You should always store spices in a cool, dark place. Humidity, light and heat will cause herbs and spices to lose their flavor more quickly. Although the most convenient place for your spice rack may be above your stove, moving your spices to a different location may keep them fresh longer.
As a general rule, herbs and ground spices will retain their best flavors for a year. Whole spices may last for 3 to 5 years. Proper storage should result in longer freshness times.
When possible, grind whole spices in a grinder or mortar & pestle just prior to using. Toasting whole spices in a dry skillet over medium heat before grinding will bring out even more flavor. Be careful not to burn, they tend to burn easy.
Because the refrigerator is a humid environment, it is not recommended to store your spices there. To keep larger quantities of spices fresh, store them in the freezer in Ziploc bags.
Don’t over spice! Your goal is to compliment your dish without crowding out the flavor of the food.
Remember, it’s usually impossible to “un-spice” a dish!
For long-cooking dishes, add herbs and spices an hour or less before serving. Cooking spices for too long may result in overly strong flavors.
Finely crush dried herbs before adding to your dish. A mortar & pestle is a great way to achieve this.
Do not use dried herbs in the same quantity as fresh. In most cases, use 1/3 the amount in dried as is called for fresh.
Keep it simple. Unless the recipe specifically calls for it, don’t use more than 3 herbs and spices in any one dish. The exception to this rule is Indian cooking, which often calls for 10 or more different spices in
one curry dish!
Black pepper, garlic powder, salt and cayenne pepper are excellent “after cooking” seasonings.
Cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and allspice have a special affinity for sweet dishes.
If you’re feeling adventurous, try replacing herbs and spices called for in recipes with something different! Marjoram instead of oregano, savory instead of thyme, anise seed instead of fennel and my favorite, cilantro instead of parsley!
Go ahead, spice up your life!