Updated: Jun 16, 2020
If you find pleasure in cooking with your seasonings (that may be old), you'll find even more pleasure when they are replaced with new jars full of fresher flavour and vibrancy. How old are your spices & is it true that spices go bad?
"The key to a good meal is simplicity and the right seasoning" - Buddy Valastro
What happens to seasonings over time?
Herbs, spices, and blends are essential ingredients to add flavour, life and personality to your dishes. To be real, seasonings don’t go bad the way that milk does so if they have aged beyond their prime, they won’t become gross or cause health risks if consumed. But, it is true that seasonings lose their flavours over time. Try to think of it as spices go ‘not good’ rather than bad. In fact, salt is the one seasoning that pretty much has a limitless shelf life so if you want your seasoning game to be as strong it possible can, you should try to make sure the seasonings in your cupboard are as fresh as possible and not exposed to light.
Over time, oxygen can dilute the seasonings and the sharp aromas and flavours may slowly escape. Likewise, light and moisture can also affect the freshness of spices and essentially, exposure to light means that after around 3 months, your spices will lose flavour. However, if you buy spices in dark containers or jars, they can last more than 1 year.
To keep your seasoning fresh for as possible, proper storage is vital in maxing out the life of your seasonings. Try to store your seasonings in an airtight container in a dry, dark environment. This will help you to avoid creating dishes that fall flat and don’t show off your cooking skills.
How to tell if your seasonings are still fresh
Fresh spices have a strong aroma so a simple smell will typically tell you whether or not it’s time to bin your old spices. Leafy herbs fade in colour and red spices like chilli powder, paprika and cayenne pepper tend to turn brown or loose colour as they age. So, by judging both the aroma and colour of your herbs and spices, you can easily determine whether or not they are still fresh.
What should I take from this all?
Try not to bulk buy your seasonings. Ideally, you want to get through a container in 3 months and not have them sitting in your cupboard as this can be a waste of money and flavour.
The best way to honour the seasonings you have and avoid having to ever throw them out is to use them.
Storage is everything! Seal your spices in an airtight jar to avoid exposure to oxygen, heat, light and moisture. If you can buy spices in a dark container or tin, this is a much better option.
Not all seasonings are created equally. If you can, try to buy spices that have been sterilised using the same method. Its tricky as manufacturers are not required to label some of these by law but with organic seasonings, you can be sure that they are.
Whether you are a new cook or more experienced cook, it is important to try to start the process with the best flavour you can get because as we know, flavour is invaluable and can completely transform your dishes. Try to avoid supermarket spices and buy good quality seasonings, sourced from reputable brands.
If you give your spices the same attention that you give to all the other ingredients your recipe requires, the quality of your cooking will be elevated to exciting new heights!