One of the essentials of any well-stocked, respectable kitchen is the spice rack. This simple array of flavors and spices is one of the most vital items in your kitchen, and it is here that you will keep the spices and flavors you will need for crafting your dishes. When it comes to stocking your spice rack, hardly anyone would say that less is more, opting to fill their spice rack to the brim with any and every spice imaginable, thinking that they will never know if there will come a time when they will need the spice or not. However, the drawback to this is that overstocking your spice rack can result in a messy, unorganized array of spices that will be very hard to navigate once the time comes for you to actually use them in cooking. That being said, how does one know which are the most essential spices to have in the kitchen? How does one decide which spices are most used, and in what amounts? Here are a few tips on stocking your spices.
First, get rid of your existing spice rack. While it may seem convenient for you to have a spice rack hanging on your kitchen wall, readily within reach, understand that stocking herbs and spices is no good if they are always exposed to heat and sunlight. Spices and herbs are best kept in a cool, dry place, away from the sun, as this will help them retain their flavor. You can choose to designate a specific area in your kitchen cupboard for your spices, so make sure to clear it out and make room. Certain herbs and spices should also be refrigerated, so you may also want to designate an area in your refrigerator, preferably in the freezer, for this purpose.
The herbs and spices that you decide to keep in stock depend primarily on how you function. A baker, for example, will need different herbs and spices as opposed to a chef. And if you are a chef, what type of dish do you mostly prepare? Are you more into fish dishes, or do you prepare more of meat and poultry? Take note of which spices you use most in the dishes that you decide to prepare most often. Also, it may be a good idea to arrange your spices in such a way that they are categorized by frequency of use, or by taste. Doing this will allow you to experiment with different herbs and spices on the dishes you create. Also keep note of the aging of your herbs and spices. Store-bought spices last a good six months before they lose their best taste, while fresh herbs are only best the very day they are picked. Dried herbs will last quite a bit longer, as they will retain their potency and taste for about a year on their own.
While the contents of each spice cupboard will vary according to their owner's specific tastes and needs, there are a few staple spices that will enhance your collection. Cayenne pepper, whole cloves, annatto seeds, allspice, saffron, vanilla bean, bay leaves, thyme, basil, cinnamon, rosemary and celery salt should all be part of anyone's spice cupboard. Keep these basics in stock, and feel free to get creative and experiment with other spices as you wish.