Does flour go bad? As a baking aficionado, you might have asked this simple question. But as simple as it is, the answer to this question is the difference between a well-baked bread and a foul tasting one. Cookies are particularly affected by the quality of flour that you use. Its chewiness and texture are the first to be sacrificed if you insist on using bad flour.
So without pulling punches, the answer to the question is a resounding yes! Flour do go bad and the first sign that you will notice when it does is rancidity and the infestation of insects called weevils. If you smell it and it gives out that nasty smell—and believe me, your nose can tell—you better discard it. If you open the container and you see those creepy-crawlies, you better discard it. But if you don’t see any weevil and the smell is good, feel free to use it.
Proper Flour Storage
Remember that heat, moisture and humidity is the enemy of everything that is good in the kitchen.It would seem that the freezer is the only best place that meets this definition, but not really. While you can extend the shelf life of flour inside the freezer, the pantry is a good place too as long as its container remain sealed. Air tight containers like Tupperware are also good storage candidates especially if the bag is already opened.
How About the Expiration Date?
All bags of flours have expiration dates, but this is more of a guideline than a hard and fast rule. With the exception of white flour which immediately grows dry when it reaches its expiration date, all other kinds of flour can still be used as long as it’s not yet spoiled. Different kinds of flour have different shelf lives, and our friends at the American Preppers Network have compiled a few facts about them:
- All-purpose flour—A mixture of hard and soft wheat, this kind of flour should last for a couple of years if refrigerated. If it’s left on the shelf inside a well-sealed container, it can last safely for 10-15 months. But you have to be mindful of the weather because heat and humidity can accelerate staleness. If in doubt, store your bag of flour in a freezer.
- Bread flour—Inside its sealed original container, bread flour can last for 6 months. If you put it inside a freezer, it can remain safe to use for a year.
- Self-rising flour—As the name suggests, you don’t need to add leaven or salt to this kind of flour because it’s already added by the manufacturer. Used primarily for chicken breading and biscuits, this kind of flour can last safely on your shelf for 10-15 months. If refrigerated, it can easily last for 24 months.
- Instant flour—A mixture of wheat flour and barley flour, instant flour is used primarily for sauce and gravies because it’s designed to dissolve quickly. It can last for 6-8 months when properly sealed and a year when inside the freezer.
- Rice flour—There are two kinds of rice four: the brown rice flour and the white rice flour. When stored properly, white rice flour can stay on the shelf indefinitely while the brown variety has 5-6 months. Due to its rich oil content, the brown variety can easily grow rancid so make sure to store it in a freezer so that it will last for a year.
- Whole wheat flour—Due to the rich presence of unsaturated oil, whole wheat flour has a relatively short shelf life. It can last up to 3 months in its original container and 6 months inside a freezer.
- Gluten flour—For diabetic patients and for those who can’t eat wheat flour, gluten flour is the perfect alternative. It can last for a year in the freezer and 6 months on the shelf.
- Buckwheat flour—On the other hand, if you’re sensitive to gluten, this flour is the perfect replacement. It has an average shelf life of 6 months on the pantry and one year in the freezer.
Final Storage Tips
While there are still other kinds of flour that are out there but are not mentioned in this article, these are the most commonly used ones. Understanding their shelf lives and how to best store them will prevent waste issues because flour does go bad.
If you don’t need a particular kind of flour very often avoid buying in huge quantities. Stores usually have a wide selection packed in smaller quantities that you can usually just consume till the next time you shop. How about you? Do you have some flour storage tip you’d like to share? Feel free to comment below.