Toasting and grinding whole spices intensifies their flavor. Put spices in a hot pan and stir frequently, taking care they do not burn. For soups or chili and other one-pot meals, I toast the spices in my soup pot before I get started on the soup. This allows me to avoid cleaning an extra pan, which is always a good thing.
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Once your spices are toasted, remove from the hot pan or they will continue to toast/burn. Grind with a molcajete, pestle and mortar or electric spice grinder.