To determine whether your spices are fresh, check the color. Green, leafy herbs will fade as they age. Red spices such as paprika, red pepper and chili powder will turn brown; so make sure your spices and herbs are still bright and radiant for the fullest flavor potential.
Take one of your ground spices and place a small amount of it in your palm and gently rub with your thumb to check the aroma. The aroma should be rich, full and immediate. If not, it’s probably lost potency. For whole spices, break or crush to release their full fragrance. Then scrape with a knife or grater to determine freshness.
If you’re in doubt about the freshness, throw them out. Herbs and spices are some of the least expensive ingredients in any entrée. If you question their freshness, it’s worth it to replace them.
To keep spices and herbs fresh store them in cool, dry surroundings, away from direct light, heat or humidity. Keep spices and herbs in airtight glass jars and close tightly after each use.
Don’t shake over a boiling pot. Moisture from steam may diminish the potency of spices or herbs remaining in the jar. Instead, pour a small amount into your hand and then add to dishes.