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Your Opinion about Spice Longevity

There was a couple other threads about the duration to keep spices, so I like to take this a bit further. How long will you keep your dried ground spices before you decide to toss them and get new ones? 1 year? 3 years? 10 years? I suppose this can be different for different spices.

In addition, I believe whole spices (unground) can last much longer. Most of my spices are whole spices, and they to be fine for 3 years without any noticeable change in favor/fragrant. What do you think think?

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  1. I go by something I probably read here :) When I open the container (jar or bag) and I don't get a strong whiff of the spice/herb, then I know it's time to replace.

    9 Replies
    1. re: c oliver

      Yep. That is definitely the method for sure. I find my whole spices still have strong aroma, and the aroma is ever stronger when they are ground up. I think the lesser surface area really help preserve the whole spices.

      1. re: c oliver

        They have to pass the sniff test, and I think it's really important to keep them stored away from light and heat. I never understand those pull out spice cabinets right next to the stove, What real cook would store oils and spices next to the oven?

        1. re: mcf

          I've never understood it either. Or putting them on the back of the stove itself.

          1. re: mcf

            Another vote for the sniff test and conserving your herbs and spices away from heat. I think most everyone keeps them in the little cabinet over the range for convenience, and because mom did it. Not good. The constant fluctuations of heat from the stove really destroy the aromatics and make oils rancid. Starting 12 years ago, I adopted the freezer philosophy and, with a couple of plastic storage boxes from the Dollar Store, arranged my herbs (leaf of a plant) and spices (any other part of a plant) into respective categories marking the lids for easy i.d. It works!
            CP

            1. re: Chefpaulo

              Great advice. Yes, in a cabinet, far away from the stove. The other thing is that some spices lose their aroma a lot faster than others, so the sniff test is best. If the aroma is not bright and stellar, then purchase newer product.

              1. re: Tripeler

                The sniff test makes a lot of sense -- if your sniffer works well. I've found, though, as I've gotten older, that my sense of smell has deteriorated badly. Now I tend to just go by the age of the spice. Of course, I generally forget to date my spices when I buy them, so "age" is more a matter of "I don't remember the last time I used this spice," so into the garbage bin it goes. If I remember using it recently, it stays.

                1. re: Tripeler

                  I wonder if the opposite is true -- storing spice in refrigerators will make them last longer?

                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                    Yes. There are a few spices that I use very rarely, maybe 2 or 3 times a year. I keep them in the fridge and am able to use them for a lot longer than I used to. I should also note that I live in a climate that is hot and humid all the time. If I had a nice cool kitchen year round it might not make as much of a difference.

                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                      That's certainly true for me.

                      I've had things like red chilli pepper flakes, still in the sealed packaging, stored in the cupboard, go moldy in less than a month. That absolutely *must* be stored in the fridge from the moment it comes home from the shop.

                      I live in a tropical country, though, so YMMV.

            2. I have no idea how long I keep spices as I don't put a date on the bottles. Definitely more than a year. after all, the bottles are not left open. My problem is those that get lost in the back of the cabinet, spice hell!

              1. I only use about four spices. I buy as small an amount (like a table spoon from the bulk store) as I can and use them up. I threw away those dozens of little bottles I'd carrying around for years a long time ago.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Puffin3

                  I refill those little bottles. Curious what the four spices are :)

                2. I have some quite elderly spices in my cabinet. The ones I use frequently are used up within a year, usually much less. I'm sure the old ones have lost some potency but chances are I'll sniff and use, barring something really off. Star anise, for example. I just used some old stuff, whole pieces, in a recipe. I doubled the amount because I figured it was past its prime.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: tcamp

                    <Star anise, for example. I just used some old stuff, whole pieces,>

                    Yeah, I think large whole spices like star anise can last for a long long time.

                  2. I pretty much agree with these opinions. Whole spices, a couple of years. Ground, a year an a half or so, and if I'm planning a special recipe and I'm unsure about the spice, I just give it a sniff. If it hits my brain's happy buttons, all is good. If not, replace.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: alliegator

                      <If it hits my brain's happy buttons>

                      Hmm, you need to remove your avatar, because I first read "if it hits my brain's PUPPY buttons". :)

                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                        Maybe you just need recalibration ;)

                        I am the same way ... the smell test does the trick. Spices can turn to flavorless or off-flavor dust, but it takes a while. I typically buy small quantitles of probably 20-25 spices and blends, and typically this doesn't happen in my spice cabinet. I remember it happening only once.

                        1. re: foiegras

                          Sniff test is good. Occasionally sight test also viz. some paprika I had that turned rather browner than bricky. Since I can't really detect smell in most (non-smoked) paprika, I figured a colour change signaled time to turf.

                          1. re: grayelf

                            Good call on the sight test option: tomato-based products, like catsups, sauces and salsas packed in jars, can turn a dull maroon if left too long. Generally not good once that happens.

                        2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                          Sometimes I give the real live version of that puppy a sniff of some spices, too. Just for my own selfish amusement :)