Keep dried spices ‘as fresh as possible’ with key storage tips

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More often than not, spices are kept in jars on the kitchen counter for easy access when cooking. However, some herbs and seasonings can change in both their flavour and texture when exposed to fluctuating temperatures. Here is the best way to store everything from smoked paprika to dried oregano to keep them at their best for as long as possible.

Spices that taste dull and flavourless may have simply reached their expiry date, but if they’re relatively new, there’s a high chance you’re not keeping them in the best place.

While it’s not always easy to tell until you load up your dish with herbs and seasonings, a chilli powder producer explained that there are a few key signs you can look for before using them in your cooking.

Krissy Scommegna, owner and founder of Boonville Barn Collective, a farm-to-jar chilli powder producer said: “If the colour is looking faded or you find yourself using much more than usual to get the same flavour, it’s time to buy fresh spices.

“If you smell them and there’s not much of an aroma, they probably won’t have much flavour to imbue if you cook with them.”

To stop this from happening to all spices, not just the most pungent ones, Krissy noted the importance of keeping them in airtight containers that “seal tightly”.

As a general rule, glass jars are much better than tins or bags as they come with strong seals on the lids, which help the powders stay “as fresh as possible”. 

Krissy added: “If you buy spices in bulk, transfer them to a jar and move a portion to even smaller jars if you can. The more air space in the container, the faster the spices will go bad.

“If you have a few tablespoons of a spice left, for example, don’t leave it in a big pint jar.”

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It’s not just how you store herbs and spices that can affect their flavour, in fact, where you keep them matters too.

Clear jars left in direct sunlight should always be avoided if you notice the colour of your spice rack quickly fading in colour as it probably means the same has happened to the taste too.

Instead, Krissy recommended opting for amber or darker-coloured jars to “protect” ingredients from the “harmful rays of the sun”.

When it comes to choosing the right spot for a spice rack, you should steer clear of hot spots and designate a dark, cool dry space for your collection.

While avoiding the sun is one thing to consider, the spice expert noted that heat sources like the stove should also be avoided. She explained that spices “will lose their flavour and potency”.

Unlike most cooking items, seasonings don’t tend to freeze well as they are exposed to too much humidity and moisture which is not ideal for their flavour or longevity.

How long do spices last?

Many people keep spices until the jar is empty, but their actual shelf life depends on how fresh they are at the time of purchase.

According to Krissy, both whole chillies and powders should be flavourful for one to two years post-harvest, as long as they are stored well.

She explained that this “rule of thumb” applies to most other spices too, with the ground version lasting for up to one year, and the whole produce for up to two or three years.

Though it may seem like a waste to throw out clumped-up garlic granules or stale herbs, they won’t bode well in your cooking when it comes to colour, flavour, or aromas.

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