You may think of flour as a shelf-stable food that doesn't really expire, but the staple ingredient can spoil or attract bugs if not stored properly. Don't just stick that bag of flour in the back of your pantry and forget about it. Follow a few steps when storing flour for the best results.
Refined flour is made from the endosperm of wheat with the bran and germ removed. It results in a fine, soft flour that's light or white in color. Refined flours include all-purpose, white, bread, cake, and self-rising flour. Here's the best way to store it:
- Place your flour in the freezer for 48 hours to kill any weevil or insect eggs that might be present.
- Transfer it to a food-grade container (plastic or glass) with a tight-sealing lid. This will keep your flour from absorbing moisture and ensure that insects and other pests can't get to it. It will also keep the flour from absorbing odors and flavors from other foods or products that are stored near it.
- Store flour in a cool, dry place away from sunlight. Refined flour will keep up to one year in the pantry under these ideal conditions.
- If you'd like to keep your flour longer or your house isn't always nice and cool, store it in the freezer instead. It will keep there for up to two years but is best used within a year. Even though it's frozen, you can just scoop out whatever you need. If you're making a baked good, let it come to room temperature before using for best results.
Whole-Grain and Other Specialty Flours
Whole-grain flours are made from all three parts of the wheat or grain: germ, endosperm, and bran. This means the flour is high in fiber and nutrition, but it also means whole wheat flour will spoil faster. Whole grain flours included whole wheat, oat, rice, rye, nut (like almond flour), and seed varieties. Here's how to store it:
- Freeze the flour for 48 hours and transfer it to an air-tight container, as described above.
- Store it in the refrigerator for up to six months or the freezer for up to a year. The high levels of natural oil in the flour will cause it to go rancid quickly if it's stored at room temperature.
When to Replace Flour
We suggest adding a label to your plastic or glass container of flour noting the type of flour and the date. This way you can track how old the flour is and start checking its freshness at the appropriate time.
The best way to tell if flour is rancid is by smell. If the flour has a musty, dusty smell or a sour smell, then it is past its prime. If it smells like flour should smell, then it is safe to use. Do not combine new and old packages of flour since it will shorten the shelf life of the new flour.