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Was rummaging through the spice cabinet tonight and found something I han not seen in a little while. This got me wondering, how long have I had this? How long do spices last? There's no "Best By" date, so can they pretty much go forever? I'm pretty sure I still have some spices from when I first moved here in 1999!! How do you keep track of how long you've had spices?
Original Post
It depends somewhat on the packaging, but spices, like any organic compounds, deteriorate constantly, esp. with air and light exposure.

I think after about a year they've lost a lot of vibrancy, though I'm guilty as well of having some that are older than that. By two years, though, they have been thrown out and replaced. You can revive them somewhat by heating in a dry saute pan before using, but it's not the same as when they're first purchased and still pungent.
This is part of the reason why recipes from the Elizabethan era look completely overspiced by modern standards. They had dried out spices without a lot of oomph, and needed ridiculous amounts to get the same effect.

Basically if the spice is >12 months old you need to at least double the amount called for in the recipe to get the effect required.
We've had most of the same spices since we got married about 1.5 years ago. We don't use them that often, and usually only when I season meat before grilling. However, when a recipe calls for said spices, the ones we have seem to do be fine. Would the meal taste better if the spices were more pungent? For our tastes, probably not... but you never know.
quote:
Originally posted by PurpleHaze:
I write the day that I open dried spices on the container lid or package. After one year, out they go.PH


You're the kind of consumer that McCormick/Schilling dreams about every night. Most people hold their spices until they are brown and dead.

Just make sure you keep them in a cool dark place, and they'll last much longer.
I believe hoity toity chefs (yeah those ones you see on TV) would proably cut off at around 3 months if not before (though they wouldn't be caught dead using those McCormick/Shilling stuff to start with). Though for most of us, if you care about your cooking, 12months is probably fine.

Practically speaking for the rest of us, if you can taste a difference in the dish, replace it, if not, keep on truck'n, err....cook'n!!

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