Start spring cooking with a clean slate

Ellen Fort and Maya Wong  – March 11, 2020 | Updated March 16, 2020

Go Through Your Spice Collection

According to Erica Perez and John Beaver, owners of East Bay’s spice emporium Oaktown Spice Shop, most spices don’t physically go bad but they do lose their potency, which affects how fresh your food tastes. However, the shop owners do have some best practices when it comes to refreshing your spice collection. Ground spices like turmeric, cinnamon, and paprika should be refreshed every year. Leafy, green, herby spices like parsley, oregano, and thyme should also be refreshed every year. Whole spices like cinnamon sticks, peppercorn, and cumin have a longer shelf life of two years. “The way you store herbs also has a big impact on how long they last in your pantry,” says Beaver. “If [spices] are in an airtight glass jar, they will last longer than if they’re in a plastic bar or plastic jar—also consider whether you store spices in a cool, dark space versus near a sunny window or stove.” 

Make Sure Your Olive Oil Is Fresh

The first things to check on your oil is the harvest and “best by” date. Vincent Ricchiuti, director of operations at California-based Enzo Olive Oil, says, “I tend to tell people to consume unopened olive oil within the first 18 to 20 months after its harvest date.” But once you open a bottle, the shelf life starts to go down rapidly. Ricchiuti recommends consuming olive oil within six months of its opening. “Once olive oil is opened, you start to introduce oxygen to the oil and it will naturally start to go bad quickly.” If you’re unsure about the state of your olive oil, give it a whiff with your nose. Fresh olive oil should smell of “very green flavors,” according to Ricchiuti. Think green banana, fresh grass, green almonds, and tomato leaves. If your oil is expired or rancid, it would smell musty, medicinal, or even like dirty laundry. Time to throw it out and buy a new bottle.

Now, Check the Rest

Coffee

Coffee beans are best stored in an airtight container somewhere cool, dry, and dark. Bonus points if your container is opaque—store beans in a clear canister and light will penetrate in, causing beans to oxidize, age, and ultimately lose its flavor. According to the National Coffee Association, beans should be consumed as quickly as possible after it’s roasted, especially once the original packaging seal has been broken.

Hot Sauce

You love your favorite mouth-tingling hot sauce, so take care of it well. Hot sauces have a pretty decent shelf life and can last years in your kitchen, but according to legendary Portland hot sauce brand Secret Aardvark, there are three ways to keep your sauce fresh. First, refrigerate your hot sauce. You can keep hot sauce out of the fridge if you plan to finish the bottle in a couple months, but if not, store it in the fridge. Second, clean your caps. That crusty junk piling up on your hot sauce lid isn’t just unappetizing to look at—it’s also prime hunting ground for bacteria since it’s more exposed to both air and food. And finally, don’t dip food into your bottle of sauce. Again, that’s just asking for bacteria to fester and grow inside your beloved sauce.

Tea

The first rule of tea: Don’t go overboard. Tea is best when it’s freshest, so try to keep a handle on what’s in your inventory and only keep what you know you’ll drink the next few months. Keep packaged tea bags in their boxes, and store loose leaf tea in airtight containers. They should be in a cool, dry place, away from the stove or any other lights or appliances that give off heat. Tea is also sponge-like in its ability to absorb odors, so make sure to keep it out of the spice cabinet.

Be Smart with Storage

Whether you live in a city apartment with less-than-ideal kitchen counter space or in a sprawling home with a kitchen made for entertaining, everyone likes to make the most of their storage space. Storing items vertically, sectioning products into containers and stacking them, or simply buying a spice rack helps you navigate your pantry with ease. Labeling bins and shelves will help your pantry stay organized, no matter who is putting things away. Here are a few of our favorite products for ultimate pantry organization:

Artisan Glass Canisters with Oak Lids

Container Store Artisan Glass Canisters with Oak Lids, $10.39 - $12.79
   

HAY Colorblock Storage Tins

HAY Sowden Storage Tin (Set of Four), $36
   

Tea Bag Storage and Organizer Spinning Carousel

Amazon Nifty Solutions Tea Bag Storage and Organizer Spinning Carousel, $19.99
   

Multi-Purpose Plastic Storage Bins

Container Store Multi-Purpose Bins, $2.99 - $4.99
   

Dry Erase Label Tape

Dry Erase Label Tape, $7.99