Spices are very valuable elements for a dish. Using the good amount and selection of spices can bring out the flavour of ingredients. Respectable for their long shell life, they still have to be stored properly. Spice actually cannot even expire, but they do lose their flavour, aroma, and colour as time goes on. If spices start to lose their essentials, you can throw them out; it simply does not give a kick to the food anymore.
For a good start, using dried and ground spices seem handy. They look simple and the colours are nice as well. Commercial dried and ground spices in big stores also come with date code to prevent their customers from using it when they are no longer fresh.
Buying whole spices is actually more recommended. They have longer shell life and even they can reach 4 years. However, not all spices are available in whole form, for example dried herbs and root spices. Dried herbs only stay for one year when ground root spices can reach one to two years.
We often see spices stored in a transparent glass bottle. It may give convenience to the chef on distinguishing one spice to another. It indeed gives special accent to your kitchen as well. Nonetheless, storing spices in transparent vessels is not recommended. Using opaque airtight jar is a much better option.
Some spices are sensitive to light as it can reduce their visual quality. Although it does not really affect their flavour and aroma, fading colour is not good for spices appearance in food, especially when they are used as garnish. If you still want to keep your transparent bottle, you can still use it. However, try to prevent your spices from strong light.
Beside light, try to avoid heat. There is actually a love-hate relationship between spices and heat. Chef heats and toasts spices until they release their aromatic oil. That will bring out maximum flavour of the spices. However, heat on stored spices is not favourable. Cooking steam will cause lumpiness to spices, while high temperature will make spices lose their flavour in short time.
To avoid those problems, spices should be stored in cool place, around 20oC. Since that temperature will be hard to achieve in a hot kitchen, do mise en place or preparation for every ingredients including spices. Use spices in sufficient amount in kitchen and store the rest in your inventory shelf.
The last aspect for storing spices is preventing them from moisture. Damp spices will cause mould that is definitely damaging. You can hold it off by using dry spoon to measure your spices all the times. After that, always keep spices jars tightly closed.
Some spices are cheap, but some are expensive. Still, they are valuable investments for your restaurant. Giving extra effort to handle them is worth it as using good spices will elevate your dishes to another level. It means more satisfied customer and more profit for you!
Text: Dina Vionetta