If you cook at home a lot, you probably turn to the arsenal of dried spices in your kitchen on a regular basis . . . but are you storing them correctly? I keep most of my spices lined up in a row on top of my stove for convenience (plus I live in a studio apartment, so space is limited). But I recently learned an important tip from Simply Organic that changed the way I store my spices and that you should keep in mind, too.
Avoid storing spices in direct sunlight or by any heat sources.
Spices break down when they're exposed to light or heat, so it's not a good idea to them on a spice rack near a window or simply placed above or near your stove. Instead, keep them concealed in a cabinet or, if you're as organized as Ina Garten is, in a drawer entirely dedicated to spices with labeled glass jars. Ground spices stay good for two to three years, so that's a long time they could be sitting in your kitchen — don't you want to make sure you're getting the best flavor out of them?
That's the most essential tip to getting the best use out of your spices, but these are helpful, too.
- Gently cush dried herbs in the palm of your hands. When cooking with dried herbs, like when adding basil and oregano to homemade tomato sauce, gently crush them in your hands above the pot/pan before adding them in. This releases some of the oils that are packed inside and will yield more flavor.
- Roast spices for more flavor. Any spice — especially bold spices like cumin and turmeric — benefits from a little heat. Before cooking with them, gently toast dried spices by stirring constantly in a flat pan on low heat for a few minutes, until they're fragrant.
- Add spices early when making cold dishes. For cold dishes like dips and salad dressings, add spices as early as possible to ensure enough time for flavor infusion (heat releases spices' flavors, so no-heat dishes require more time for the flavors to marry).
- Look for true bay leaves (Laurus nobilis). To get the most flavor out of one of the most common enhancers for soups and sauces (the bay leaf), look for the botanical name Laurus nobilis — this means the bay leaves came from an evergreen tree that's native to the Mediterannean region and have the truest flavor.