the chicken pieces with some olive oil, lemon juice, S&P for about 1/2 hour, then I add more olive oil, some water, minced onions, and all spices except for parsley & cilantro leaves, marinate a few hours before starting the cooking process.

Where I break the "fresh herbs at the end" rule is with stems, I add minced parsley and cilantro stems right at the beginning along with the dry spices.

Where your comments help me a lot is that I didn't realize that I could perfectly bloom the saffron in a little warm water before adding it to the marinade. For some reason in my mind it was either add it as-is to the marinade, or later during the cooking, bloom in hot broth and add. You've expanded my vision. I'll try that! /img/vbsmilies/smilies/smile.gif
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