The best way to store spices in your kitchen varies by household. You have a lot of options when it comes to storing and organizing your culinary seasonings.
A spice rack is an ideal way to organize your collection of spices. They keep your seasonings accessible and easy to use. A well-stocked spice collection may even help inspire your cooking.
Your seasonings may also stay fresh longer when stored in a spice rack. It depends on a few factors such as: the style of rack, where it is placed in your kitchen and the kind of spice jars you are using.
Let’s take a look at look at how you can maximize the shelf life of your spice-rack seasonings. We will help you identify the best style of spice rack and the ideal location to place it in your kitchen.
Storing Spices to Maintain Freshness
How your spices are stored will determine how long they maintain their full flavor and aroma. Spices don’t go bad and old spices will not make you sick. However, they do lose their potency over time. You could say that spices do go stale eventually.
On average, whole spices that you would pulverize with a spice grinder maintain their freshness for about 3-4 years and ground spices and herbs for 1-3 years.
The ideal way to store spices is in a dark, airtight container made from glass or a food-safe metallic tin.
You should store your spices in high-quality, airtight jars. They should be kept away from heat, moisture and direct light as to extend their shelf life. This practice will save you money in the long run. It will also prevent pantry pests from spoiling your spices.
Many home chefs like to use and refill those plastic grocery store spice containers. This is perfectly fine for spices you use frequently. However, you should avoid storing your less-commonly used spices this way. Plastic can absorb and transfer flavors and aromas between your spices. So it isn’t ideal for long term storage.
Spices are best stored in a cool, dark place such as a cabinet or drawer for the long-term.
How To Choose a Spice Holder
Once you’ve decided to add more “zest” to your cooking, it’s time to consider what style of spice holder would best accomplish your goals. Are you trying to organize an existing spice cabinet or expand your collection?
The ideal spice holder for your home will depend primarily on your kitchen and how much room you have available. It is also influenced by how you store your spices. Do you tend to buy them from bulk bins or in plastic or glass containers?
Since your seasonings will degrade under certain conditions (see Storing Spices above), avoid placing your rack in a window, directly over the stove or close to a heating vent.
This is less of a concern for spices you use frequently. You’ll most likely finish and replace these spices before you notice any loss of quality. So it’s reasonable to keep some seasonings in a less-than-ideal location for sake of convenience.
However, you don’t want to store spices you don’t use as frequently in a location that exposes them to heat, light or moisture. These conditions cause your spices to lose flavor and go stale faster than you expect.
Once you’ve decided on the most convenient location and have considered which style of spice rack will work best in your kitchen, be sure to get accurate measurements. Double-check that the rack you have chosen will fit into your desired location before you purchase it.
There is just one more question to consider. Do you want a spice holder that includes spice jars or do you prefer a rack that comes without them?
If you are not storing your spices in glass containers then buying a spice rack might be your opportunity to upgrade.
You can also choose to buy glass jars on their own from an online bottle company. This would give you the chance to customize the shaker tops and the lid styles.
Newer cooks might prefer a spice rack that includes pre-filled jars of spices. This is a great way for someone to acquire all of the basic seasonings that may be missing from their collection.
If you have a large spice collection, you may prefer a spice rack with empty jars. This is especially true if you often buy your seasonings from bulk bins, or if you are using those plastic supermarket containers of spices. You can transfer your collection into the new glass jars, where they will stay fresh longer.
Some spice racks come without any jars at all. If you are happy with the spice containers you are currently using then you may prefer this style of spice rack. Just be sure your jars will fit in the rack you select.
There are hundreds of spice racks on the market, but most are based around four common styles (with a bit of overlap).
Once you’ve determined the best location for your spice rack you can settle on a style and design. Each style of spice rack is ideal for solving a particular kitchen conundrum, and some racks are more versatile than others.
Spice racks can be both utilitarian and decorative in design and come in a wide range of sizes, colors and materials. There are spice racks that are automated and even some that are portable.
With so many options, you shouldn’t have any problem finding a rack in the style you want that compliments your kitchen decor.
Free-standing spice racks are one of the most versatile styles and are available in a wide range of sizes and materials. They don’t require any installation and are usually placed in a convenient spot on a countertop. These are typically very attractive and enhance the appearance of your kitchen.
