Seasonings and spices are important because they add flavor to your recipes. However, if seasonings are not stored properly or are kept past their shelf life, the flavor can change drastically, resulting in an undesirable taste for your food. With proper storage and handling of your seasonings, you can ensure that your recipes will always taste fresh and delicious.
Storing herbs and seasonings in the proper environment is absolutely necessary to ensure freshness. The flavor of a spice can be affected by light, temperature, and humidity. Seasonings should always be stored in a cool, dark place where there is no moisture. Keeping a spice rack on a countertop exposed to direct sunlight will result in a loss of freshness. Storing spices and other seasonings above or close to your stove or other cooking surfaces can expose them to temperature changes that can alter the taste. The best place to keep your seasonings and spices is in a pantry or cabinet where there is no direct sunlight, no moisture, and maintains a cool temperature. All seasonings should always be stored in airtight containers.
If you have large amounts of whole herbs and spices and want to keep them preserved, storing them in the freezer is an option. Just like pantry storage, spices placed in the freezer should be kept in airtight containers that prevent air and moisture from entering. It is not recommended to keep spices in a refrigerator. A refrigerator has a higher level of humidity that can alter the taste and freshness of your spices.
With proper storage, ground spices can retain their freshness for at least one year. Whole spices can remain fresh for approximately three to five years if they are stored correctly. If you notice that a spice has a dramatic change in color, has an odd smell, or does not taste the way that it should, dispose of it immediately as it is no longer fresh.
Many people opt to buy whole spices and grind them at home to take advantage of the longer shelf life. When you purchase your spices, label them to keep track of their freshness. Each spice or seasoning should be labeled with its name, as well as the date of purchase, to make it easy to identify and to know when it will need to be replaced with a fresher spice. Make sure to use airtight containers that are always kept closed when not in use to get the most flavor and freshness from your seasonings.