Think about for a moment of your spice collection, do you prefer to store them in a cabinet all their own or directly on the counter top? Or are you a fan of organized drawers or a corner of the fridge dedicated to keeping your spices chilled? Maybe you've even continued grandma's tradition of tucking your spices away in the freezer under the assumption that they would last longer. It's time to rethink your storage methods to extend the life and flavor of your spices. Storage is critical to the lifespan of a spice, believe it or not!
If you are a person who values convenience, storing your spices above the stove might be your first thought. In plenty of homes, there is already a nice little built-in cabinet above the stove where plenty of people toss their spices and forget about them until they decide to add a little garlic powder to their Alfredo sauce. This is probably the worst thing you could do to your rich spices. Herbs, chilies, and spices alike lose flavor more quickly when they are exposed to heat. When exposed to heat, the oils in herbs and spices dry out. Since the oil is usually where the flavor of the spices lie, losing oil means losing flavor. Keeping them near the stove, especially above it where the heat will rise, is a bad decision. Water vapor also rises off the stove top when you are cooking, another factor that will damage spices. When sealed in containers that aren't air tight, the moisture from the air can seep in and damage the integrity of your spices.
The spice rack on the counter isn't a good idea for those of you who like to purchase spices in bulk and then use them all year. Keeping spices out in the open like that means they are much more likely to get direct sunlight, something that can also cause spices to deteriorate faster. Herbs and spices are photosensitive, meaning they begin to break down and dry out when exposed to direct light.
Keeping them in the fridge or freezer? When you put the spices away, they had to cool down. Every time you take your spices out of their cold homes, they must adjust to the temperature of the room. These temperature changes will cause condensation on the spices, shortening the life off the spices. Where there is condensation, there may also be mold! Moldy herbs or spices should be immediately discarded.
Magnetic blackboards that look adorable and provide that "casual" cooking Instagram background shot? Not such a good idea, unless they are positioned somewhere that the sun cant find them. Unless the blackboard is on the back of a cabinet door, direct sunlight affects these spice displays in the same way that it affects spices left out on the counter.
Store your herbs and spices in a cool, dry place. The ideal temperature is one that remains fairly constant, averaging right around 70° F. Remember to store your spices away from any direct heat sources. This can be something as obvious as the stove top, but it also includes the dishwasher, which is a source of heat that many cooks forget about. A good storage space will keep your spices dry, in the dark, and away from the heat.
The main benefit of storing your spices properly is coming back to a spice after taking some time away from it and finding it just as fragrant and flavorful as you remember it being. Take care of your spices and they will take care of your food, ensuring the best flavor each time you sit down to eat.