Here's Why You Should Never Sprinkle Spices Over Already Cooking Food

Spices are incredible. They can add flavor, aroma, and color to dishes, and make everything taste better. They do have a shelf life, though, with ground spices typically lasting for a year while whole spices will last for three years (via Spice Jungle). How you're storing and using your spices can affect that shelf life. And that includes one common habit that many of us are probably guilty of: sprinkling spices over the pot or pan of whatever we are cooking at the moment.

The Kitchn explains that spices need to be kept dry to maintain maximum flavor and potency. When you sprinkle or pour a jar of spice directly over a steaming dish, you're letting all that steam enter the spice jar, which can diminish the potency of the remainder of the spice. Even worse, all that moisture can also lead to mold, mildew, and rot, Wide Open Eats points out. Plus there's also the risk of cross-contamination from backsplash entering the spice container (via LifeSavvy).

Here's how you should cook with spices instead

Myrecipes recommends using a spoon when cooking with ground spices, with the added bonus that you will be more precise with your measurements that way. But if you're planning to dip your spoon into the bottle, make sure it's completely dry when you do so, as that's another way for moisture to get in and ruin the flavor and lifespan of your spices. Spices Inc. recommends shaking the spices onto the palm of your hand first, away from the stove, and then adding them to the dish.

Now that you know how to cook with your spices, be sure that you are also storing them correctly. Spices are best stored in an airtight container, away from heat, moisture, and light, according to The Kitchn, which means you should avoid storing them above the stove or on that wall-mounted spice rack exposed to sunlight. Southern Living also recommends giving them a sniff test every now and then to check whether your spices have gone bad. If they have, there are some tricks you can use to revive stale spices, such as heating them in a pan or tempering them in oil before use.