The Tip To Remember To Buy The Absolute Best Vanilla Beans

As far as baking ingredients go, fresh vanilla beans are a hefty investment to make. As one of the more expensive spice items in the grocery store, bakers need to be wary to ensure they're getting their money's worth. Luckily, there are simple visual cues a buyer can follow to ensure they're purchasing the best vanilla beans possible. 

A good quality vanilla bean looks plump and glossy, with enough moisture present to make it easy to open and squeeze out the vanilla pod seeds. Dry, brittle vanilla beans that look overly withered and wrinkled should be avoided, as this is a sign that they're old and that it will be difficult to remove the seeds. Still, examining the beans before you buy them is a non-starter if you can't see into the vanilla bean container.

That's why when you're in the spice aisle, looking for brands that sell their vanilla beans in clear containers is a must — the packaging makes a huge difference in being able to properly gauge the vanilla beans' health. Even better than that are the containers where you can actually feel the bean, allowing you to test the texture of it. Otherwise, you're banking on blind faith when you buy vanilla beans you can't see or feel.    

Look for clear containers

Thankfully, it's not too difficult to find vanilla beans that allow you to assess the beans to some extent. Plenty of brands, like Nielsen-Massey and McCormick, offer clear tubes or bottles of vanilla beans so that you can at least view the quality of the product. To test the texture without opening the bottle, give it a shake and listen to the sound of the beans against the container. High-pitched plinking hints at a dry, sharp vanilla pod, while duller thunks suggest that the bean still has plenty of moisture. Still, if you can get your hands on a vacuum-sealed package of vanilla beans, that will be the easiest way to assess the quality of your beans. 

As for those wondering what this means for online shopping for vanilla beans, just keep in mind the phrase "buyer beware." Check for reviews of the product and whether it's a highly regarded brand by professionals and passionate home bakers. If it has glowing reviews and proper endorsements, you're probably safe to invest in an online purchase of vanilla beans; if they come in a clear container, you may even be able to examine them and return them unopened if they're not up to your standards. No matter what, it's best to do your due diligence when purchasing your next batch of vanilla beans so that the price tag really matches the quality — it's just a little easier done in-store.