A random kitchen tip

As I’ve been learning how to cook more and better types of food, I’ve been slowly amassing an array of dried herbs and spices, which I’ve long since learned to buy in bulk from the health food shop down the street. Instead of paying $5.99 for a standard-sized jar of whatever from some herb-and-spice megacorp, I can go to the bulk place and get as much (or little) as I want in a plastic baggie for less than a buck. Naturally, being as I am, this lead to a cupboard full of small unlabelled baggies. When I realized that I had no fewer than four baggies of cayenne pepper, I decided that I needed a better system.

After a long foray into the strange and elaborate world of spice racks, I came to some conclusions:

  1. Actual spice racks fail in two unforgiveable ways: they take up either counter or wall space, and the actual storage containers invariably suck.
  2. Individual jars that are sold as spice jars also fail in several ways: they’re entirely too expensive, they usually suck (airtight, smairtight), they’re never designed to stack, and the lids are usually crappy.
  3. Occassionally spice storage systems will come prefilled which might seem like a boon, but isn’t — the contents are terrifying, old, stale, grey, dusty, and just basically awful.

To make a long story short, the entire spice rack and spice storage industry is an absolute sham and doesn’t deserve a speck of your hard earned money.

My recommendation? Do what I did and buy two dozen 125ml mason jars and use those. If you buy them by the case (12 per), you get the jars, lids, and handy labels all for less than $1 each. They stack, they’re inexpensive, they’re airtight, they have nice wide mouths for pinching or scooping with a measuring spoon, and it’s always easy to find more as your collection grows. If it turns out you need a few bigger jars for things like salt, peppercorns, or chili powder, no problem – mason jars come in a wide array of matching, stacking, airtight, non-sucky formats.

125ml mason jar

Lo, the mighty mason jar.

Bonus tip: Don’t spend money on a fancy salad dressing bottle either. Get a pint mason jar, measure in your oil, vinegar and other ingredients, put on the lid and shake like hell. If there’s any left over, it’s already in a handy, fridge-ready container.

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6 thoughts on “A random kitchen tip

  1. I would use metal tins from the hardware store. Also, you can attach the tins to the back of a cabinet door (which is a convenient place) with velcro strip: attach a strip of loops to the back of a cabinet door and velcro hooks to the back of your jar. (Which I originally learned from Alton Brown.)

  2. I would use metal tins from the hardware store. Also, you can attach the tins to the back of a cabinet door (which is a convenient place) with velcro strip: attach a strip of loops to the back of a cabinet door and velcro hooks to the back of your jar. (Which I originally learned from Alton Brown.)

  3. I’ve been doing this for years for the stuff I keep in larger quanitites. For smaller quantities, I use ziploc bags. I picked up a nifty antique post office cabinet at Kitchenalia about five years ago with lots and lots of little drawers, and keep a small (snack size) ziploc bag of each herb or spice in it–all labelled and in alphabetical order for easy retrieval. I refill from my jarred spices as necessary.

    About the only thing I use those crummy conventional spice jars for now is storing needles, tacks, garden seeds, etc. :o)

  4. I’ve been doing this for years for the stuff I keep in larger quanitites. For smaller quantities, I use ziploc bags. I picked up a nifty antique post office cabinet at Kitchenalia about five years ago with lots and lots of little drawers, and keep a small (snack size) ziploc bag of each herb or spice in it–all labelled and in alphabetical order for easy retrieval. I refill from my jarred spices as necessary. About the only thing I use those crummy conventional spice jars for now is storing needles, tacks, garden seeds, etc. :o)

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