You just paid $$$ for this moist, plump, slightly sticky, aromatic bean. Now what? How do you use it? Even if you know you are supposed to get the tiny seeds from inside the pod, you may not know the most efficient way to go about it. I have seen many a culinary student mangle a hapless vanilla pod trying to scrape out the seeds. So, don't feel badly if you have tried it and it was a little awkward. Here are my tips for getting the most vanilla for your buck!
Step One - Open Up the Pod:
First, let me say you should use whatever knife you are comfortable with; many people prefer a pairing knife. Using your non-dominate hand (the one not holding the knife), grab the little hooked area of the pod as a handle and anchor it to the cutting board. Starting as close to the hook as possible, split the pod lengthwise into two halves by running the tip of the knife slowly down the length of the pod. If your pod did not split on the first try, just repeat this step trying to follow your original cut. This should produce two halves of the vanilla pod, still attached at the top by the little hook.
Step Two - Scrape Out the Seeds:
Still holding the hooked end firmly on the cutting board, use the unsharpened side of your knife to scrape the seeds from the exposed interior of the pod. Scraping one side at a time, run the back of the knife firmly down the length of each half. By now, all those sticky seeds should be collected on your knife. Add them to your batter, etc. without using your fingers if possible. Just scrape the seeds on the side of the bowl.
Step Three - Utilize That Pod:
Don't throw away that pod or even use it in the same recipe. Here are our "Top Eight Ways to Use a Vanilla Bean."