Help! I need someone to help me with my frustration about SPICES. Perhaps this is not really a genuine food-pickle question, but I'm hoping to get some new advice regarding the purchasing and storing of spices. I have a jumble of baggies and magnetic jars, packets and containers. It makes me crazy and it takes twice as long to follow good mis-en -place practice.
My question has two main parts: freshness and storing. Bulck spices are tempting: great selection in specialty and ethnic stores. They are more pure and authentic and you can get any quantity you want. But some people claim that they are often less fresh, even stale, because they are not packaged air-tightDoes it help getting them mostly whole, not ground? Still, one does collect endless baggies unless, and this brings us to my second frustration, unless one transfers them into ones own jars that then need to be labeled. Available spice racks never seem to have enough containers, and labelling falls off. They are jumbled in drawers and on shelves, as I mentioned. So perhaps the answer is to buy them in pre-packaged, airtight containers from the store, but one can't find sufficient variety there, or even matching packaging. Magnetic spice racks appeal to me because one can SEE the spice variety, but one needs endless wall space for evererything, But maybe a freezer system would keep spices not in constant use fresher? To sum up:(1) Air-tight or bulck? (And from what sources)?
(2) How to store? Ugh! I hope someone out there can help me with this daily annoyance and frustration. Thanks in advance

Euro Kat
  • Posted by: Euro Kat
  • February 11, 2011


innoabrd February 13, 2011
I keep my bulk spices in the freezer and find that really helps extend the life. I have some kashmiri saffron in there that's ten years old and still seriously intense!

I keep a lot of whole spice and grind as needed. I keep a separate coffee grinder just for spices.
pauljoseph February 11, 2011
Always store your spices tightly covered in a cool, dark place. Glass is the best thing to store them in since it won't allow strong flavored spices to transfer flavors to the other, milder spices.
Euro K. February 11, 2011
WOW! That sounds brilliant. I guess you don't have a picture, but maybe I can find one on google? Thank you for that truly unique idea!
Greenstuff February 11, 2011
My everyday spice rack is a culture tube (test tube) rack that I bought at a scientific supply store. It's attractive enough for a kitchen (blue wire mesh) and can hold 80 tubes. (I have not filled all eighty, and I've had the rack for 20 years.) They are wide enough that whole nutmegs are no problem. I have mostly whole spices but a few ground ones for things I use a lot, like cumin. I mostly use fresh herbs, but I also keep a few dry ones like herbes de Provence in the rack. In other houses, I hung it on the wall, but now I keep it in a cupboard, bring it out, and put it on the counter while I'm cooking. I write the names of the spices on the top of the caps of each tube and keep it in alphabetical order.

The overflow--bags, jars, tins, and packages--I have sealed in large plastic containers, which I try to keep in a cooler, drier location.
Euro K. February 11, 2011
Thanks latoscana, I looked these up and they look good. Dating them seems genius (DUH! for me). But what are the little trays? Can you say more about them? I guess they go in your cubboards, not a drawer, right?
latoscana February 11, 2011
Like you, I used to have a jumble of little bags and containers. But I bought a bunch of these little spice jars: I label and date them and store them in little trays that are easy to pull out and use.
Euro K. February 11, 2011
Thanks to everyone for your input and suggestion!!! I am new to this siteand just LOVE it! Part of the problem about storage is clearly the lay-out of ones kitchen. Apparently many continue to store their spices in a drawer next to the oven. I am surprised to hear that one should not put spices into the freezer, as I have often heard that advice given. Still exploring all those links provided by all you wonderful people. Thanks!!
MaryMaryCulinary February 11, 2011
I do buy mostly whole spices and find it only takes a minute to grind them fresh in my mortar and pestle. I use a drawer, like many others, and keep my spices in jars with clear lids so I can find what I'm looking for easily. I also have an assortment of jars like Sadassa_Ulna and I know what's in which jar.
Sadassa_Ulna February 11, 2011
hese might help with storage solutions:
However, part of your question was about buying in bulk and buying spices whole vs. ground. Spices are expensive (and I am not a professional cook) so I tend to replace each spice as needed. I love the idea of toasting spices whole and grinding as needed, but honestly I don't always have the time. My spice storage is a drawer full of different brands and labels, which is actually helpful because I get used to what the different bottles look like. Sometimes I decant new spices into old empty jars because I associate a certain spice with a certain bottle or label. I also save little lidded glass jars to store homegrown rosemary, basil, lavender, etc. I love the idea of buying giant bags of spices from Indian grocers or Chinatown, but I do wonder about freshness. I bought a jar of cardamom pods years ago from Whole Foods and they were so green and soft they seemed fresh picked, so sometimes the splurge is worth it.
nannydeb February 11, 2011
Buying bulk isn't a problem if you use a lot of it quickly, but spices do lose their intensity. If it's a common spice it will probably be fresh at the ethnic stores. Store any and all of them in airtight containers. As far as organization, besides grouping them as healthierkitchen suggests, keep the most often used spices in the most convenient place.
hardlikearmour February 11, 2011
Here's another thread about spice storage that may be of help:
foongfest February 11, 2011
If you bought your spices whole, they should last for a while, probably 1-2 years (up for some debate but I'm cool with that time frame.)

I'm not sure about the freezer. I know it's not advisable to store coffee in the freezer due to condensation after it's removed. I think the same might hold for spices.

I often get my spices bulk but not in obscenely large quantities.I either store them in existing spice bottles or in those plastic containers they sell at the restaurant supply store (kind of like those you get when you order soup at a take out.) I label them with painters tape and store them in my pantry (I have plenty of room there.) Downside is that it allows light in and it may degrade the spices but my pantry's dark and I use them reasonable quickly anyway. It's also away from my stove and heat.

Another solution is storing spices in a drawer.!5748309/the-geeks-guide-to-rebooting-your-kitchen

Either that or a magnetic spice rack mounted on the backside of the cupboard door, kind of like what Alton Brown does.
healthierkitchen February 11, 2011
I have a pull out drawer for spices so I am always looking down at lids. I bought a bunch of jars at Penzeys and try to stick to round jars like that. I use a sharpie to write the name on the lid. This gets rid of the bags. I just refill the same jar. I keep a few spare so that if I purchase something new or make a blend, I have something to put it in. I also group the spices/herbs by very loose categories so that I know, generally, which part of the drawer to reach into: peppers in one section, savory herbs, Asian, baking, etc. I buy from ethnic markets, Penzeys, mail order, grocery store, all of them.
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