Spices add to the flavour of our meals so it’s important to keep them fresh so they can continue to do that function. After struggling to find the condiment I need when preparing a meal, I figured it was time to get organized, so I’ve been researching the best ways to store and preserve kitchen spices correctly.
If you’re like me and like to cook from scratch, you’ll most likely use several condiments in many of the meals you prepare. They are not exactly the cheapest items on the shopping list to buy, so I need to make sure I am not wasting them. As I have so many, and they are not arranged in an organized way, I can’t quickly and easily find the one I want!
One of the problems is that because I go through quite a lot of spices like cinnamon (it’s moreish on oats porridge), and for curry dishes, I tend to buy them a little ahead of time – before I have run out.
The other issue I have is that the spice rack which my Grandad made for me many years ago does not accommodate all my collection. So, I have two lines of spice jars balanced on each slim shelf of that rack. Not a good plan as it’s hard to see what is in the row behind!
- 1 Choosing a Spice Rack Storage System
- 2 How to Store Spices for the Long Term
- 3 Spice Rack Systems
Choosing a Spice Rack Storage System
I need to purchase another spice rack that will fit my rather large collection of condiments. Maybe then I can use the one my Grandad made to store only my herb collection as it will probably accommodate them easily without the double rows.
Another issue that I have to think about is the fact that we rent our home and the kitchen is tiny.
Things to Consider When Choosing the Best Spice Rack
- Think about how many spices you need to find a place for
- Determine what size spice rack or spice storage system you need
- Think about where it can be placed
- if you rent you need to be careful of the rules from your landlord
- consider what your budget is
- consider what kind of containers you want – glass spice jars or those made from other materials
- think about the size of spice jars depending on how much you normally keep
- what is your colour scheme
- think about what kind of labelling you need
- What spice rack system will fit your situation – wall-mounted, stand-alone, rotating system, slide out
Before we look at the different spice rack systems that are available, here are some tips to help you improve the longevity and freshness of your spices. We use condiments to improve the taste and deliciousness of our meals so it makes sense to ensure that what you are adding to your meals is of the best quality.
How to Store Spices for the Long Term
At the moment, with the cost of living crisis, which seems to be a global phenomenon we need to make sure that everything we buy lasts as long as it possibly can. This is especially true of food items and we need to pay attention to ensure that any ingredient is stored in a way that preserves its freshness and longevity.
Shelf Life of Spices?
Spices and condiments don’t last indefinitely – despite what some people think – my mother included! They do go bad even if you have not used them or even only a little now and then. Now and again I will go through her spice rack and bin those that are past or close to their shelf live or expiry date. She is not happy with me but better that than she gets sick.
She says they look fine, there is nothing growing on them!
My mother is right, as to look at them you’d never know anything was wrong, they don’t look like they are bad and there are no signs of actual mould. However, they don’t appear to have the normal fragrant aroma that you get with a fresh jar of spice or a herb. The health experts state that over time it is possible for bugs, bacterial or otherwise to set up home in the jars even when they are stored in the best way possible.
Some of the articles I have researched say that spices are not likely to make you sick when they are out of date but other articles from health agencies have warned of the dangers of keeping spices longer than recommended. I say better to be safe than sorry!
Keep Checking Expiry Dates on Jars
I have cultivated a habit now of checking the expiry date each time before I use any spice. It does not take long and that way you can be sure that the ingredients you’re using are safe and will enhance the flavour of your meals.
As a general guideline whole spices last the longest so try to buy these if you can. Grind them down as you need them to achieve maximum freshness.
Best Way to Store Herbs & Spices
To keep yourself and your family safe you need to store your condiments in an airtight container, away from the heat and sunlight as much as possible. They contain aromatic essential oils which can deteriorate when in the sunlight or in a warm place. Light, heat and humidity will not only cause deterioration but also make them lose their flavour-adding abilities which is the reason why we use them in the first place.
So place your spice rack in a place that is out of direct sunlight – preferably in a cool darker place like a pantry or kitchen unit. If you have it sited on a wall try to make sure it is out of direct light.
Also, be sure to check it is not in an area of the kitchen that gets too warm – ie above a radiator or too near the cooker /stove.
What about storing herbs and condiments in the fridge? Mostly, it is recommended that this is not a good idea as they are exposed to moisture, and where there is water things can grow.
And in the freezer? As the temperature of a freezer is lower than a fridge the nutrition experts say you can store some herbs and spices in them if you happen to have large quantities and need to preserve them for up to 6 months. Make sure that the container has an airtight seal so that air and water are excluded. If you buy spices in bulk, then these can be frozen. Decant what you need into smaller everyday spice jars.
When cooking with spices don’t shake them over a steaming hot pan as the steam introduces water vapour into the jar and that will ruin them. Use a dry clean spoon to take out what you need first – then sprinkle that over your food.
Check expiry dates, regularly examine and sniff your spices to check for freshness.
Which Spice Storage Jars Are Best?
Glass is the best material to use as it is inert and does not react with the condiments it contains. It is transparent so it’s easy to see the contents which helps when you’re looking for a spice in a hurry. Also, you can tell at a glance how much is left. This is convenient when you’re making up a shopping list.
Glass does, of course, have a risk of breakage so if you’re concerned you could choose to use plastic but make sure it is BPA free.
Containers that are squared with flat sides tend to pack closer together so if space is an issue choose these ones.
Shaker caps with 2 sizes of holes to dispense the spice are useful. Some versions are plastic caps that fit onto the spice glass jar while others are incorporated and are part of the screw-on lid.
Consider the colour of the containers. As most spice jars are made from glass you will need to think mainly about the lid colour. Many come with bamboo or wood lids – such as acacia wood. Stainless steel and black lids are widely available too.
Spice Rack Systems
Having chosen the type of condiment jars, you need to think about organizing and displaying them so they can be used easily. Which system you end up choosing depends on your specific situation so think about those criteria mentioned before in the section Things To Consider above.
Types of Spice Racks
Drawer Spice Organizers
As most spice jars are made from glass and therefore let in light which can affect condiments, it is a good idea to have them stored in a cool dark place if you can.
Using dedicated spice drawers is one way of excluding the light. If you decide to use this method remember to have it away from the cooker and oven. Spice drawer organizers come in various arrangements and sizes. They work well if sited next to the place where you normally prepare your meals. Pull them out, then select the condiment you need and close again to exclude the light.
Wall / Vertical Mounted Spice Racks
This kind of rack comes in many different sizes and shapes to suit your situation, budget and taste.
Think about how many jars you need to accommodate, and what material would suit your kitchen – ie wood, plastic metal or a combination of all of them.
Some come with extra features such as a holder for the kitchen paper towel roll which would be useful. Currently, our kitchen roll sits on top of the microwave (along with other items) which makes it look too cluttered.
Some spice racks can go on the wall ( if you have space there) or on other vertical surfaces such as the inside of the doors of your kitchen units.
Free Standing Spice Units
If you have space for them, these stand-alone systems work well either on a kitchen worktop, inside a cupboard, or even on the shelf of a pantry larder where it would be out of the light and away from heat.
Rotating Spice Racks
Having a revolving spice rack allows you to store more spices vertically and still be able to access them by spinning them around.
Pull Out/ Sliding Spice Rack Design
I like the way this type slides out and uses vertical space where ever it occurs. It is another way of storing your spices in a unit out of the light when not in use. When pulled out you can easily see all the spices and find the one you need quickly.
As the primary purpose of using spices is to add to and improve the deliciousness of your meals it makes sense to preserve and store them correctly. Following these tips will allow you to do just that.