First, check all your spices for quality. Spices don’t have an infinite shelf life, so give them all a taste or a smell to see if they still have strength. Toss anything that’s old, even though it can be painful to throw out those expensive jars of spices, do you really want flavorless food?
Once you’ve pruned your collection, it’s time to start sorting. You have a few options here, each with their pros and cons. First, there’s straight alphabetical. This works well because it’s never a problem to find exactly what you’re looking for. (There’s a reason the grocery store organizes them this way!) You can also divide them into sweet and savory spices and herbs and then put them in alphabetical order, which gives you a little more room for play. Another option is to put frequently used spices together, like basil and oregano, cinnamon and nutmeg, and onion and garlic. This works well for those easy couples, but can get a little maddening when you’re trying to decide what goes where.
If you use spices and herbs frequently, our favorite option is to keep the ones you use most in front, and then organize the rest behind them in alphabetical order. This way, you won’t always be grabbing at the back of your drawer for the thyme, but everything is still sorted in a way that makes sense.
As far as storage goes, keep your spices and herbs in the dark (not on a sunny countertop) and at constant temperature below 70°F. This is best for flavor, even if it means you can’t conveniently keep them right by your (warm) stovetop. Airtight containers stored in the dark are your best option.
Now find out how to stock your spice cabinet.