Every food culture has its own relationship to, and varieties of, spices; some are rich and diverse like Indian or Jamaican cuisines, while others are mild and subtle like Polish or German. But if you didn't grow up in a rich spice culture, or cooking much in general for that matter, their use can be as intimidating as it is crucial. After all, mastering these 17 kitchen skills is a worthless exercise if you can't season properly.
So here is your definitive spice primer. Once you are comfortable with these, you can continue to add new and exotic ones to... spice up your pantry.
Take note: in general spices stay fresher when they are kept whole and ground with a mortar and pestle when needed. They don’t necessarily go bad, but rather lose flavor over time, so try to change them up every six months to a year. Help extend shelf-life by storing them in a cool and dry area of your kitchen (not right next to the stove). Also, despite common misconceptions, salt is not a spice, but a mineral. Regardless, you should obviously have it in your pantry. Check out our salt guide to get started.