10 cooking staples that can outlast you
You may be surprised how many of your kitchen staples have a shelf life of decades — even after they've been opened.
Tue, Mar 15, 2011 at 11:45 AM
Before you shop, Janice Revell, co-founder of StillTasty.com, says "Look in your pantry and your cabinets and check whether the items really do need to go. You'll be shocked by what you really don't need to throw away."
So before you throw out that years-old sugar or replace that bottle of vanilla that's been gathering dust, consult our list of "forever foods." You may be surprised how many of your kitchen staples have a shelf life of decades — even after they've been opened.
Regardless of whether your sugar is white, brown or powdered, it will never spoil because it doesn't support bacterial growth. The challenge with sugar is to keep it from hardening into chunks. To keep sugar fresh, store it in an airtight container or seal it in a plastic bag. If your brown sugar is more like a brown rock, you can revive it with just a minute in the microwave on low heat.
Pure vanilla extract
If you have pure vanilla extract in the back of the cupboard, there's no need to throw it out because it lasts forever. It may be more expensive than its imitation counterpart, but its shelf life certainly outweighs the extra cost. Keep that vanilla flavor at its best by sealing the bottle after each use and storing it in a cool, dark place.
White, wild, jasmine, arborio and basmati rice all keep forever so there's no need to throw them out. Brown rice is the one exception because it has a higher oil content so store it in the refrigerator or freeze it to maximize its shelf life. Once you've opened a bag or box of rice, move it to an airtight container or resealable freezer bag to keep it fresh.
You can thicken gravies and sauces for years with just one box of corn starch because it keeps indefinitely. Store this kitchen staple in a cool, dry area and be sure to reseal it tightly after each use.
Whether you use it in your tea, on your toast or as an alternative sweetener, that jar of pure honey is good forever. It may get grainy or change color, but it's still safe to eat — and delicious — because its antibiotic properties keep it from spoiling. You can help keep it fresh by storing it in a cool area, and you can improve the quality of crystallized honey by placing the jar in warm water and stirring it until the grainy parts dissolve.
Mixing drinks at your holiday party? There's no need to replace those decades-old bottles of gin and whiskey. Distilled spirits like vodka, rum, whiskey, tequila and gin don't ever spoil — even after opening. The taste, color or aroma may fade over time, but it'll hardly be noticeable. Keep the bottles tightly closed and store them in a cool area away from direct heat or sunlight.
The contents of your salt shaker will never spoil, regardless of whether it's basic table salt or sea salt. Simply store it in a cool, dry place and salt will keep indefinitely.
If you come across a years-old bottle of corn syrup in your pantry, don't throw it out. This sweetener keeps indefinitely as long as you keep it sealed and store it in a cool, dry area.
What good are pancakes or waffles without maple syrup? Luckily, this flavorful syrup will never spoil if you refrigerate it or freeze it. For long-term storage, seal it in an airtight plastic container and freeze it.
"The freezer is such a useful tool that can really save you money because there are very few foods that don't freeze well," says Janice Revell of StillTasty.com.
Distilled white vinegar
This wonder product can be used for everything, from making marinades and salad dressings to cleaning house and doing laundry. But the best thing about distilled white vinegar is that it lasts for years. Simply close it tightly after each use and store the bottle in a cool, dark place.
Click for photo credits
Sugar: Mel B./Flickr
Vanilla: Bill HR/Flickr
Rice: Vanessa Pike-Russell/Flickr
Corn starch: The Consumerist/Flickr
Liquor: Han v. Vonno/iStockphoto
Corn syrup: moacirpdsp/Flickr
Maple syrup: madmack66/Flickr
Vinegar: Laura Moss/MNN