Are those spices lurking in your kitchen cupboard still potent enough for you to keep in 2010?
Find out if the flavor and aroma is up to snuff: Give each a sniff.
“Open it. Smell it. If it doesn’t smell really, really good and really, really strong, I would throw it out,” said Monica Bhide, a Washington, D.C.-based cooking school teacher and author of “Modern Spice.”
“It has not only lost its potency but also, in some cases, it will be like you’re cooking with sawdust. It has lost all it was going to give you, from flavor to nutrition.”
Her advice: “Buy whole, buy small quantities and use lots of it.”
She offered a few more tips:
Shop: Check the package date; if there’s no date, mark one on the package. “Buy from reputable stores that have fast turnaround.”
Store: Not by the stove (“The most convenient place and the worst place,” she said). Keep in small containers with tight screw tops in a cool, dry cupboard.
Sniff: Smell spices. Crush dried herbs, then sniff. If a spice solos in a dish, it’s crucial that its flavor and aroma are strong. (Note: It’s not a good idea to sniff chili powder or ground red pepper.)
Toss: Depending on storage conditions, whole spices last two years (sometimes up to three years). Ground spices last six months to a year.
Don’t want to toss out old cinnamon sticks? Place with old whole cloves in a pot of water; simmer about 15 minutes (don’t scorch) to scent your home.