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How long does flour last? Can it go bad?

Can you imagine a kitchen without a bag of flour sitting in the pantry? There hardly is one. We often put flour in a kitchen cabinet and forget about checking its expiration date. But the truth is, flour doesn’t keep forever.

How long does flour last and can it go bad? The shelf life of flour largely depends on the variety you are using and the storage conditions. The key to making flour last long is keeping it somewhere dry, cool, and away from pests. If you want your flour to last longer, the best option is keeping it in the freezer.

In this article, you will learn how to store flour properly to prevent it from going bad quickly.

Does Flour Go Bad?

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Bugs in flour

You may leave a bag of flour in your pantry for months thinking that it doesn’t go bad anyway. But the truth is, flour does go bad. Not as quickly as other products. But if you don’t provide proper storage conditions, you will soon find your flour unsuitable to cook with.

Flour goes bad when it is exposed to moisture and air.  These are the two enemies of flour. Improper storage conditions make flour go rancid and change its flavor qualities.

If you want your flour to last long, store it somewhere dry. A drop of water may cause an entire bag of flour to go bad. If any water gets into the flour, you will soon find it all clumpy and stuck together.

Bugs are another problem you may face. If you want to keep them away from your flour, clean the shelves of the pantry regularly. Another effective method against bugs is storing flour in containers with tightly sealing lids.  

But bugs that get into the flour when you bring it home may not be the only bugs in your flour. You never know if there are already eggs in the flour that has been sitting on supermarket shelves. But there is a way to solve this problem too. Read on to learn how.

How to Store Flour?

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The three important rules for storing flour are the following.

  • Keep the flour away from humidity.
  • Store flour somewhere cool and away from direct sunlight.
  • Store the unopened bag of flour in the freezer for a week before using it.

Flour usually comes in paper and cardboard packaging. Once you bring it home, wrap the original packaging with a layer of food wrap and store it in the freezer. A few days in the freezer will ensure that there are no eggs in the flour that will cause bigger problems later.

Once you take the flour out of the freezer, transfer it into a plastic, metal, or glass container. Paper packaging absorbs moisture easily. Additionally, it is hard to keep it tightly sealed.

Note: You can store white flour for up to 25 years. However, this is only possible if you store the flour in Mylar bags and in a food-grade bucket that seals tightly. For long-term flour storage, oxygen absorbers and a stable room temperature (not higher than 70°F) are key conditions.  

Can You Freeze Flour?

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As we have already mentioned, freezing kills the eggs that might have been laid in the flour before you brought it home. But this is not the only reason why this storage method is the best at making your flour last longer.

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If you have an all-purpose flour that you use on a daily basis and go through bags of it quickly, it will make sense for you to keep it in your kitchen cabinet. But if you are someone that doesn’t use flour too often or has a hard time providing proper storage conditions, freezing flour is definitely recommended.

Firstly, you don’t need to worry about keeping the area cool or dry. The temperature and humidity level in the freezer are stable. Thus, proper packaging is the only thing you have to worry about. Once you put the flour in the freezer, you can be sure that it will stay good for the upcoming months.

Secondly, freezing makes flour last longer. This is never an issue for those who use flour on a daily basis. But for people that don’t cook with flour often the freezing method is a life-saver.

All-purpose flour lasts long at room temperature. But nut flours and whole-grain flours don’t have that long of shelf life. Thus, it is highly recommended to freeze these flour varieties to make them last longer.  

Lastly, if you live somewhere where avoiding pests in the pantry is nearly impossible, then freezing is definitely the storage method you should go for. There is no way for pests to get into the flour that is tightly wrapped and stored in the freezer.

How to Freeze Flour?

If you have decided to keep your flour in the freezer to make it last longer and keep it safe, here is what you should do.

  1. Transfer the flour from its original paper or cardboard packaging into an airtight container or zip-top bag.
  2. Remove as much air from the bag as possible. When using a container, try to fill it up with as much flour so that there is little space left between the flour and the lid.
  3. Add a date on the container and store it in the freezer. Flour absorbs odors. Thus, try to store it away from products that smell strong.

Whenever you need flour, just scoop out the needed amount and let it sit at room temperature for a few minutes.

Don’t defrost the entire bag or container if you don’t need all of it. This will create condensation and when you refreeze the flour it will quickly go bad.

How Long Does Flour Last?

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The shelf life flour largely depends on the particular variety you are using.

Refined flours, including the most widely-used all-purpose flour, have the longest shelf life. Pastry and cake flours, as well as bread flour also keep long in proper storage conditions. The reason is that they contain very little moisture, oils, and nutrients.

All-purpose flour, for example, maintains its best properties for 8 months in the pantry and 2 years in the freezer. Bread, cake, and pastry flours have a slightly shorter shelf life. They keep for 6 to 8 months at room temperature and over a year in the freezer.

Whole-grain flours go bad quickly as they are made from not only the endosperm but also the bran and the germ of the grain. The oils these grain parts contain are the reason why whole-grain flours are more perishable.

Most whole-grain flour varieties keep for 3 months at room temperature and from 6 to 12 months in the freezer.

Rye flour is perhaps the only whole grain flour that should be stored only in the freezer. It will last for around 6 months in cold storage.  

Nut flours have been becoming popular in the last few years. These flours are healthy. But they are on the pricy side and go bad quickly. Nut flours have a shelf life of 3 months in the pantry. Keep them in the freezer to extend the shelf life to 12 months.  

Signs that Flour Has Gone Bad

No matter where you have stored the flour, you should always check it before using it. There are three signs that will give away spoiled flour.

  • Rancid smell. Flour doesn’t smell like much when it is good. The only exceptions are nut flours that have a distinctive smell. If your flour smells rancid, it has gone bad.
  • Color changes. If the flour has changed its color, this may indicate that it has gone bad. Color changes are especially noticeable with bleached (white) flours.

Clumpy texture. If there are clumps in the flour, it means it has been exposed to moisture and spoiled.

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