Kitchen Q&A: Spice Racks and Small Kitchens

Erin asked about how I organize my spices, and Jessica asked about how I make things work in my small kitchen. (I’ll answer part of Jessica’s question today and the rest will follow later…)

Because my kitchen is very small and space is limited, I have changed my mind about how to store and organize my spices and (everything else) about a thousand times.

I finally decided on a system that has been working out great.

Awhile back when I was at Costco, I saw a two tiered metal basket/shelf/rack designed to go in a bathroom. It didn’t end up working well in the bathroom–I don’t have shelves or cupboard space wide or deep enough to accommodate it.

The solution: use it in the kitchen.

It is the perfect thing for spices. I can see what I want, they are accessible. The drawers are a great feature. And I love that it is sturdy enough to store other jars and things up on top.

The top drawer holds my Indian spices and anything I may use for baking–sometimes these spices overlap in use. The bottom is mostly herbs and Mexican spices.

(I love the spices from Whole Foods, by the way. And that is turmeric in the large jar. Technically, I should be storing it in an opaque container…)

These are my other Indian/baking spices. Bigger jars for spices I use all the time. Smaller jars for specialty spices.

Just a quick note:

I love Penzey’s. (Way more than Whole Foods.) Their spices are AWESOME.

Going there is like going to Spice Wonderland. Jars of fresh herbs and spices to smell and sample. A place for kids to sit and color. And the prices are very, very good considering how fresh and wonderful the spices are. I buy mine in these plastic bags to refill the jars I’ve bought from them and other sources.

I store my extracts on this rack on the inside of the one cupboard door I have. (Sorry, I have to complain. My kitchen is so small and lacking in storage.) I only store them there because it’s not really deep enough to store much else and it keeps them handy and organized.


What should you buy to help you organize your spices? That is a very personal decision. :)

Are you someone who likes a lazy susan in a cupboard by the stove? Or do you like your spices out in plain view? Or do you have other ways you’d like to store them?

The Container Store is one of my favorite places on Earth. And our main source for inspiration today.

I can’t decide which spice rack I would most love to own. There are so many choices…

I’m thinking I really love the idea of an in-drawer rack–that is, if you can spare precious drawer space. Those of us with small kitchens may not have this luxury. But I still love it.

Williams-Sonoma also has one made of maple.

This mounted spice rack is another good option. I like it much better than the one I use. It looks like your spices would be held secure and be visible.

I’ve also wondered if I would enjoy a magnetic steel spice rack. It looks like it would be very easy to mount next to the stove.

When I was looking around at The Kitchn (thanks, Adriana!) for the first time last night, I saw this photo while I was looking at kitchen spotlights. I’m assuming those are spices on the fridge. Sweet. I never would have thought of that.

(And I’m so jealous of those built-in cabinets!)

Dean and Deluca has some great spices that come in similar adorable metal tins. I’m sure I could figure out a magnetic strip on my own if I went this route, or I’m loving the metal rack option, too.

Why have I forgotten to mention Dean and Deluca before now? It’s totally my kind of place. I used to spend more time there before I had kids. I don’t own any spices from there at this precise moment, but from past use, I can tell you they are pretty great. Find out if there’s one near you.

What do you guys think about this idea? I think it’s really cool, but I’m wondering how practical? And my kids wouldn’t be able to leave them alone. Still, I kind of like it.

Blog of Note:

Have you ever been over to The Perfect Pantry blog?

It’s a pretty awesome place to visit. Lydia, professional food writer and the author, regularly posts about spices, herbs, condiments, and other ingredients of interest–along with recipes.

There’s also a feature called Other People’s Pantries where readers send in pictures of their pantries. I quite enjoy this blog and this feature.

The Shelf-Life of Spices…and other tidbits:

How long do you keep spices and herbs before you need to toss them?

Here are a few sources to check out on the subject:

O Chef–“When Do Herbs and Spices Give Up The Ghost?”

