Space Solutions: Magnetic Spice Tins

Not exactly revolutionary, right? Most anyone who has ever decided that something must be done about the spice drawer/cabinet/bowl/debacle has considered a magnetic spice rack. And, if you’re anything like me, after a moment of sticker shock, you promptly went scurrying off after a different idea that wasn’t going to cost a month’s rent. Chances are, if you cook, you have more than, say, six spices to store (if you don’t, than spice storage is probably not a problem). I must have upwards of 100 different dried herbs and spices cluttering up the one food cabinet. So why are there so many spice racks with only 6 canisters? And why are they all $20? At that rate, I’d be spending $300 on spice storage (not to mention another $100,000 building the addition to the kitchen that I would need to house all those spice racks). Yet, when my frustration with The Spice Situation was at its height, I might have thrown caution (and fiscal responsibility) to the winds and coughed up the ludricous wad of cash for a magnetic spice rack if not for several other problems: there is no wall space in my 64-square-foot kitchen on which to hang a magnetic spice rack that will hold more than six spices; most of the tins have clear tops and we all know that herbs & spices should be protected from light; magnetic tins would stick to the side of the refrigerator, the only spot with room enough for a good amount of tins, but they would be directly over the stove, and we all know that herbs & spices should be protected from excessive heat (not to mention the waste of buying a stainless steel magnetic rack that I would not use). So what’s a girl with a Spice Situation to do?

First, I did some research. As usual, The Kitchn had some good ideas, from a DIY magnetic spice rack (using 4-oz Ball jars as canisters!), to a slim, cabinet door version, to this under-cabinet version made with a metal ruler, but they all had issues: lack of wall space (again), lack of space in my jam-packed cabinets, or my assumption that the dim under reaches of the cabinet would not make for efficient finding of my spices.  I loved the look of this one, but despite some time scouring eBay, vintage type cases are not so easy to find, especially within a budget (and again, there is that pesky wall space issue).

Enter The Container Store and these magnetic spice tins: Eureka!  Sold in a 3-pack for $5.99, these tins are a budget-friendly $2/each. I liked that I could buy a few at a time to test them out before commiting to a large expenditure and finding that it didn’t really work for me. I started out with a dozen and, in brazen defiance of all spice storage recommendations, stuck ‘em to the side of my fridge, with full exposure to light and heat and humidity. And you know what? I. LOVE. THEM. They hold about the same amount as a grocery store spice bottle; they have a pour spout and a shaker spout (accessed by twisting the lid); they are wide and shallow, making it easy to stick a tablespoon measure in there if necesary; they have clear lids, which I’ve decided I love, as it makes finding the spice I want so much easier; they are non-reactive food-safe tin; they are stylish and sturdy. I bought a few, then a few more, and a few more, until now I have 20 tins, about as many as I can fit on the side of the fridge without the tins at risk of actually catching fire from the burner flame.

You know what else? It’s made me a better cook. Because before, I might have been in the midst of making a black bean soup, and thought “I’ll bet some smoked paprika would be really good in this” but the thought of digging through the Dread Food Cabinet and finding the smoked paprika would put me off, and I would just add a little cayenne, or more black pepper, because they are accessible on the tiny wooden shelf that holds my most-used spices. Now that I have chipotle and fennel and garam masala easily accessible (and maybe more important for me, out in plain sight) I’m so much more likely to toss them into something I’m making; I’ve come up with some wonderful recipes that way. I’ve had the first dozen tins for about 6 months now, and I have yet to notice any substantial degradation in spice flavor, color or quality. Equally as important: spices that are buried in the back of a cabinet, never to be used because it is too much of a pain to dig them out, will go bad just as surely as spices that are exposed to light and heat. Perhaps even more surely. So, I say to hell with spice storage recommendations: put your spices where you will use them, regardless of whether that spot is the “perfect” spice solution. Your recipes will thank you. And if you have a friend or loved one who is always complaining about The Spice Situation, stick a couple packs of these magnetic tins into his or her stocking: it may just create The Spice Revolution!

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14 comments

  1. I have these on my fridge and I love them! They really look great and I love having all my spices right there. The one thing I worry about is that I might not close it all the way while I’m hastily cooking and it’ll spill when I put it on the fridge. Well it hasn’t happened before, but just always remember to make sure they’re securely closed!

  2. I have been looking for things like this! I hate hate hate my spice cabinet, and have been dying to get magnetic ones I could put on a board in the pantry or something like that. Thanks for doing the legwork! :)

  3. Alton Brown used an idea similar to this oon the inside of his cabnit doors. I think he used velcro strips to make it work. It’s a great space saving idea either way.

  4. I think I’ve read that Alton Brown idea; I’ve also seen the suggestion to put up magnetic strips (a ruler might work, no?) on the inside of the cabinet doors and then simply attach magnetic tape to the jars you buy at the store. I have so few cabinets (only 3) that they are jam-packed, and they are so high up (above the stove height) that it wouldn’t work for me, but I think it’s a great idea.

  5. I saw the idea of putting the spices on the insides of cabinet doors on Alton Brown’s show and loved it, but at eve $2ea, it’s too much. So I bought two dozen little tins with clear tops from speciality bottle for about 75cents a piece, put strips of velcro on my cabinet doors and matching pieces on the bottoms of each jar. My cabinet is right over the counter where I work, so I just open the doors and I can see all my spices at once, plus they don’t actually take up shelf space and I can see if I’m running low on something right away. The only danger is that I end up cooking with my cabinet doors open…and I’ve smashed my head into an open door more then once…but if you’re not clumsy like me, it works and it keeps your spices out of light.

  6. So cute! I have to say my biggest peeve about commercially=packaged spice racks is that they all come prefilled, with spices you might never use, which have likely been sitting in a warehouse somewhere for months before they ever get to your kitchen.

    I really lucked out–I inherited a spice rack from my godmother, with empty bottles. It’s not the cutest thing, but we’ll refinish it someday when we care about that. And the best thing is I can buy small amounts of spices in bulk, or one bottle holds roughly the same as a small store container.

    I even bought some dot stickers (like you use to price things at yard sales) to write the name of the spice and stick it to the bottom, which makes the spice-filled jars so pretty! I do hate that I can’t get a spoon in there, but it’s a pretty good system anyway.

  7. zoe p.

    Love this. You know, I once had a kitchen with cute vintage metal cabinets . . . . that could have accommodated quite the spice collection. I did use the space for hanging recipes.

  8. Anna

    Great idea! I would probably put labels on the front of the jars so they can be more easily identified (my mom never bothered to label her spice and I once confused paprika for another spice while cooking at her house. To be fair, I was distracted and had about a hundred spices to choose from but it wasn’t something I care to repeat) but that would make it less aesthetically pleasing.

  9. Sherry

    In comment to the exposure to light problem, try painting top or part of top, with chalkboard paint and it will keep out light and will be easy to write, wipe and change labels with a chalk stick if needed.

  10. aj

    Looks beautiful. and efficient.
    has anyone come up with an idea of where to put these if my fridge is not available. there is a wall on one side and other side faces a counter top next to sink. “across the street” from the stove..

    i don’t want to put these under the cabinet because the clear top won’t be visible.

    • If you click on the “DIY magnetic spice rack” link to the Kitchn, that article has resources for buying a piece of sheet metal that you can hang on the wall and use to affix the canisters.

  11. Pingback: DIY: Watercolor Magnet Shadow Boxes » ISLY | I Still Love You

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