Ina Garten's Trick For Maximizing The Flavor Of Dried Oregano

Whether you are cooking with fresh or dried herbs, these culinary wonders add depth to the flavor of a recipe while their enticing aromatic qualities tantalize the senses. According to Jamie Oliver, herbs can be grouped into two varieties — woody or soft. Oliver explains robust ones like rosemary and thyme fall into the woody variety while those that can be eaten "raw," like basil, cilantro, and parsley, are soft. But when it comes to oregano, Oliver shares it's more of an imposter. Oregano is considered a soft herb yet acts like a strong, woody one.

MasterClass concurs with Oliver's assessment, noting it is one of the few herbs we tend to use dried because, in its fresh form, oregano can be a bit of a bully, pushing aside other ingredients and overwhelming the taste of your recipes. Oregano is often described as having a wonderful, intense taste and can be found in a laundry list of your favorite homemade Italian dishes like oven-roasted tomato bucatini, mussels, and of course, an extra-flavorful pizza sauce. But when working with this dried herb, Ina Garten has a trick you may want to try to get the maximum flavor when cooking with it.

It can release flavor and determine freshness

During an episode of "Barefoot Contessa," Ina Garten reveals her magic trick as she makes a weeknight pasta bolognese, gently grinding the oregano between the palms of her hands to liberate the oils (via YouTube). The City Cook also recommends using this technique, explaining that the warmth of your hands helps release those flavors that will enhance whatever dish you make. 

However, that's not the only benefit of using this cooking tip. Herald-Mail Media notes that while rubbing your dried herbs between your fingers or palms helps to bring out their flavor and smell, it is also a great way of determining how fresh your herbs are. Sure, you can shake the jar, but if the scent isn't very strong, rubbing your herbs between your fingers will give you the definitive answer if they still have any life. If there is little to no scent, then it is probably time to toss them and acquire a fresh container for your pantry.