How to store spices: our guide

When it comes to kitchen jobs, there are plenty which are on a fixed rota: clean the fridge, sort the pantry, fill up the dishwasher salt. Often spices can be neglected – but they’re the powerhouse of the kitchen when it comes to making flavoursome food, so it’s worth bestowing a little attention on them. We’re not suggesting anything too drastic, but read our tips below just to make sure you’re storing them correctly and everything is fresh and ready for action.

RULE 1: Store spices away from heat and light

We get it – with splashes of bright yellow turmeric and hot paprika, it’s tempting to show-off your spices in glass jars or a masasla dabba next to your oven. Resist the temptation! Our most important rule of spice storage is to avoid direct sunlight, heat and humidity. It will accelerate ‘oxidation’, bleach your spices and impact the volatile oils causing spices to lose their potency.

Storing spices in an opaque container is best practice – which is why our spices are all packaged in tins or resealable pouches. The proof is in the photograph below, which shows two samples of Green Cardamom Pods:  one stored in a tin (bottom) and the other in a glass jar (top).

RULE 2: Don’t hang onto old spices

Picture the scene: you’ve bought an organic chicken, poured a nice glass of wine and set about making a curry from scratch … then you reach for that ground cumin you bought back in 2004. It’s not going to make you ill, but it’s certainly not going to deliver deliciously big, earthy flavours, rendering it a pointless addition.

If the scene is relatable, then don’t worry – you’re in good company. One in five Brits are hanging onto spices which are over four years. To throw a bit of light onto the hoarding situation, we ran a ‘Spice Spring Clean’ competition and challenged our followers to send in photographs of their oldest spices … and what a history lesson it was! We saw a Greek spice blend from the year that Take That split up … ground cloves from the year that Diana married Charles … ground marjoram from the year that Margret Thatcher was made PM!

The best way to make sure that you’re cooking with fresh and flavoursome spices is to consider an annual ‘Spice Spring Clean’. Be ruthless and chuck that decade-old jar of garlic granules. Try toasting old cumin and pepper to revitalise them and use immediately. If you’re feeling uninspired by the look of some of your older spices then repurpose – add cardamom to potpourri and save old turmeric for your next tie dye extravaganza!

RULE 3: Avoid the back-of-the-cupboard syndrome

Come up with a good way to display your spices to prevent them from disappearing to the back of the cupboard. We use wall-mounted spice racks – but a pull-out draw or tiered cupboard organiser, like this one from Lakeland are all good ideas.  
Not only will well-organised spices help you keep the contents fresher, but they will inspire more use. If you have beautiful tins of spices in your eye-line while you’re cooking then you’ll be more tempted to reach for a pinch of something potent and your dinners will be all the more delicious for it!  

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