The world of herbs and spices is seemingly never ending. While many home cooks don’t have much more than black pepper, cayenne pepper, chili powder, and some cinnamon on their spice racks, professional chefs know that leafy herbs and fresh spices are the key to adding flavor to their dishes.
Using and buying spices can be a difficult task if you’re not sure what a spice tastes like or how certain spices should be incorporated. That’s why we’ve teamed up with chef-owned spice traders Spiceology and their resident spice expert and chef Justin O'Neill to answer your biggest spice questions!
We’re also currently teaming up with Spiceology to spice up your home cooking this weekend! Now (4/17) through Sunday (4/19), we’re giving away FREE Spiceology spice blends with every purchase of $100+!
Without further ado...
Do spices go bad?
Whole spices will stay fresh for a long time. Spices start to lose flavor due to loss of their essential oils once they’re ground, however, so they have more of an expiration date. You should use ground spices within a year or so. They won’t go bad, but they will lose their pop.
Is salt a spice?
Technically, it’s a mineral. Salt doesn’t change flavor; it just enhances it.
What’s one spice you think should be more widely used?
One spice that is widely used worldwide but not so much in American spice cabinets is turmeric. Everyone should be using turmeric. I put it in almost every spice blend I make. It’s not just for yellow curry; it has a great, vibrant color and amazing health benefits. Also, mustard seeds — another spice that is delicious and nutritious.
What is one spice that is overused?
They all serve their purpose, but for me personally I’d rather not use ground white pepper or whole caraway seeds.
Is there an optimal way to store spices?
A: Cool, dry, and dark. If you can, store them around 50 degrees. If you have backups, store them in the basement. Do not store them above your stove.
Is everything bagel seasoning overrated or delicious?
Ours is delicious, especially in the grinder... Try it outside of the baking world too, in salad dressings or season a roast chicken with it.
Do you notice a significant difference in pepper flakes from different countries, specifically Asian countries?
They all have different flavors. The most important thing is that you use them soon after they’re ground. Japones, arbol and bird’s eye all look similar but have very different flavors.
Will spices keep longer if you put them in the fridge or freezer?
Don’t freeze them. You can refrigerate ground chiles; it will help hold the color. You have to be careful of moisture getting in, though. Better to store in a cool, dry place.
Bay leaf: Does it really make a difference?
Short answer is yes. It’s subtle, but it’s there.To me, It’s not so much a flavor, but an enhancer. I prefer dried bay leaves.
Aside from thyme and rosemary, what other types of fresh herbs traditionally used in savory dishes do you like to use when baking sweets?
There are so many. Tarragon, chervil, lavender. Try using them not just in the baking process, but also for glazes and syrups.
What makes something a spice as opposed to an herb or other seasoning?
Herbs are the leaf of a plant. Spices can be made of any other part of the plant: root, seed, bark. Seasoning blends together spices, herbs, salts, and sugars.
What spices can be used in place of garlic, onion, and chives for those with extreme heartburn and/or allium sensitivity?
Those are hard flavors to replace, but asafoetida — which is used in a lot of Indian cooking — can replace it.
What is in pumpkin pie spice?
A mix of warm spices. Spiceology’s has ground cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and allspice.
What is in chinese five spice?
Chinese five spice is similar to pumpkin pie spice but with the addition of licorice flavors from fennel and star anise. Spiceology’s five spice has fennel, cinnamon, star anise, clove, and ginger. A lot of times, traditionally, it would have Szechuan peppercorn as well.
What are your favorite spices to pickle with?
This one is easy for me: Yellow mustard seeds. My favorite pickling liquid is apple cider vinegar, jalapeno, mustard seeds, garlic, salt, and sugar.
What are some easy ways to use spices in order to make a simple chicken breast delicious?
Brine your poultry! A simple brine is 1 quart warm water and ¼ cup each of salt and sugar. Dissolve the salt and sugar, let the meat sit for a couple hours (or a couple days if you're doing a whole turkey or something big), then take it out and season the outside before you cook it.
Is sugar a spice?
I guess it could be considered a spice since it comes from a plant, but really it’s a sweetener; a simple carbohydrate. That’s probably why the saying is sugar AND spice.
Are powdered vegetables considered spices?
I guess so, since a lot of spices are technically vegetables. Here at Spiceology, though, we put fruit and vegetable powders in their own category.
What are some things you wish more people knew about spices?
Use ground products quickly and liberally. Life is too short to eat underseasoned food.