Here’s how to make garam masala:
1. Make sure you start with fresh, good-quality whole spices—read Preeti’s spice-buying tips, and find out Chowhounds’ favorite online sources.
2. For oven toasting, spread out your spices in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until fragrant and hot, about 8 minutes. Pay special attention to the chiles—they’ll darken, but don’t let them burn!
3. For toasting on the stovetop rather than in the oven, spread the whole spices into a dry sauté pan large enough to hold them in a single layer. Toast over medium heat until the spices are fragrant and the chiles brittle but not burned, about 5 minutes. Dump into a cool bowl before grinding.
4. Process the toasted spices in batches in a spice grinder (Preeti uses a coffee grinder she keeps for the purpose). A coffee grinder can easily overheat—chill it in the freezer before grinding so the blades are nice and cool.
5. Grind to as fine a powder as you can and use within three days—nothing loses its pungency like ground spices. Go to the recipe for ingredients and complete instructions.