Spices can serve as the inspiration for many of the meals you make, whether you’re preparing something from scratch or going the semi-homemade route. Since they’re so versatile, many people have several spices in their cabinets, but they don’t all get used to every meal. These kitchen staples might seem like the kind of thing you can store in the pantry without having to think about them again. However, gourmet spices require proper storage, or they will go bad.
Here’s how to properly store spices so you can get the most use out of them in the kitchen.
All spices have a shelf life
Each spice in your kitchen has a different shelf life, which you can extend when giving them the proper care and storage. Elements like heat, air, humidity, and sunlight can impact the shelf life of your spices as they are prone to break down the essential oils that give spices their flavor, causing them to lose their effectiveness in your recipes. In some cases, spices that come in contact with these elements can start growing mold, at which point you will need to discard them.
Typically, when stored in ideal conditions, spices can last incredibly long. As a general rule:
- Dry herbs and ground spices can last up to one year.
- Whole spices and flavored salts can last up to three years — these typically have a higher potency, too, so they’re really the best value for your money!
- Poppy seeds, sesame seeds, nuts, and truffle products last three to six months.
- Salts last indefinitely.
Storing spices in the kitchen
To get the most out of your spices, follow these steps to store them properly:
- Keep spices sealed. All spices, whether ground, dried, fresh, or whole, should be sealed in an air-tight container. This storage method prevents contamination from the elements that can impact the integrity of the spice. Depending on the type of container, you might benefit from placing that container in a sealable bag for an added layer of security.
- Store spices in a cool, dry place. Heat can be detrimental to your spices. To maintain freshness, they shouldn’t be stored near the oven. Similarly, store spices away from the dishwasher and sink to prevent them from coming into contact with water.
- Avoid the freezer. Some people swear by storing spices in the freezer to help them last longer, but the humidity present in a freezer can alter the flavor of your spices. Instead, keeping them in a cool, dry place like the pantry is best.
- Keep spices labeled. Labeling your spices makes finding them so much easier when cooking and baking. Proper labeling can also ensure you know the freshness of your spices and can help you easily keep track of their expiration date.
- Use the container that’s right for you. Whether it’s a clear glass jar or small magnetic tins you can attach to your fridge, the container your store your spices in doesn’t matter as long as it’s air-tight.
- Know which spices belong in the refrigerator. Red pepper, paprika, and chili powder keep their color and stay fresher when stored in the fridge.
Gourmet spices can instantly elevate your cooking. Since they come at a cost, you want to store spices properly so they don’t go to waste. These tips and tricks keep your spices fresh, flavorful, and ready to use.