‘Tis the season for spring cleaning! And while you’re freshening up your kitchen, consider giving your spice cabinet a little makeover, too. While herbs and spices don’t actually go bad — they won’t go rancid or make you sick — they do lose their flavor. That’s because the essential oils that give spices their unique flavors break down over time, so they won’t add the same punch of flavor to your cooking that they once did.
How can you tell if your spices are past their prime? Check for these tell-tale signs:
- Less-than-fresh taste: The freshest spices offer the most pungent flavor, while stale spices won’t add nearly as much kick to your recipes. If you find yourself adding extra seasoning to make the flavors sing, try replacing your spices.
- Faint aroma: Fresh spices have a powerful aroma you’ll notice the second you open the bottle. If you have to get close to the opening to smell the seasoning inside, your bottle needs to be replaced.
- Faded hue: Spices like paprika, cayenne and turmeric have vibrant colors (that make your meals look as delicious as they taste!). If they’re looking a little faded, they’re past their best-by date.
Ground spices should last two to three years, and whole spices three to four years, before needing to be replaced. Seasoning blends are a bit more delicate, ready for a refresh every one to two years, and the same goes for herbs which last about one to three years. Checking in during your spring cleaning makes it easy to remember to refresh your spices annually, so you’re never stuck with stale-tasting seasonings.
After you head to the grocery store to pick up your staple seasonings, try these tips to keep them tasting fresh.
Practice Smart Spice Storage
While that spice rack next to the stove or on the windowsill sure is handy for on-the-go seasoning, it’s not the best way to keep your spices tasting fresh. Heat, humidity, and light all help break down the spices’ essential oils over time, zapping flavor in the process. Instead, store your spices in a cool, dry cupboard to prolong their shelf life.
Keep Containers Closed Tight
Exposure to fresh air degrades the essential oils in your seasonings, so make sure that container is shut tight after each use. You should also store them in their original packaging. We design our bottles to keep your spices fresh, while third-party bottles or magnetic containers might let air in, shortening their shelf life.
Buy Grinders or Whole Spices
While ground spices can start to lose flavor right away—which is why the only way to get the most vibrant taste is to pick up fresh bottles—whole spices keep their essential oils protected and locked inside. So you’ll get the best flavor from spices ground right before your eyes, and right before you eat them.
Get the best pop of flavor by picking up our grinders (we love the garlic & pepper grinder as a simple seasoning for chicken or fish, and our Italian blend herb grinder for absolutely smashing scrambled eggs). Grate whole nutmeg cloves with a microplane as a longer-lasting alternative to ground nutmeg, and use whole peppercorns in your pepper grinder.
Experiment With Deeper New Flavors, Too
If you have a few staple spices you use almost daily, consider doubling up on your favorite flavor by picking up a fresh twist. If you love our cinnamon, for example, reach for roasted cinnamon for recipes where you want an even richer flavor. If you absolutely love chipotle, try using chipotle black pepper seasoning in place of black pepper on eggs, mac n' cheese or tacos to add more smokey flavor to your dishes. Or double up on garlic flavor by using a garlic sea salt grinder to season already-garlicky dishes, like these mashed potatoes.
No matter which seasonings you need, you can always get the freshest flavor by picking up a new bottle. Save now on your next purchase of McCormick herbs or spice products. (While supplies last)