There are a couple of things you can do, though, to get the most bang for your buck, as our Test Kitchen experts show.
When you're buying vanilla beans, opt for plump ones as they tend to have more flavour.
Start by flattening the bean with your fingers then, with a short, sharp knife, cut horizontally along the bean.
Use the tip of the knife, blunt side down, to remove the seeds, running it from the tip to the end.
If you're infusing a liquid (like in milk, for these spiced ginger puddings with vanilla custard) add the seeds and the bean to the pan.
After cooking, though, don't throw the bean away; you can add it to a jar of sugar, where it will continue to infuse for a deliciously fragrant vanilla sugar that you can use in these vanilla strawberry swirl macarons.