These types may not be an ideal choice if your kitchen is very small or if you lack the counter space, but many are specifically designed for tiny kitchens. Their compact design can fit multiple bottles into a fairly small space. This is a handy type to place near your stove, and they make great starter kits for newer chefs
- Rotating Spice Tower– A tower sits on your counter and swivels on a Lazy Susan-style base. To view your collection you simply rotate the rack around. Rotating racks are a good way to fit a collection of spices into a tight space while keeping them easily accessible. They usually hold anywhere from 8-40 jars. Most come with their own jars and pre-printed labels, and some sets also come pre-filled with spices for you.
- Spice Wall– A spice wall is a box-shaped organizer designed to sit upright on a countertop. They often fit under a cabinet against a wall or backsplash. The frame holds the jars sideways in their own slot or cubby with their labeled lids facing outwards. Spice walls are available in both compact and large models, holding from 10 to 60 jars. Most of these racks come with their own jars and pre-printed labels. The main advantage of this style is that it is very easy to locate a jar by scanning the lids., They are also an attractive way to work your spice collection into your kitchen decor.
- Spice Shelf/Rack- This is a free-standing rack with one or more shelves that hold jars of spices upright on a countertop or in a cabinet. They usually have a rail to keep the bottles from tipping over and falling off the shelves. Instead of being organized into slots, all of the spices sit on the shelves together. This type of spice organizer allows you a lot of flexibility because it can accommodate jars of different sizes and shapes. This is a great style for folks who want to organize the containers they already have.
- Automated Spice Carousel- If you want a high-tech spice organizer then this is the system for you. These carousels have multiple spice compartments in a ring on a wide Lazy Susan-style base. Each compartment has a dial that allows you to select the amount of the spice you want it to dispense. You never need to use a measuring spoon with these spice carousels. The disadvantage of this style is that they take up a lot of room and can only hold 8-12 different spices. They are often stackable, however, and can be mounted underneath a cabinet.
Wall, Door or Cabinet-Mounted
Wall or cabinet-mounted racks are installed into your kitchen using hooks, screws, brackets or even double-sided sticky tape.
By mounting a spice holder on your kitchen wall, or on a cabinet or pantry door, you will free up counter and cabinet space and maximize the number of spices you have easily available.
These racks vary in size from a simple shelf that holds a handful of spice jars to a full-sized rack that spans from floor to ceiling. They may be mounted on a wall, on the front of a cabinet, or on the inside of your cabinet or pantry door. Some can even be mounted to the bottom of a cabinet or shelf, which makes them a great option for tiny homes and RVs.
These racks may be either decorative or utilitarian in appearance. Those designed to attach to the interior of a cabinet or pantry are often plain and not especially attractive.
The downside to this style is that they have to be attached to your kitchen in some fashion. If you don’t want to attach your spice rack using hardware then consider a rack that hangs over the top of your cabinet door on hooks instead.
There are several styles of mounted spice racks and some free-standing spice walls and spice shelves that can be mounted using the included hardware. Other styles of mounted spice racks include:
- Pull-Down Under-Cabinet Rack– These racks attach to the underside of your cabinet using screws. They hold your existing spice jars in rows, lying on their sides with their labels facing up. When not in use, the rack stays tucked under your cabinet and out of the way. When you pull down on the rack, the jars pivot forward, giving you access to all of them at once. These racks are available in many designs and can be made from metal tubing or wood. This is a great option for a tiny kitchen. It’s also a big space saver.
- Bottle/Jar Clips- These clips are a simple and inexpensive way to organize your store-bought jars of spices. They are metal or plastic clips that hold the individual jars in place on the inside of a cabinet door. The jars slip in easily, and you can release the jar by pressing on the clip. These clips attach to your cabinet using screws or double-sided tape. They can be purchased as individual clips or as a row of 4-6 clips. The disadvantage of this style is that they are not very attractive and they don’t fit small or oversized jars.
