For most of us, the ideal place for spices is within our reach, which is why we often end up dealing with storage conundrums. This is why a spice rack is useful.
Tenths of small bulk bags and unnamed jars stuck on the countertop are the mere definition of kitchen mess, and explain pretty well why we can never find what we are looking for from the first attempt.
That’s when spice storage becomes more annoying than we can handle.
And yet, we are always impressed by professional cooks’ storage abilities, wishing we had their hanging spice racks and vintage organizers. No wonder we never came across their spice rack ideas –we were not even looking for them!
Before you launch your perfect spice rack process, think of which spices you’re about to include. The pull out spice rack of your dreams won’t be able to bundle all the bags you have, and there is no need to keep dry and useless powders. If you love cooking, and can’t imagine doing so without a full-pack of spices, consider a large spice rack.
Image source: Dream Kitchens, Inc.
Pick the ideal location for the spice racks. The best match will be dark and cool areas where you can store them for a larger period of time. They shouldn’t be exposed to heat or direct sunlight, which is why professional chefs often choose to store them in cabinet spice racks. A good suggestion is to choose a pantry door spice rack, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore wall mounted spice racks if you lack space.
While planning how to store spices, think also how you’re going to group them. You can do so alphabetically, or depending on how often you’re using them. In fact, it is not absolutely necessary to store all pieces in a single spice rack organizer – you can have several of those placed on different sides of the kitchen!
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We recommend you to keep the essential spices such as salt and pepper in an easily accessible location, ideally arranged in a movable magnetic spice rack to have them closer while cooking.
In a vintage wooden spice rack, you can arrange cinnamon ginger, tartar, cloves, nutmeg, and other baking essentials. Last, you can get a separate wall spice rack for the dried herbs and ties, or even group spices depending on their origin.
Luckily, there are many modern spice rack organizers to choose from. They’re made of different materials and available in all sizes and shapes, and it won’t be difficult to find one that matches your needs.
Had you decided for a cabinet spice rack, consider magnetic containers and strips, wall mount spice racks with doors, turntables (or double turntables), and dedicated shelves that optimize your vertical space.
Pull out spice racks are also very practical, in particular for those that don’t have a dedicated drawer where they could organize their spices. Passionate cooks with more free time can also launch a DIY spice rack project, and build up storage space out of plastic containers and shoe boxes.
Since you’re investing both money and energy into discovering the perfect spice storage option, it makes absolute sense to pick containers that are attractive for the eye. For maximal functionality, get clear and named jars in the same size and shape, and pour some herb magic inside.
Image source: Dream Kitchens
Labelling will help you identify the spics you need, so in case your jars have no tags on them, put stickers instead. The label should always be clearly visible (attached to the lid or the outer side), depending on how you’ve positioned your rack.
Many homeowners make the mistake of buying spices in large quantities. While it is true that this is a cost-efficient option, certain spices are not used that frequently, and may lose their scent or freshness over time.
Lastly, don’t use the limited square footage in the kitchen as an excuse for your spice mess – You can come up with spice rack ideas regardless of the space you have available, and getting a spice rack organizer is just the right trick to secure a more functional working area. At the end of the day, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel – your spices will look just fine in a drawer or a DIY wooden container!
Which is the best way to store spices? Let’s check:
Below your cabinet
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Spices can also hang under the cabinet, and there is no need to occupy valuable drawer space to arrange them. The only thing you need to do is to pick up few baby food jars, mount their lids on a metal sheet with magnets, and you will have all spices within your reach but still out of your working area.
Sticking spice containers in the most unusual spaces
What if we told you that your refrigerator can become your new spice rack? This creative project can be easily executed with small magnetic tins as spice containers, and will look just adorable. Better yet, your essential spices will be at your fingertips at any moment.
Storing spices in test tubes
Passionate chefs treat cooking like science, and so should you. Take seasoning management to the next level with simple test tubes, and accommodate those into a DIY wooden strip mounted on your kitchen wall. How cool will that look?
A double-decker shelf sliding out on the cabinet’s side will also help optimize storage space. The spices you need the most should be arranged in the upper panel, so that they’re ready to use at all times.
A beautified shipping palette
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Shipping palettes are just amazing, and you can do so many creative things with them! If you stain them and sand them, for instance, they can become the perfect DIY spice rack that suits both function and form. You can even attach tiny hooks on the bottom to store measuring cups and spoons.
