Spices are a healthy way to take a dish from flat to flavorful. Because they are so essential in cooking, it is easy to accumulate a large number of spices. But with that often comes clutter and confusion.
How do you tell when it’s time to throw away a spice?
Can old spices make you sick?
How do you keep from having a spice cabinet that looks like this?:
Image source: The Crabby Housewife
Here’s our guide to keep a fresh, clean, and organized spice pantry:
The Shelf Life of Spices
Spices do not typically spoil or mold like fresh foods do, which is why it is so easy to keep spices past their expiration date. However, old spices will not season your dishes the same as new spices because they lose potency in flavor and aroma over time.
Our suggested shelf lives for spices are:
- Ground Spices (such as cinnamon, cardamom.) : 2 to 3 years
- Whole Spices (whole fennel seed, peppercorns): 3 years
- Dried, Leafy Herbs (basil, thyme): 1 to 2 years
Does Saffron Go Bad?
As a spice company sourcing saffron, a question we often get is: “Can saffron go bad?”
Laura W., our head of Quality and R&D explains: “From a safety perspective, old saffron is safe to consume. With saffron’s low water activity, the product is naturally safe from yeast, mold, and bacterial growth. From a quality perspective, saffron is recommended to be consumed within two years of purchase. And stay away from saffron that you see marked with anything more than a three year shelf life.”
Like most spices, saffron does not spoil with age, but its taste and flavor will change over time due to flavor compounds slowly escaping the saffron threads through oxygen degradation. Oxygen degradation happens with all food products, which is why a rule of thumb for spices can be ‘the less fresh the spice, the less potent the flavor’.
Throw Out Your Old Spices
Because old spices add little to no flavor to your foods, keeping them only adds clutter to your cabinets. Check for expiration dates on your spice bottles and if you don’t see any, smell and taste your spices. If you buy bulk spices or dry some from your garden, label the bag or bottle with the date you got them.
There is no one way to organize your spices, but we recommend basing it on your cooking style and frequency of spice use. We suggest keeping that in mind and organizing in this style:
- Essential Spices: The spices you reach for daily to weekly
- Baking Spices: The spices primarily used in baking like cinnamon, nutmeg, or all spice
- Exotic Spices: The spices that add exotic flavors to your meals and are used more sparingly than your essential spices
- Spice Blends: The all-in-one blends of spice that are good for quick weekday meals, rubs, marinades, and more
Image Source: Thoughts For Happy Minds
How To Store Your Spices
Keep your spices fresher longer by storing your spices in airtight containers. This reduces the impact of oxygen degradation. You should also avoid storing your spices near heat or in direct light.
Spices are essential for creating delicious meals, so make sure your spice pantry carries the freshest products.
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