FareShare“What is the shelf life of spices and herbs ?”

Or you can just Google it.

What do I do?

Basically, I rub the herbs between my fingers before using them. If they’ve lost their oomph, I toss them out and buy some new ones. (Again, Penzey’s are seriously the best.)

Spices keep longer, but lose their power a bit, too. I tend to like whole spices the best. I think they pack more flavor punch than the ground ones. BUT–I don’t have a spice grinder…yet. I have a molcajete that I’ve used. And sometimes (yikes!) I’ve used my mini food processor. (Just so you know, that doesn’t really work.)

If you, like me, are in the market for a spice grinder, here are my recommendations–

The Krups Coffee Grinder

Both of the Braun and Krups models got great reviews when tested by Cooks’ Illustrated. I’ve used the Braun before in a previous life (when I was a nanny…) and it’s fabulous. The other two brands that were recommended by C.I. are Mr. Coffee and Capresso. All of these four models run about the same price, $19.99.

But aren’t these for coffee? Yes. But because of that, they are really good for pulverizing spices and whatever else you have in mind–whole dried chiles, etc. They are efficient and the perfect size. And pretty darn affordable.

Thanks for your question, CityMama1! Anyone else care to weigh in on this? I love your comments, suggestions and advice.

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  1. I love this post!

    I just read somewhere that the best way to clean out your spice grinder/coffee grinder is by grinding up a piece of bread…it works really well.

    My mom has these awesome lazy susan-like spice racks. They stack on top of one another. It’s an easy way to keep them organized, and doesn’t take up much shelf or counter space. I think she got them from QVC. The are on my Christmas wish list!

  2. I use the Krups and I really like it.

    My tip in a tiny kitchen for organizing spices are magnetic knife strips! Say you don’t have the chance to mount something quite as large as the magnetized board you showed, well I bought magnetic knife strips at IKEA and mounted them in a couple tight areas. IKEA also has spice containers with a magnet on the bottom–PRESTO! Organized spices in tiny places.

  3. I love Penzys too, only I can only shop online. I can’t even imagine being able to walk into a Pensys store–it would be heaven on earth!

    My friend just built a magnetic spice rack next to her stove and I love it. However, because I want to keep my spices in the dark I’m going to try to mount one on the inside of my spice cupboard. The magnetic jars (I’ll have to check out the ones at IKEA–I’ve only seen the ones at Bed, Bath & Beyond) aren’t very deep so I’m sure with the space I’ll be saving on the shelves I can manage a to leave a few inches of room for them coming in from the door.

  4. I love your cool spice rack.. that is really awesome looking.

    .. and I love that tiny white kitchen. I have a tiny kitchen too.. not quite that tiny, but tiny and I just love it. I like a cozy little kitchen with everything in arms length reach. :)

  5. I would try to find a coffee grinder with a glass or metal lid. I have the krups and has a plastic lid, when I grind cloves it’s so hard to get the odor out and you don’t have that problem with a glass or metal lid!

  6. I use a mounted spice rack in our tiny kitchen and I really like it. Everything is visible and ready to use. In my tiny apartment I really learn to use wall space…it does wonders!

    Love your blog!

  7. You are very organized my dear! And I feel for you about the under-sized kitchen (I have a tram-car style kitchen, yuck)

    I do actually store my spices in a drawer, but not with a pretty rack like the one you show… I just stand my spices upright and then write what they are in black marker on the tops… so that I can look down and see what everything is. On the downside, I need to find other places for the stuff I would have in the drawer otherwise… with lots of hooks banged into my walls to hold utensils and bakeware squeezed on my living room bookshelves!

    *Love your blog!

  8. One main attribute that I consider as a good or shall i say a competitive cook is to know how to maintain his/her place clean, doesn’t matter if the kitchen is big or small. We all know it is impossible but it is a must. Lucky spice rack contribute a great help to his/her master when it comes to cooking at maintaining clean place both at the same time.

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