It is to common for spices to be neglected in dark drawers and carelessly sprinkled into boiling pots. A few general rules can help you make the most of the spices in your pantry and rediscover what they can do for you.
There is generally a shelf life of one to two years for whole spices. By the time they reach that point, their oils will have dissipated, and their flavor will have been greatly diminished. In-ground spices and essential oils evaporate very quickly. You should throw away your ground spices after 6 months and replace them with fresh ones. Your food may as well be filled with sawdust if you wait any longer. It’s always better to buy whole spices and grind them fresh when you need them. Spices should be stored in airtight containers away from heat and sunlight. Cool, dry, dark places are best. Never store spices in hot areas, like on the back of the stove. Heat will ruin the flavor quickly. Never sprinkle spices directly over a pot. There are two good reasons for this. Number one: it’s too easy to slip and dump in too much. Number two: when you’re over a pot, steam gets into the spice jar and causes the spices to get damp and clump together. We recommend always measuring spices into your hand or a small bowl and then adding them to the pot.
The most important rule of all is to enjoy your spices. Experiment. Try new flavors and new combinations. Spices used to be incredibly rare and valuable, but they aren’t anymore. So don’t hoard them until they go stale – crush them, grind them, roast them, and bring the smells and flavors of the world into your kitchen. We’ll be here to restock you when you run out.