Should I buy chili powder or grind my own?

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Grind your own chile powder for best flavor:

In general we recommend buying your own whole dried chili peppers and grinding them before each recipe you make for their ideal flavor (see our homemade chili powder recipe).  Once chili powder has been ground, more of the chilies’ surface area is exposed to air.  Over time, oxidation decreases the chilies’ flavor and potency (which is the same reason why you should buy whole spices instead of pre-ground).  In addition, buying dried chiles in their whole state allows you to do other things with them beyond simple powder, like rehydrating them for recipes or making chile pastes.

Buy pre-ground chile powder for convenience and less sneezing:

There are times when we would recommend buying pre-ground chile powders instead.  If you will be using a lot of chile powder in a short period of time (making your own spice blends or spice rubs, for example), pre-ground powder will save you a lot of effort. 

Grinding chilies can also send particles of chile into the air, which (depending on the variety) can be painful if they get into your nose, mouth, or eyes.  We strongly recommend eye, nose, and mouth protection when grinding the super-hot ghost chilies, for example.  Buying pre-ground ghost chili powder will keep you from having to deal with all of that, and may be worth the slight reduction in potency (besides, with ghost chilies, who’s going to notice?  They’re incredibly hot).

Make sure you’re buying high quality chile powders:

While it’s easy to find chili powder in your grocery store, read the ingredients carefully.  There may be fillers or chemicals involved.  In addition, it may be a blend of different chilies.  Homemade blended chili powders are great, but in the store it’s hard to tell from the ingredients list how much of any chili is in there, and as such you don’t know how spicy or fruity it’s going to be until you’ve tried it.  Single variety chili powders are made from a single kind of chile, so it’s easy to tell how hot they’re going to be by looking at a chili heat scale.

Our bulk chile powders are made from single varieties of ground chilies, and nothing else.  They contain no added chemicals, anticaking agents, or fillers, so you know exactly what you’re getting and how it’s going to taste.  Blending them is easy (just pick your proportions and mix them together) and allows you to add milder varieties for depth of flavor or hotter varieties for additional heat.

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