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Articles by Catherine Lamb

Catherine Lamb is Food52's community manager.

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This post originally appeared in Pantry Goals on Food52.

We are all guilty of it. Go home right now and open your spice drawer, or cabinet, or box, or what have you. Check the expiration dates. Odds are, most of your spices are past their prime. If you’re like me, you might not remember when you even bought some of the jars in there. The cream of tartar may or may not be older than your couch.

Here’s the bad news: When spices get old, they become pale imitations of their former selves. Will they make you sick? Absolutely not. But your cayenne’s zip will become less zippy. Your ginger will become lackluster. And if you care about packing the biggest flavor punch into all of your food (and if you’re here, you probably do), investing in fresh spices is something that’s at least worth trying to do a slightly better job at.

So let’s talk numbers. How long do your spices last, really? “If you’ve asked that question, they’ve been there too long,” said Lior Lev Sercarz, owner of spice shop La Boîte and the veritable “Spice King of New York.” But really: Pre-ground spices usually pass their prime after a year or so, while whole spices are good for two to three.

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