Dedicated spice drawers
You can turn a regular drawer into an amazing spice storage rack, and do so with a very simple trick: arranging tins with clear tops or labels in few well-planned sections. This way, you can easily find what you’re looking for immediately when you open the drawer.
Nails and wires
Instead of a traditional wall mount spice rack, you can opt for a more minimalist solution and hang the spice bottles directly on your wall. Get some floral wire and wrap it around the jar’s neck, creating a loop from behind. Use nails or adhesive hooks to hang the jars into a preferred configuration setting.
Image source: Organization & Relocation
The simplest way to handle the spice storage issue is to assemble all pieces in a custom box. Place the spices in small bags, and arrange them in alphabetic order. The main benefit from this box is that you can easily move it around and have it by hand while preparing food.
A Coke crate can become the most adorable vintage spice rack for every household, as the bottle compartments are simply perfect to use as her containers. As usual, label each of the jars so that you can recognize them and pull them out.
Silver casserole dishes can also be functional – since you’ve already mounted them as showpieces, give them the role of serving your spices. You can mount a tiny wooden shelf in the middle (preferably painted in silver), and arrange the shakers inside. The bottles/jars should once again be uniformed, beautiful, and very functional.
Freshness comes first
The potency, scent, and freshness of herb spices gets lost over time, which is why we should always store them in airtight and well-closed containers, and ensure they have no access to moisture and oxygen.
If closed right, a spice can preserve freshness for incredible 4 years (2 years for ground spices). As any experienced chef would advise you, purchase your herbs whole and fresh, and grind them upon need.
The appropriate use of spices
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Most of us add spices by sipping them directly from the jar into the steaming pot, but that’s not how it should be done. In such way, we’re exposing the spice to a serious flavour loss due to moisture and heat, and we even cause caking that could destroy our recipe.
Instead, we should measure spices in advance, and add them to the mixture before it is cooked. The dishes we’re using to combine them should be absolutely dry.
The importance of location
The worst (and yet most common) place to arrange spices is the countertop and the stove. Why would we put them there and occupy valuable working space when we have empty cabinets and pantries available?
If that’s not an option, you can consider freeing a drawer or placing spices in the refrigerator (red paprika and chili, in particular).
Time to get organized
Tiered organizers will help you save time and keep the cooking process under control. Your best bet are clear jars with dedicated labels that will eliminate confusion. Another way to save time is to prepare the spices before you begin to cook.
Herbs & Spices: The very best storage options and DIY containers
Image source: Highland Design Gallery
Jars are by far the most practical spice containers, as they’re transparent and come with tight-fitting lids that preserve freshness.
Glass will also protect the flavour, but won’t take over it, which means that the same jar can be used to store something else in future. Lastly, glass jars come in all shapes and sizes, and you probably already have them at home.
A common mistake many of us make is to store spices next to their stove. This way, the possibly expensive collection is exposed directly to heat, and eventually loses both flavour and scent. The best location for spices is a cool and dark area, ideally an enclosed drawer or a pantry.
Another useful trick you should know about is that red spices should always be kept in the fridge (particularly during warmer seasons). Sesame, poppy, and similar seeds can also be put there to protect their oils from becoming rancid.
A dedicated spice drawer
The simpler, the better – get spices you don’t use out of the way, and stick to those that are absolutely necessary. If you group them in separate units, you will help maintain their favour and scent.
2. Black Pepper or Peppercorns
3. Chili (keep it in the fridge)
4. Minced or ground garlic
5. Minced onion
7. Dried dill (freeze it)
8. Paprika (keep it in the fridge)
9. Dry thyme
10. Seasoned pepper (lemon or salt)
Here are some extras to consider if :
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You bake often:
- Nutmeg (whole nutmeg has better flavour)
- Poppy seeds (keep them in the fridge)
- Pumpkin spice
You fancy Mexican food
- Ground red pepper (keep it in the fridge)
- Cayenne pepper (keep it in the fridge)
You fancy Italian food
- Dry oregano
- Frozen or dry basil
- Crushed red pepper (keep it in the fridge)
You fancy Middle East and Asian food
- Curry powder
- Sesame seeds
- Mustard seeds
- Frozen or dry ginger
Get rid of the spices you don’t use
How can you check whether your spices are safe to use? To evaluate its freshness, check the colour, and only then move to testing the flavour and the aroma. If it is weak, it makes no sense to use that spice anymore.
