Crush Spices In Your Hand To Test Their Freshness

It happens all the time. A recipe calls for a spice — a specific type of cinnamon or a saffron that you rarely use. And, when you do reach into your spice cabinet and find the jar at the back, you may wonder how fresh its contents really are. Are you actually using expired spices? The good news is you can simply crush a small amount in your hands to determine how strong the flavor is that remains. 

When you do this, the spice warms against your skin, and you release the aromatic oils which gives a spice its signature smell and taste. If a spice is fresh, it will be pungent and fragrant to the nose and the taste will be potent and pure; however, if the smell and taste are a little light or difficult to discern, it is probably time to the toss the container and get a new one if it is a common spice you will likely use. But why exactly should you care about the strength of the aroma and taste of a spice?

For the freshest flavor, opt for whole spices

When a spice is fresh, it is going to impart its expected flavor profile on a recipe differently than when it isn't fresh. If you are making a batch of oatmeal raisin cookies and the cinnamon is past its prime, your cookies are not going to taste the way you expect them to. And, sadly, some spices like the ground cardamom that you use in your curry and the ground cinnamon you use in your baked goods lose their flavor quicker than other spices.

This loss of flavor arises because when you grind spices, their walls become damaged and release the flavor and smell. Ground spices have a shelf life of anywhere from six months to two years. Whole spices will keep longer than ground. In fact a whole spice can keep for up to five years; but, if it looks a little faded in color, it is probably time to buy a new jar.