- Magnetic Containers- These jars or tins of spices attach to your refrigerator (or a magnetic board) using magnets. They are a fun way to incorporate your spice collection into your kitchen decor. They are also a great space-saving option for tiny kitchens. Many of these containers have windows or are made from glass, so you can see the spices within. If you have a stainless steel fridge, you can still have a magnetic spice rack by using a magnetic board instead. You can mount the board on a wall, door or the underside of a cabinet. The disadvantage to these spice containers is that some spices, such as rock salt, may be too heavy for the magnets. Also, these jars tend to be smaller than average due to the weight limits of the magnets.
Storing your spices in a cabinet is a popular option, and most cooks probably have at least one shelf they use for their spice collection. The challenge is that most cabinets are the wrong dimensions to efficiently manage jars of spices. Once the jars are in the cabinet you can’t easily identify them, and spices can get buried under other jars.
Using a special shelf or insert to organize your spice jars is a great way to increase the utility of a spice cabinet. They are generally an inexpensive and flexible way to go about organizing your spice cabinet. Most of these racks require no hardware and minimal installation.
Cabinet inserts are available in a wide variety of styles and designs. You can find one that will work for almost any sized cabinet. Most of these are made from plastic, wood or metal tubing and are utilitarian in appearance.
- Tiered Risers– Risers are designed to create a stadium-seating effect with your jars of spices. They usually have three tiers with the rear riser being the tallest. They allow you to place your spice bottles in rows with each row being a little higher than the previous one. This makes it easy to see and use the spices in the back as well as the front. Some risers are a single piece. Others may have two pieces that slide together, allowing them to accommodate wide and narrow shelves. This is a great option for any spice cabinet. It allows you to easily store jars, boxes and bottles of different sizes and shapes in the same cabinet. Risers can be made from plastic, wood or metal and are available in a range of price points.
- Spice Shelves- These shelves are specifically designed to turn those awkward, narrow kitchen cabinets into the perfect spice shelf. They usually have many parts and can be customized to produce the exact set-up you want. Typically they have a narrow, U-shaped upper shelf (wide enough for a standard spice bottle) that runs around the perimeter of your cabinet on 3 sides. This shelf is attached to a base using legs (or screwed to the cabinet). These shelves allow you to use the full capacity of your cabinet while leaving the jars accessible. Since the center of the shelf is open, you can see and reach the spices stored in the rear and on the sides. These shelves are made from plastic and are relatively inexpensive.
- Stackable Spice Organizers- This style is a great option for organizing a large collection of spice jars inside a cabinet. These plastic or metal-mesh boxes usually hold up to 30 jars in three drawers. The jars lay sideways on grooves or depressions in the drawer bottom. When you want access to your spices, you just pull out the drawer. The drawer pivots downward when opened, so you can easily read the labels even if it’s on an upper shelf in your cabinet. The advantage of this style of organizer is that it can hold a lot of spices in a very compact space. It also keeps your jars securely in place when you are not using them, which could be a big benefit in an RV kitchen. These organizers are also portable and very easy to move and transport.
Using a drawer to store your spice jars can be a bit tricky. Most kitchen drawers are too shallow to hold the jars upright, and when you place them on their sides they tend to roll around.
Draw inserts solve this problem by turning your drawer into a functional spice organizer. These inserts are inexpensive and usually made from plastic or wood. They are typically simple in design and appearance.
The most common solution is to use tiered risers, which hold the jars at an angle on their sides. This keeps the top of each jar higher than the bottom, making the jars easy to identify and access. Other options include:
- Box Organizers- These plastic, wood or metal mesh boxes look similar to the cutlery organizers we use for our spoons and forks. They divide the drawer into rows for the jars, and the rails prevent the jars from rolling around. They are inexpensive and easy to find for typical-sized drawers but may not work for really small or awkward drawers.
- Foam Drawer Liners- These liners are a great option if you are looking for an inexpensive solution to your spice drawer. These pads are molded from plastic foam and are shaped to cradle each jar in place. The liners are large enough to fit in a standard kitchen drawer and can be easily modified with a pair of scissors. These are the simplest and most customizable solution to organizing a spice drawer.
The best way to store spices in kitchen is in airtight containers and away from heat or direct light. Choose the ideal containers and spice rack for your kitchen and you will always have the seasonings you need at your fingertips. Your spices will stay fresh and flavorful for years when you store them the right way.
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