Open up your spice cabinet right now and take a good long look. How old are your dried herbs and spices? Have some followed you from one apartment to the next? Unless your jar of oregano has sentimental value, it’s time to toss the old, and get some fresh refills.
It’s a catch-22: you want to have a well-stocked spice rack for easily adding flavor to anything you cook, but sometimes it’s hard to know how much or how to buy spices to get the most from your dollar and to avoid waste!
Here are 3 tips for learning how to do just that:
1. Buy whole spices whenever possible.
If you have access to a bulk spice shop or a grocery store with a bulk section, you’re in luck! You can purchase whole spices in a quantity that makes sense for the types of cuisines you like to cook. Ground spices loose their potency very quickly. If you grind or grate your own spices as you need them, you can extend the shelf life for much longer. Buy a coffee grinder or mortar and pestle dedicated specifically for grinding seeds. A Microplane grater is perfect for grinding off a little nutmeg as needed.
Keep your spices in a cool, dark place, away from any direct sunlight. Storing your spices in a tight-fitting glass jar will ensure that they stay nice and fresh and devoid of any moisture. Make sure to transfer any spices that you’ve purchased in bulk into a more permanent storage situation then the bags you bought them in! If your kitchen is particularly humid, save the silica packets you get from so many other things you buy and toss it in the jar along to help absorb moisture.
3. Build a spice cabinet that makes sense for you!
If you’re someone who follows recipes to a T, consider buying spices that work for multitudes of recipes you may want to cook. For example, oregano is a prominent flavor in Greek, Italian and Mexican cuisines. It’s a good dried herb to buy in a larger quantity as you can use it in lot of different dishes. Base what you cook off of what you have and don’t be afraid to experiment with different flavors!
If you’d like to learn more about balancing flavors and cooking without a recipe, consider taking The Chopping Block's Cooking Lab: Flavor Dynamics class or a Culinary Boot Camp. It’s a great way to learn about balancing flavors and to become a more confident home cook!