Long story, but I basically bought out my grocery store’s entire stock of flour. (What can I say? I love bread.) How should I be storing it? Is the pantry OK? I have heard things about freezing flour to kill bugs—is that a real concern? Please help!
Dear Flour Child,
Congrats on your newfound sourdough journey. (I’m right, aren’t I?) I’m guessing you’ve stocked up on quite a bit of flour. To prevent it from going to waste, here’s how to store flour properly so it lasts longer than your next batch of cookies. (You’re in luck—it’s super easy.)
First, does flour go bad?
Many folks who are new to baking don’t realize that flour is actually a perishable item, so yes, it will go bad eventually (unlike sugar or spices, which will last pretty much indefinitely in the depths of your pantry). All types of flour have some amount of oil in them, so they can go rancid when exposed to oxygen over time. You’ll know when flour is past its prime by its unpleasant smell and bitter flavor. And as a general rule of thumb, unrefined flour (like whole wheat) will spoils faster than refined types (like all-purpose).
How long does flour last?
It depends on the type of flour you’re talking about and how you’re storing it. All-purpose flour (and other refined flours, like white bread flour) can last six to 12 months from the date of purchase when stored unopened in the pantry (and up to eight months once opened). Whole-wheat flour has a shorter shelf life since it contains more oil and will last for about three months unopened in the pantry. Of course, storing these items properly will extend their shelf lives.
So, what’s the best way to store flour?
According to the flour experts at the King Arthur Baking Company, there are three key elements to storing any kind of flour: It should be airtight, cold and in the dark.
The next time you bring home a fresh bag of flour, here’s how to store it:
First, open the flour and transfer the contents to either a plastic container with a tight-fitting lid, or a large, resealable plastic bag. (Alternatively, you can just slip the entire bag into the container or plastic bag without opening it.) The more airtight the container, the better—this will prevent oxidation and keep the flour from absorbing other flavors.
Next, choose your storage spot. While a dark, cool pantry will certainly do, the fridge is better, and the freezer is best. For the longest shelf life, store the flour as far from the fridge or freezer door as possible to reduce exposure to light and warmth every time you go looking for leftovers.
Voilà, your flour should last up to two years in the freezer or one year in the fridge (make that up to six months for whole-wheat flour). You know, unless you’re baking up a storm.
Flour bugs: fact or fiction?
Flour Child, you mentioned that you’ve heard about finding bugs in flour. I can tell you from (unfortunate) experience that it’s a valid concern. The most common culprits are called flour weevils: tiny bugs that were most likely in that bag of flour when you brought it home from the store.
Flour weevils are a nuisance—not to mention pretty gross to discover in your home—but not harmful. To avoid having an issue in the first place, you can freeze new bags of flour for three days to kill any potential pests hiding inside. Other than that, keep your pantry clean and your grains in airtight containers and try to not buy more flour than you can use up in a few months.
Hope that answers your questions—happy baking!