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!