Spice Things Up!

While organizing a client's kitchen recently, I came across some pretty sad looking herbs and spices. The dried parsley and oregano that were once green were now a dull shade of gray, and a couple of the spices were lumpy and odorless (so you can bet they were also flavorless).

"How old do you think these spices are?" I asked the client who doesn't do much cooking. She didn't have a clue and, in fact, couldn't recall how a couple of them had managed to sneak into her cupboard.

I did a little research on McCormick's web site and came across some guidelines to help you decide when it's best to send your old spices to the garbage.

  • Spices, ground: 2-3 years shelf life
  • Spices, whole: 3-4 years shelf life
  • Seasoning blends: 1-2 years shelf life
  • Herbs: 1-2 years shelf life
  • Extracts: 4 years, except pure vanilla which lasts indefinitely
Granted, you may be able to squeeze a little more life out of your spices than the recommendations above, but you'll get more flavor for your buck if you keep your spice rack current.

Here are a few more tips I cooked up:

  • Rub or crush the spice or herb in your hand. If the aromoa is weak and the flavor is not apparent, it's time to replace it.
  • Store herbs and spices in a tightly capped container, and keep away from heat, moisture, and direct sunlight.
  • To minimize moisture and caking, use a dry measuring spoon and avoid sprinkling directly into a steaming pot.
  • For McCormick brand spices, check the freshness date on the bottom or right side of the bottle. Note that the labels with Baltimore, MD on them are at least 15 years old.
  • Except for black pepper, McCormick spices in rectangular tins are also at least 15 years old.
  • Write the month and year purchased on the labels of your spices when you first put them into your spice rack.
Your homework for this week: Take a quick inventory of your spice collection and toss out the faded herbs and expired spices. If you cook frequently and need to replace what you are throwing out, go ahead and add the items to your next grocery shopping list. Otherwise, hold off replacing the herb or spice until you're preparing a recipe that calls for it.

If you have other tips and tricks for spicing things up, let us know!


Lauren Elizabeth said...

Hey there, thanks for passing on great advice about spices...they definitely do lose their flavor after enough time.

The best storage solution/organizer I have found is called the SpiceStack. SpiceStack is a new spice rack designed to fit 27+ spice bottles from the grocery store in your kitchen cabinet (where its dark, dry). Best of all, the pull down drawers allow you to find the spice you need quickly without ever having to dig through the backs of your cabinet or pantry. Check it out at www.SpiceStack.com and Happy cooking!