Herbs and spices are a must-have in any kitchen, but keeping all of those jars in order can be quite a challenge. Here are some great options for keeping your herb and spice collection accessible while keeping your kitchen organized. From attractive countertop spice racks to cabinet and in-drawer organizers, there are possibilities to suit every kitchen and cook.
Carousels are a popular style of spice rack, and come in a range of styles to suit various decors. They keep spices within convenient reach, it's usually easy to see what's inside the bottles, and revolving racks make for easy access and quick clean up. Plus, most carousels have a relatively small countertop footprint. There are cons as well: Prefilled versions abound, and most probably contain stale herbs and spices. (If you purchase a spice rack with prefilled jars, consider tossing any lackluster herbs and spices, and refilling them with fresh seasonings.) Spices aren't protected from light and heat, most carousels only accommodate a single size bottle, and storage is limited by the number of bottles the rack can hold.
Tiered spice racks are like mini shelving units for herb and spice jars. Available in a variety of materials, from wood to stainless steel to acrylic, many are attractive enough for countertop display. They also work for in-cabinet organizing, and some can be wall mounted as well. Depending on the size of your cabinets, you may be able to use several racks to accommodate a large herb and spice collection. Some tiered racks hold jars securely enough that they can do double duty as spice caddies, so you can carry one filled with spices you need to your work area.
The interlocking design of these acrylic jars maximizes use of vertical shelf space. It's easy to see what's inside, and the display of clear jars filled with colorful herbs and spices is attractive. These are a good choice for those who like to organize their spices by cuisine: Dedicate a set of containers to garam masala, coriander, cumin, mustard seed, ajowan, and curry powder, for instance, and just grab the tower when making Indian food. Light and portable, they're also good for travelers who like to cook away from home, and want something easily packable for spice toting. Cons include openings too narrow for some measuring spoons, and a container depth that may make it hard to store things like whole cinnamon sticks.
Door mount spice racks keep jars stowed side-by-side for easy viewing, but protected from light -- and out of sight -- behind cabinet doors. Some have adjustable shelves, which is a nice feature, as it gives more storage flexibility. Take care to mount these inside cabinets that are removed from heat sources such as stoves or other large appliances, as heat can degrade spices. Door mount spice racks come in a variety of sizes, so measure your cabinets well, and consider how much clearance you'll need before choosing a rack.
A clever but often neglected option is to store herbs and spices in a drawer. An in-drawer organizer will keep things tidy, while keeping your most used seasonings at your fingertips. This is also a good way to handle overflow if space in your cabinets or spice rack is maxed out. Drawers will protect spices from heat and light; just be sure to choose a drawer that's removed from heat-generating appliances.
If you happen to be redoing your kitchen cabinets, consider a pull-out spice organizer. These lie flush with and have the same facing as your other cabinets, but they slide out completely for easy access to the contents. You can approximate the effect without remodeling your kitchen by installing a slide-out organizer in your existing cabinets.
Simple and streamlined, many magnetic racks have clear-lidded, wide-mouthed jars, which allows for a particularly attractive herb and spice display. Some boards have easel backs for counter display, and many can be wall mounted. As a theoretical bonus, the magnetic spice containers will stick to other metal surfaces, like refrigerators or stainless steel appliances. Of course, appliances generate heat, which degrades the quality of spices. Go ahead and pop a few magnetic spice holders on your fridge to keep them in arms' reach while you make dinner, but don't leave them there long term, or you'll risk ruining your spices.
These have niche appeal, but may be best for those who don't cook much. Sure, the clear test tube vials filled with colorful seasonings look very nice on the countertop, but they aren't easy to fill or measure from, don't hold much, and don't protect herbs and spices from light or heat. That said, they're a nice option for gift giving when filled with a colorful sampling of exotic spices -- especially for a favorite scientist.
One the one hand, the stepped style of these organizers makes it easier to see what you've got in your spice cabinet. They help utilize a bit of vertical space, and some are expandable widthwise. On the other hand, there's nothing to keep jars secure or from falling off the sides, so reaching for one jar could jostle others and create a mess in your cabinet. If you do opt for a stairstep organizer, consider putting taller jars on the rear shelf, and the shortest jars on the front shelf for easiest access with the least potential for knocking things over.
A clever drawer/shelf hybrid, the spice stack organizer features slide out drawers that drop down for easy viewing and access, while holding jars secure. Made of polycarbonate, it's a better option for hidden storage than for display, but it can accommodate both full- and half-sized bottles, or a combination thereof.