How to store spices and why it’s important
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For any cook or chef, it can be tempting to have your favourite most-used spices proudly on display in your kitchen. Who wouldn’t want that? The colours all arranged in lovely little jars really adds something to your cooking space. However, this is actually a no-no.
Despite the fact that spices are by far the longest lasting ingredients in your kitchen, they still need some care and attention to help them achieve longevity. Read on to find out why storing your spices properly is so important and how to go about doing it.
Why is it important to store your spices properly? In short, factors such as light, air, moisture and heat are spices’ biggest enemies. If your spices are left exposed to any of these, their pungent aroma and powerful flavours can be depleted after a frustratingly short amount of time.
Most of this loss of aroma, flavour and colour will happen through a process called oxidation – something that is facilitated by factors such as UV light and heat. All aromatic compounds contain a certain chemical structure called ‘aromatic ring’. When oxidation occurs, this ring is broken and the original aroma is lost
Furthermore, the volatile oils that give your spices all their delicious, unique and powerful flavours will evaporate around the 37.°C mark. That’s why you can taste them in your food! This is exactly why you want to take care and ensure you don’t store your spices over something like an oven, stove or dishwasher.
A lot of chefs will also be aggravated by the sight of people shaking their open spice jar or pouch over a hot pan. Imagine what all that steam rising up into the spice storage area is going to do? Moisture will lead to your spices caking or even becoming mouldy. That’s why we always advise to measure out your spices from our pouches using a teaspoon – it’s much safer and more accurate. Of course, it goes without saying, ensure the spoon is dry!
So, now you know why it’s important, it’s time to discuss how to store your spices properly. If factors such as light, air, moisture and heat are spices’ biggest enemies, then you’re looking to store yours in a dry, dark space. In a cupboard is preferential (just ensure it isn’t above the oven, dishwasher or stove as previously mentioned).
Furthermore, think about your container. You’ll notice we ship all our spices in special foil pouches which ensures the longevity of your product, protecting it from oxidation, keeping it dry and fresh. They seal air tight, you can squeeze excess air out and the foil prevents UV light exposure. We know what we’re doing here at Seasoned Pioneers! The added bonus of these pouches is that, if you’re really keen on that spice rack on the kitchen wall, these will allow you to do that.
Have a read of our article here for some more intuitive ways of storing our pouches. This article is written for merchandisers but it may give you a few good ideas for home storage.
If you are thinking of moving the product into a bigger container, ensure that it’s going to be opaque and airtight. Something like an ice cream container or plastic lunch box will work really well. And, if you have brought in bulk, it may even be worth storing in a freezer. Whole spices can be stored in the freezer for up to three years and ground spices up to six months. But best to keep them in the foil pouch!
Lastly, know when to throw your spices out especially if stored in glass jars. Even when you take the best care and store them properly following our advice here, eventually spices do just naturally lose their aroma and flavour. If the spice begins smelling musky or it has no odour, or changes colour, then it’s time to say goodbye.
So, once a year as a rule of thumb (perhaps when doing the spring clean or around new year after Christmas), go through the cupboards and clear out anything that’s past its best.
Spices are typically packed with a 2-3 year shelf life in the UK. Ground spices will become less effective that whole spices over time due to their increased surface area allowing quicker evaporation of volatile oils and oxidation. On the flipside, spices packed airtight in foil have been known to still perform well after 5 years or so.