If you really want to build up an excellent seasoning collection that will allow you to add high quality, exciting flavours into your cooking, then you’ll need some advice on where to start with choosing how to buy your ingredients. There are too many options around to know what you’re looking at without some guidance, so here are some key points we have learned from years of experience.
Avoid supermarkets and retail chains
Mass produced spices are designed to sit on supermarket shelves or be stored in warehouses for a long time, because they’re produced in such large quantities the manufacturers don’t know when they’ll be sold by. Many processed ingredients suffer a similar problem. As a result, they have to contaminate the foods and flavourings with artificial ingredients that will affect the quality of your cooking. Regardless of use-by dates, spices, herbs and fresh ingredients simply don’t have a long shelf life and will not be as good if you buy them from a supermarket.
Choose whole spices
If you have the option of buying whole spices and grinding them yourself, this is much better. That will mean your ingredients stay fresher for longer and retain a more full flavour. You can grind them up only when you need them, and this ensures they’re as potent as possible. The other main benefit of whole spices is you know exactly what you’re getting and there are no artificial additives mixed in.
Be wary of cheap options
There is a reason why some spices are significantly cheaper than others. This is almost always a mark of low quality because regulations in the industry are not very tight, and it’s considered acceptable for big companies to grind up spices and sell them without disclosing how much filler material is bulking them up (and a lot of this might just be dirt).