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With lots of broiling, frying, roasting and baking happening for the holidays, now is the time to review and organize your spices. How and where you store spices can help preserve their flavor, streamline your kitchen and make cooking easier.
“The more efficient you can be in your organization, the more time that will save later while you’re cooking,” says Alex Wilkens, director of product and sourcing for The Spice House, a Chicago-based e-tailer with four stores in the Midwest.
In addition, “when you organize your spices and can see what you have, you are less likely to buy duplicates and can easily see what needs to be replenished,” says Eric Greathouse, an associate buyer for The Container Store.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to organizing your spices.
1. Evaluate: First, remove all of your spices from storage to review them.
Then check the expiration dates and toss out-of-date spices. “But that date matters less than how they smell or how they taste,” Wilkens says. “Open each container and if that scent doesn’t hit you strongly or the colors are dull, it’s time to get rid of it.”
In general, ground spices and blends are good for six to 12 months. Whole spices, like cinnamon sticks or peppercorns, retain their natural oils and usually last two to three years. Check spices twice a year to refill them and replace as needed, experts say.
2. Clean: After your spice evaluation, take advantage of the empty space to clean your storage area with soapy water or dust with a microfiber cloth.
3. Choose containers: Containers for spices come in various shapes, sizes and materials, including glass, plastic and aluminum. Wilkens recommends getting airtight containers with lids. He prefers glass jars with screw-on caps. Airtight containers also will deter some tiny beetles that like to feed on spices, especially peppery ones like paprika and chili powder.