Five Tips for Organzing Your Spice

So you have installed a slide out spice rack? Congratulations; you are well on your way to a more organized kitchen. Hopefully, you’ve also looked into drawer slides, cabinet drawer slides, folding shelf brackets, and other hardware products and kitchen organizers that can revolutionize your space. But now that you have a slide out spice rack, how can you organize it sensibly so you have access to all your spices when you need them?

  • Make a list of what you use most. Some people will suggest that you organize your spices entirely by size. While it is a good idea not to put lots of bigger jars and bottles in the front and lots of small items in the back, even more important than this is prioritizing in order of which spices and herbs you use. Keep track of your cooking habits for a week and this should give you a good idea of which herbs and spices you need to have readily at hand and which can go in the back for special occasions. You’ll almost certainly find that there are some spices, such as black or red pepper, which you use nearly every day. There will be other spices, perhaps oregano, which you use regularly throughout the week. Finally, there will be some spices or herbs which you only use on very rare occasions. Perhaps you do a roast once a month or so and only bring out the bay leaves on that occasion. Perhaps at Christmas you’ll use nutmeg a lot, but during the rest of the year you won’t use it all that much. Once you have this list you’re ready to start organizing.
  • Consider the size of your bottles. If you have a slide out spice rack, you’re going to need to keep bottles of similar sizes together. You may be one of those people who buys all your spices from the same company so they all come in the same size and shape of container, or you might be buying them based on cost or on who has the best type of spice of any particular type. However you do it, you want to keep your spices organized and part of that is considering the size of your bottles and putting the larger ones in the back where they can be seen even with shorter bottles in front for easy access.
  • Don’t bother to alphabetize. A lot of people talk about alphabetizing their spices in the slide out spice rack. In reality, this rarely works. For one thing, you don’t cook alphabetically and we simply don’t think in this type of way when creating a dish. For another, if you have several people in the house, it’s highly unlikely that your alphabetical organization system will last longer than a week.
  • Consider dividing according to use. There are some spices and herbs that you’ll use primarily when grilling. Others are used mostly in baking, while still others are used only for baking very specific items, such as curries. In addition to organizing by size and by how often you use things, it can be worthwhile to organize based on what you use your spices for. Get one slide out spice rack for all your grilling spices, another for all your baking needs, and possibly a third for spices or flavorings that you use in many different things. You can also group your spices by cuisine.
  • Avoid these organizational nightmare choices. Whatever else you do, there are two things you should really avoid doing. First, do not decant all of your spices and herbs into beautiful matching glass jars. You’ve just upped the cost to two or three dollars per spice and made it that much harder to remember which container is containing what spice. Second, if you buy your spices in bulk to save money, don’t leave them in the original baggies. Put them into zipper baggies so that you can easily open and close them otherwise, the temptation will be to close the bags properly “later,” and “later” may never come.

Getting your spices and herbs organized is an important step to making your kitchen truly chef-friendly. Pick a system that works for you and stick with it.

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