The Scientist approach
Tubes were not only meant for labs! If you treat your kitchen as your private experimenting area, tubes will be just perfect to preserve the taste and scent of your spices!
Work with wooden palettes
An average wooden palette can easily become a work of art, and creative designers know that. With the help of black paint, you can turn a rustic palette into a slick one, and use it to store your spices in a wall mount spice rack. Better yet, equip it with small hangers on the bottom, and hang your graters and measuring cups there.
DIY wooden racks
Bloggers share amazing stories on creating efficient spice racks within only 15 minutes. You can also get involved in a DIY project, even if that means hanging two simple shelves, and stashing spices on top of them. You can even get a single large shelf, and display your entire collection in plain sight.
You can organize spices in identical jars without spending a fortune on them. You can keep baby food containers or buy spices that come in a jar at the first place.
Displaying spices on the fridge
Spices can substitute the magnets and sticky notes on your fridge. You can easily purchase lightweight tins with magnet backs to store all types of spices, and make your fridge look amazing while keeping your dish under control.
How to keep your spice cabinet under control
Image source: Weidmann Remodeling
Jump into action
Before you start developing a maintenance plan for your spices, try to answer the following questions:
- Which spices are you using on regular basis?
- Which spices are not needed daily, but occasionally?
Keeping the spices you don’t use won’t help you in anyhow, and we all have these spices at home. We may have bought them to prepare a complex dish for an important dinner, or have some extra supplies from last Christmas. Sometimes, we hold on to a spice just because we got it on a promotional price, but does that really make sense?
To be frank, it doesn’t! The cooking rule is one and only – if you don’t prepare a dish when you discover it, you may never do. For some people, there are exceptions to this rule, as they may like coriander seeds so badly that they can’t imagine a diet without them. Are you one of them?
Keep this in mind: You have to make a ruthless selection of spices. The more dishonest you are with yourselves, the more clutter you will assemble, so break the cycle right now!
Spices to keep
One you are rid of spices you don’t need, you will only have the bare essentials left. The next thing to do is to check whether they’re fresh and usable.
Spices will hardly ever get spoiled, unless exposed to direct heat and moisture for a larger period of time. You can use them even like that, but you won’t benefit from their original taste and smell. Some spices are very tolerant and will preserve a certain level of freshness, and you can always compensate the lack of flavour by using larger quantities in your dishes.
Basically, the expiry date will be different from one spice to another. The best ways to evaluate the freshness is to smell or try the spice, and keep only those spices that look and taste great.
The Cheat Sheet of spice merchants
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The majority of merchants and spice producers advise buyers to keep using spices for eight months, but fresher should always be the preferred options. There are many spices that can last even longer than 8 months (whole pieces, frozen stocks, and tight-fastened powders). For some of them, taste only becomes denser and more intense with time (star anise or nutmeg, for instance).
There are also spices that are pretty short-lived, and you should replace them in a period of 2-3 months. What we have in mind here are dry herbs, zest citrus, flowers, and dried/semi-dried berries like sumac and juniper. Bad aging may also be the case with fine powders alike ginger, turmeric, or black pepper.
For regular spices, it makes absolute sense to ditch the bland and to replace the stale supplies with fresher ones. This will, as expected, add up cash on your grocery bill, but smart shoppers will know how to handle the expense.
The best way to re-stock
Once the purge is completed, you’ll need to go shopping and replenish the loss. Odds are good that you will be deprived of more than 70% of your spice supplies, but at least you will have enough space for the spices you actually use.
Get the keepers we discussed before, and limit the number of fancy, special-occasion spices to few tasteful ones that deserve a place in your collection. The most important tip we have for you is not to get spices in a grocery store.
If you prefer to cook with high-quality and fresh ingredients, be sure you won’t find them in the local supermarket.
Despite of the robust offering, spices in stores are exposed to unpleasant external influences, and they won’t be as fresh as you expect them to be. Good spices are easier to find on green markets and healthy food stores, and you can also purchase them online.
Image source: Euro Line Designe
Ending thoughts on having a spice rack
Getting the perfect spice rack may not be the most important thing ever, but it is certainly a worthy addition you should consider. Spice racks help you stay organized and become more functional, and to locate the spice you need in less than no time.