Whole cinnamon sticks don't seem to get as much use in the kitchen as ground cinnamon, since many people can't be bothered with grating a fresh stick if they only need a little spice. But sticks are so easy to incorporate into your everyday cooking, you'll wonder why you didn't start using them sooner.
Though often associated with desserts, the warm, spicy notes of cinnamon actually make them well suited to hot drinks and savory dishes. These are some of our favorite ways to bring their lively scent and flavor into the kitchen, and none of them involve baking or grating!
1. Use as a stirring stick for your coffee, tea, cider, and cocktails.
Hot drinks are an easy way to include whole cinnamon sticks in your daily routine, whether you use them to flavor coffee, tea, chai lattes, cocoa, mulled cider, mulled wine, or hot toddies. Simply serve each cup with a cinnamon stick stirrer and let the spice subtly infuse your drink.
2. Break up a cinnamon stick to infuse a pot of coffee or tea.
Split apart a stick and put it on top of your ground coffee or inside your tea infuser before you begin brewing. This is especially good with other warm spices too, like cardamom, star anise, ginger, and clove.
3. Simmer a cinnamon stick with your oatmeal.
While you wait for your oats and other whole grains to cook on the stove, add a cinnamon stick to the pot. The spice adds a nice twist to sweet toppings like sugar, jam, and fruit.
4. Flavor your broth with a few cinnamon sticks.
If you like to make your own chicken broth or beef broth at home, try adding a few sticks to the simmer pot next time. This is a common addition in Vietnamese phá»? (which is all about the broth) and gives the soup a fuller, more complex taste. It can also amp up store-bought broth, especially if you're making simpler soups where the broth really shines. People who like to make their own bone broth for the health benefits will also be happy to know that cinnamon, on its own, has powerful antiviral, antifungal, and antibacterial properties — perfect for warding off the colds and flu of the season.
5. Add a bit of spice to curry fried rice.
If you're making an Asian-inspired curry fried rice, place a cinnamon stick inside the rice steamer while the rice is cooking. It also works well in Middle Eastern and North African dishes, and in couscous or quinoa too.
6. Flavor meats in a slow cooker, tagine, or roast.
Whether you're making beef, chicken, pork, or lamb, a touch of cinnamon intensifies the savory aroma and adds a subtle richness to the meat. It won't taste like cinnamon, but it'll add a layer of flavor to the dish that will have your guests wondering what your secret ingredient is.