The Red Spice Storage Rule You Should Never Break

Like most perishables in the kitchen, spices need to be stored properly. While spices don't spoil in the traditional sense, they do lose their vibrant colors and potency over time. In fact, the loss of pigment in spices correlates to oxidation, which also makes spices lose their distinct smell and flavor. 

Fortunately, you can ensure that spices stay as fresh as possible through proper storage. Spices should be kept away from heat, light, and moisture. For most spices, a dark drawer or cabinet will suffice. But for red spices like paprika, cayenne pepper, and chili powder, you'll have to abandon conventional wisdom. In general, red ground spices including the like of chili powder and paprika will be good to use for two to three years if properly stored. Instead of a cabinet though, you should store red spices in the refrigerator.

It's a storage rule you should never break. While keeping red spices in a cupboard isn't exactly harmful, refrigeration helps red spices preserve their pigments and therefore their potency. So, if you're storing your paprika and chili powder in the pantry along with all the other spices, you may want to consider finding them a new place in your refrigerator instead.

Red spices fare better in colder temperatures

Refrigerators aren't usually recommended for storing spices because fridges have high levels of humidity, which when mixed with dry spice powders, can be a breeding ground for bacteria. According to Healthline, you should use a spoon to transfer the spice rather than sprinkling directly from the bottle onto your food, to avoid any moisture getting into your spice. Spices generally should also be stored in temperatures no higher than 68 degrees Fahrenheit,   with air humidity that is no more than 60% for proper storage. This is why a cabinet works best for most spices that aren't red. 

However, when it comes to red spices, you generally want things colder than a cabinet will allow. According to the Canadian Spice Association, spices like paprika that are made from capsicums are more suitable for colder environments (recommended 32 to 45 degrees Fahrenheit) if you want them to retain their shade of red. Spices such as paprika lose approximately 1% of color every 10 days when stored at a temperature that's between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. With cold storage, that's reduced to just half a percent every 10 days.