Spice It Up

by Elizabeth on July 17, 2012

(Image via Wikipedia)

Incorporating different spices into your cooking is one of the easiest ways to mix things up. Here are a few tips on buying, storing and cooking with spices.


-Buy whole instead of ground spices. The shelf life is much longer and the flavor of freshly ground spices is better.

-Buy in small batches. Unless you’re running a restaurant it’s unlikely you’ll get through a bulk size container before it expires. Ethnic markets are a good source and many health food stores also sell spices in bulk so you can help yourself to whatever amount you want. Online sources are also a good bet.

-When possible, try to avoid buying irradiated spices (look for labels that say “non-irradiated”). You can read more about food irradiation here, see section on criticisms and concerns.

-It’s worth it to spend a little extra to get a high quality spice because you’ll actually save in the long run. Better quality means the spice is fresher and more potent so you won’t need to use as much to extract the flavor you’re looking for. If you can’t find any nearby, I’ve included a few online resources below.

(Image via Spicelines.com)


-For the best flavor, grind spices right before using them.  I know this sounds like a pain and the idea of it used to intimidate me, but once I got this I was sold. It takes 30 seconds and the difference in flavor is huge. You can also always use the traditional method, a mortar and pestle. I love mine but when I’m short on time I go for the Krups.

Here’s a great tip on cleaning your grinder and if you drink coffee, I’d recommend having a separate one to use just for spices so you’re morning joe doesn’t taste like cumin (unless you like that sort of thing!)

-General rule of thumb (although of course there are exceptions) is to add dried spices/herbs at the beginning of cooking and fresh herbs at the very end.

-If you want to get the most flavor out of your spices, dry toast them (no oil) in a pan until fragrant, generally just a minute or two.


-Keep spices in an airtight container in a cool, dry, dark place.

-Check your spices and spring clean every 6 months (a goal I have not yet reached but aspire to!)

(image via InteriorDesigning.net)
Love this storage idea

Online sources for organic, non-irradiated spices:

Mountain Rose Herbs 

Frontier Coop

Glenbrook Farm

Here’s a really handy Quick Guide To Every Herb And Spice In The Cupboard

I’ve been having some serious tech issues the last few weeks (isn’t Mercury in retrograde right now?) so if you didn’t receive the previous post I apologize and here it is

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