We often recommend grinding whole spices for greater flavor complexity. Does this also apply to spices like cardamom, which is already quite potent when it's available preground?
Cardamom adds a fruity flavor to both savory and sweet recipes that is simultaneously warming and cooling. You can purchase the spice preground or as pods—fibrous husks surrounding tiny dark seeds. To see if grinding the whole spice offered a significant flavor advantage, we compared the taste of the preground spice with that of freshly ground pods in cardamom-spiced cookies and cardamom-infused oil. Because we have also heard that some cooks insist on ditching the husk of the pod and grinding just the interior seeds (which make up almost 70 percent of the pod), we made these recipes with just the ground seeds as well.
Tasters agreed that home-ground cardamom (both whole pod and seeds only) boasted much stronger flavor than did preground. They also found that there was very little difference in flavor whether the spice was ground from the seeds alone or with the husks included. Given these results, we’ll grind the pods instead of buying preground cardamom—but take the easy road and leave the husks on.