Spring cleaning, decluttering, tidying up — whatever you call it, injecting order into your life is never a bad thing to do. These days there are decluttering tips and tricks being offered up by everyone from here to the moon. But one place in particular gets overlooked and even totally ignored for years at a time, and it’s right under our noses: the spice rack!
That’s right, ladies and gents, that often-ignored drawer or cupboard where spices can stay, untouched, for years and years needs to be cleaned out ASAP! The reality is that spices should be replaced after just one year, though undoubtedly most people have spices much, much older than that kicking about in the shadows somewhere.
Now, before everyone starts freaking out, old spices won’t make you sick, but they also probably aren’t really doing much to the flavor of your food. Old spices just tend to be lackluster in flavor and generally taste dusty and faded.
To get things ship-shape and orderly, begin by tossing out the spices you know are ancient; if they’re covered in a thick layer of dust, you probably haven’t used them recently. Of the spices that you do use on occasion, note the color; if they look pale and sad, that’s probably how they’ll taste. Finally, smell is a sure way to determine if a spice should be tossed. After all, if it doesn’t smell like anything, it probably doesn’t bring much flavor to the table!
After you’ve chucked out the old, make sure you label those spices that are still in use. In general, whole spices last longer than those that are already ground. To use whole spices most effectively, dry-toast them in a pan on the stove, just until they become aromatic and make small popping noises, then throw them in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle and enjoy a wonderful punch of flavor that pre-ground, stale spices simply cannot beat — that’s just one of the great restaurant secrets every home cook should know.