Do spices go bad and what is the best way to store them?
Spices, like all foods, have a distinct shelf life and will go bad. The length of that shelf life depends on how the spices are cared for.
Heat, humidity, air, and sunlight all have detrimental effects: they break down the chemical compounds (also known as essential oils) that give spices their flavors and aromas. When these chemical compounds break down the flavors lose potency. In some spices, flavors, and aromas can become rancid, moldy, musty, or dirty at which point the spices should be thrown away.
Kept at ideal conditions, spices and herbs can live long, fragrant lives:
Dried herbs will keep for 1 year.
Ground spices will keep for 1 year.
Whole spices will keep for 3 years.
Salts will keep indefinitely.
Flavored salts will keep for 3 years, and though the infused flavors might vanish the salt itself is still usable.
Poppy seeds, sesame seeds, nuts and truffle products– unique to the spice world in regards to storage – only keep for 3 to 6 months.
Keeping this in mind, we generally encourage customers to purchase whole spices as they possess higher potency and longer shelf life.
Spices and herbs should be kept in airtight containers in dark, cool places. Glass jars with tight fitting lids are perfect if you plan to store your spices in a cupboard. However, if the layout of your home doesn’t allow for this use tins to ensure that sunlight can’t reach the spices.
Some people insist that a refrigerator provides an ideal environment to store spices due to its dark and cold nature. Unfortunately, humidity can cause the flavor of various spices to alter or for the spices to even grow mold or bacteria. For this reason we do not encourage storing spices in a freezer or refrigerator unless they have been vacuum sealed.
In addition, avoid storing spices in cupboards above heating elements as ambient heat can cause spices to spoil more quickly.