Are the spices lurking in your kitchen cupboard still potent enough to be used for baking?
Find out if the flavour and aroma is up to snuff — just give each a sniff. “Open it. Smell it. If it doesn’t smell really, really good and really, really strong, I would throw it out,” said Monica Bhide, a Washington, D.C.-based cooking school teacher and author of Modern Spice.
“It has not only lost its potency, but also, in some cases, it’ll be like you’re cooking with sawdust.” Her advice — “Buy whole, buy small quantities and use lots of it.”
1. Shop: Check the package date; if there’s no date, mark one on the package. “Buy from reputable stores that’ve a fast turnaround,” says Bhide.
2. Store: Not by the stove (“The most convenient place and the worst place,” she said). Keep in small containers with tight screw tops in a cool, dry cupboard.
3. Sniff: Smell spices. Crush dried herbs, then sniff. If a spice solos in a dish, it’s crucial that its flavour and aroma are strong.
4. Toss: Depending on storage conditions, whole spices last two years. Ground spices last six months to a year. But if you don’t want to toss out old cinnamon sticks, place with old whole cloves in a pot of water; simmer about 15 minutes to scent your home.