What is a sprig of thyme? If you're unfamiliar with this herb, it's never too late to learn! Read here to understand thyme and how to use it.
What has your cooking journey been like? Perhaps you observed someone in your family cooking from a young age, and you absorbed some of their habits and knowledge about food. On the other hand, maybe you've been figuring it out along the way as you've gotten older.
If you're venturing deeper into the world of cooking, you'll find spices you haven't tasted before and herbs you haven't tried. Learning how to incorporate these into meals can make a world of difference in your cooking!
Today, let's focus on one herb in particular: thyme. We'll go over how to identify this herb as well as how to use it in cooking, and several other tips. Then, we'll show you several of our favorite recipes that include thyme.
What Is Thyme?
You might not even realize that you've seen thyme before because it looks like many other plants. Thyme is a leafy herb that grows in small bushes. This Mediterranean herb brings tons of flavor to many recipes and also has medicinal and dietary uses.
In ancient Egypt, people used thyme in embalming fluid. In ancient Greece, thyme was commonly added to bathwater and used as incense in temples.
If you've ever heard of the Hippocratic oath, then you've heard about Hippocrates, the Greek physician who recommended thyme as a treatment for some illnesses and ailments. Essentially, the use of thyme in medicine and food dates back thousands of years — and we’ve kept it around all this time because it is so incredible.
How Is Thyme Used in Cooking?
As mentioned, thyme has lots of uses. For now, we'll focus on the food-related uses of this herb.
Primarily, thyme helps add a compelling flavor to soups, stews, meats, and many other dishes. The flavor of thyme can vary greatly from earthy to citrussy or even minty, making it a complex herb to add to your meals.
How Much Is a Sprig of Thyme?
Often, a recipe will call for you to add a sprig of thyme to the mix. If you're unfamiliar with thyme, you might be unsure how much to add.
Typically, a sprig refers to a piece of thyme that is around five inches long. It may also have a couple of smaller bits branching off of the primary piece that you can also include.
What Are Some Substitutes for Thyme
Let's say you have been running around all week and you forgot a few things the last time you made a trip to the store. In that case, there are several herbs you can substitute for thyme to help salvage your recipe.
Here are a few common replacements for thyme:
- Herbs de Provence
If you find yourself in this situation, it might be time to consider enlisting more help for mealtimes. You don't have to hire a personal chef to enjoy yummy food in your home, but getting some assistance can help you make meals run more smoothly.
At Jow, we're happy to help. You can think of us as your grocery shopping assistant! We'll help you get the ingredients needed to make your favorite recipes and add them to a grocery list to order from the store. Then, all you have to do is pick up your items or request an at-home drop-off and get cooking!
The Difference Between Fresh Thyme and Dried Thyme
Thyme comes in two primary varieties: fresh thyme and dried thyme. In some months, you can find fresh thyme at stores. However, you may have to opt for dried thyme in some cases if it's not available.
Even better, if you grow thyme, you’ll have thyme all year round. Whenever you need it, you can remove a sprig of thyme and add it to your recipe.
Dried thyme tends to be stronger than fresh thyme, but fresh thyme brings a brighter, more lively flavor. Which you choose depends on how strong of a flavor you prefer in your dishes.
Health Benefits of Thyme
If you cook with thyme, your body could reap some benefits. Here are a few potential benefits of thyme:
- Gastrointestinal support
- Boosted respiratory health
- Eased inflammation
- Nourishment from essential vitamins
Preparing Thyme for Cooking
If you use fresh thyme or dried thyme, you may need to prepare it in different ways before using it in your recipes.
Dried thyme is usually prepared for cooking, either as dried sprigs or chopped up in a container. When using a sprig of fresh thyme, it's best to wash it off under water and pat it dry with a paper towel.If the recipe you're following requires a sprig of thyme, then be sure to remove any woody stems, but leave the flexible green sprig intact. On the other hand, if your recipe calls for fresh thyme, you should remove the thyme leaves from the spring entirely.
How To Store Thyme
If you use fresh thyme in your cooking, you can use the leftover bits for up to a week. Store extra sprigs in your refrigerator in loose wrapping to use them again.
Alternatively, dried thyme keeps for much longer. If it is not in a store-bought herb container, make sure to store it in a cool, dark climate. Your dried thyme will be usable for around six months.
Where To Find Thyme
Typically, you can find thyme in two separate places in the grocery store. First, you can find it in the fresh produce aisle, where there may be packaged fresh-cut thyme. If you're looking for dried thyme, you'll be able to find it on the aisle with other seasonings and packaged dried herbs.
If you want to be more adventurous, you could grow your own thyme from seeds or purchase a thyme plant from a garden.
How To Measure Thyme
Sometimes, you might be unsure how much thyme to add to your recipe, depending on whether you have fresh or dried thyme on hand. Here's a key that can help you convert measurements to use in your recipes:
- One sprig of fresh thyme is equal to 1/2 teaspoon of dried thyme.
- One teaspoon of dried thyme is equal to one tablespoon of fresh thyme.
- One ounce of dried thyme is equal to 1/2 cup of fresh thyme.
4 Thyme Cooking Tips
When working with thyme, knowing a few extra tips can come in handy! Keep these in mind and you'll be on your way to enjoying all that thyme has to offer.
Remove the Stem
When a recipe calls for a sprig of thyme, you might think you should put an entire stem into the mix. However, several sprigs grow on one stem, so be sure to remove an individual sprig from the bunch and leave the woody stem to the side.
Let It Dry Before Storing
When storing thyme for later use, you'll want to dry your thyme completely first. Otherwise, you might run into limp or moldy thyme that is unusable later in the week.
Know How To Identify Thyme
As we mentioned, multiple sprigs of thyme grow on each stem. When choosing a sprig of thyme, try to choose one that is around four inches long.
Select a woody stem from the bunch with little offshoots and leaves. The thyme leaves on your sprig of thyme should equal approximately 1/2 teaspoon if you were to measure them.
Add It In Early
When cooking with thyme, it's best to add this ingredient early. Doing so allows your dish to soak up the flavor and maintain a more vibrant flavor.