One of my greatest joys at home is my herb garden. Every year I plant my favorites like basil, rosemary and thyme, and I work hard to keep them going strong, even into the fall. I love incorporating those fresh flavors into my dinners during the week. I’ll admit, though, that cooking with fresh herbs is a lot different from working with their dried counterparts. I was used to adding a dash of dried herbs to a dish and calling it a day, but when working with a whole stem of thyme or a bunch of chives, that’s not always an option.
That’s where our Test Kitchen experts come in. They have the scoop on how to prepare some of our favorite herbs for your everyday cooking. Once you have these prep steps down, check out how you can incorporate more fresh herbs into your repertoire.
Before you start prepping any of your herbs, our Test Kitchen recommends tossing your freshly cut herbs into a bowl of cold water to allow any grit to sink to the bottom. Once clean, give them a good pat down and dry with a dish towel.
Parsley and Cilantro
To remove cilantro and parsley leaves quickly and easily, run a fork along the stem. This will gently remove the leaves. You can then choose to use these leaves whole for a more rustic presentation or give them a rough chop for sprinkling on top of your favorite pita or pasta.
Getting all the small leaves off a sprig of thyme can be tricky, but our Test Kitchen has a simple hack. Simply thread a stem through a hole in a colander. This will remove every tiny bit of thyme while collecting it in the basin of the strainer.
Chives and Dill
These herbs are the simplest to prepare. After washing and drying, simply snip them with sharp kitchen shears.
To chop big basil leaves, our Test Kitchen recommends a fancy sounding technique: chiffonading. Don’t worry – this French method is simpler than it sounds.
To get perfect ribbons of basil – perfect for our favorite fresh basil recipes – start by rolling a stack of basil leaves together into a tight bunch. Using a sharp knife, slice crosswise into thin strips.
Test Kitchen tip: Be sure that your knives and kitchen shears are sharp when working with herbs. A dull knife can easily bruise delicate herbs like basil and mint, causing unappealing browning of these fresh ingredients.
How to Store Fresh Herbs
If you find yourself with extra herbs, you can store them for another day – maybe to make one of our favorite fresh herb recipes. Trim the ends of delicate herbs like parsley, mint, basil, dill, cilantro and tarragon and place them in a jar filled with an inch of water. Tent a plastic bag over the top and store in the refrigerator (except for basil – you’ll want to keep that one at room temperature). Heartier herbs, like rosemary, thyme, oregano and chives, can be wrapped in a damp paper towel and stored in an airtight container or zip-top bag.
I hope these simple steps have you excited to incorporate a bit of freshness into your favorite dishes. To learn about how to start an herb garden, and what herbs are best for everyday cooking, check out our top 10 kitchen herbs.