Spices, To Chunk or Not To Chunk…

You know what kind of bugs me a little?  Every self-respecting chef will tell you to throw away most of what is in your spice cabinet because it’s over a couple of months old.  OK.  I know it doesn’t taste as potent or as good once it has aged a little.  But, I, personally, cannot afford to throw away everything in my spice cabinet every six months.  I’d rather have a mild version of a spice than to either skip the dish because I don’t have what it calls for or go buy some $3 jar of something every time I cook a new dish.  I think this “toss your spices” practice is inhibiting to home cooks.

You own a restaurant?  Sure, you go through spices lightening fast.  We don’t do that at home.  So, do you have to feel bad because your spice rack isn’t the freshest on the block?  I don’t.  I’ve got so many jars of spices it’s almost stupid.  But, they’re small jars.  Most of them anyway.    And I have a lot that I replenish with bulk spices from Central Market or Whole Foods.  Don’t throw away the jars.  Use them again.  That’s really the only way you can avoid paying too much for too much of any one spice.  Buy just a bit.  If you don’t have a jar for it, leave it in the bag and toss it when it stops smelling good.  Another good thing about the little bags is that they have the date that you bought them on the sticker.  So, you’re forced to face how long you’ve had it instead of just thinking, “It really hasn’t been that long, has it?”.  Even better than bags, buy cute little glass spice jars and use them over and over again.  Put Post-Its or stickers on the bottom for labels if you don’t have a label maker.

There are too many “rules” out there.  I suppose it’s because everyone has so much exposure to cooking shows and events.  I’d hate to see that abundance of opinion intimidate the shy cook.  Go for it.  Nobody is perfect.  I bet your grandmother wasn’t worried about her spice rack.  She was just glad to have the goods.


8 responses to “Spices, To Chunk or Not To Chunk…

  1. also, buy as many of your spices you can in whole form instead of pre-ground. the shelf life is *much* longer this way, and then you get that fresh-ground pungency when you cook


  2. I like the way you think! Just the other day I was using a spice that I knew had been in there since last year and it still smelled fragrant to me and I was thinking how some TV chef would probably yell at me!


  3. I agree whole heartedly. The myriad of “shoulds” are why people don’t cook. It’s a bunch of artificial standards implemented by people with different resources. I’m not topping desserts with gold leaf, either, no matter how pretty it looks on TV ;>


  4. I agree 100%, I now keep the jars and buy the spices in bulk!


  5. b is right. Whole spices are great.


  6. I am a victim of old spices. Just last night, I grabbed some Mexican Oregano out of the pantry to sprinkle on my salad. Ew!! It was awful. I really should label those jars with purchase dates. I’m thinking that one has been in our pantry for a very long time.


  7. …i wish i cooked more…


  8. We buy our spices in bulk at the Indian grocer – so much cheaper!


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