There are so many spice storage solutions out there. But if you’re like me, you want your spices to be useful, not decorative. The most usable way to store spices is in drawers that have bins with labels on the tops of the spice containers.
Why use the drawer? They’re better than external spice racks, spice-specific drawers and cabinets. External spice racks have two downsides. First, they expose your spices to light — a potency killer. But let’s say that you’re using tins instead of glass containers, which solves the light problem. But the second downside is visual clutter. If you have a lot of spices, then you’ll need a lot of wall space. And if you’re like the average human, you buy spices as you go, which means that the brand — and thus the shape, size and color — of the bottles are different. Of course, you could purchase a set that has all the same size bottles or a pre-stocked custom rack… but this system is difficult to maintain as you buy new spices.
Spice specific drawer racks solved the light-problem by moving the rack to darkness. They’re those skinny drawers that are typically next to the fridge that are 6” wide. It seemed like a great idea! But it’s primary setback is the low information density of this arrangement. You have to scan a much larger portion of space to find the spice you’re looking for. This is likely the reason that spices are often displayed alphabetically. Also, if you’re short like me (5’1”) those top shelves are the graveyard of spices.
Finally, if you don’t have the right kinds of drawers, cabinets can work, but you’ll need bins and to adjust your cabinet shelves. But cabinets lose to drawers because you have to pull out the bins to get the spice and you can’t see all of them without pulling them all out.
So with drawers, you can pull it out and you can see many spices in a compact space. It’s also easily accessible since you don’t have to pull out other spices to get to it. The drawer you choose needs to be at minimum typical spice height. You’ll likely want at least two drawers. The second drawer should be taller to accommodate taller containers.
Why use bins? They serve two primary functions. First, they prevent the spices from sliding around in the drawer, which means they’re less likely to topple over and make the drawer messy. Also, the spice will be more likely to be where you expect it to be. Second, the spices can be transported easily en mass. Making pasta? Grab the bin that has the herby oregano, basil, rosemary combos. Making Asian stew? Grab the bin that has the Chinese five spices, star anise and licorice root. Finally, bonus, if you only have cabinet space, bins are a must — giving you flexibility to change your arrangement.
The bins themselves should have right angles rather than sloping downward. Tapered bins neither store next to each other well nor give the spices a secure home — they’ll clink around more. The size of the bin depends on the size of your drawer. No bigger than a small shoe box, but also, not too small.
Finally, get yourself a label maker and label all of you spices on the top of the containers so that you can identify them without having to lift them out.