RE: Seasonings and Spices
Shouldn't this be in Qtalk instead of competetion? Great question, just not competetion rcentric.
It's always better to use the freshest spices you can, even if they are dried.
I try to stay away from the 99 cent store spices because IMHO, they're not consistent in flavor. I go to a turkish or chinese spice store where I can buy small bags of spices at bulk prices. These stores have a huge turn over rate of these spices so I always know they're fresh. Or in the supermarket I buy brands that i know and trust. For what it's worth, salt is the only spice where I don't care about brand.
At home I use a lot more fresh spices then we do at competetion. I know my family won't object if they bite into a rib and get a piece of garlic in their teeth. Or if they find a lemon seed in the sauce. etc. I wouldn't take that chance in a contest.