Whether you're partial to bold curries, homemade chili, warmly spiced granola, or all three, chances are you've accrued quite the spice collection, but do you know how best to store your flavorful bounty? Protect your investment by keeping a few simple guidelines in mind:
- Store spices in airtight containers away from direct heat and sunlight, preferably in a cupboard, pantry, or drawer, so as to avoid damage to their essential oils. If storing spices in a drawer, stock up on a brand whose lid is labeled on top, like Morton & Basset, for easy identification of the contents within, or label the lids yourself. If housing spices in a cupboard or pantry, try a tiered shelf or lazy Susan for the best access.
- When you first crack open a spice jar, make certain to label it somewhere — we typically mark the bottom of the jar — with the date using a permanent marker. This way you'll know when the contents' potency has dulled, avoiding bland, disappointing dishes ahead. Whole spices are typically good for up to three years, while preground should be discarded after one year.
- If possible, purchase whole spices and grind them to order. As explained above, whole spices have a much longer shelf life, particularly with delicate varieties like nutmeg and cardamom. And the extra step of either grating or grinding up just the right amount — try a Microplane or dedicated coffee grinder, respectively — takes little extra time and will boost flavor immensely.
- When in doubt, purchase the smallest container of a spice available. If your grocer sells bulk spices, they're a best bet as turnover is typically high, and you can purchase just what you think you'll use up within the next few months, storing any extra in a tin or glass container. Alternatively, we're fond of Spicely, which packages spices in smaller quantities than average.