Raise your hand if you are one of those people that have never thought of the shelf life of flour.
But flour does come with an expiration date, and sometimes shorter than we expect it to be. Is there a way of extending the shelf life of this staple ingredient?
Can you freeze flour? Yes, you can freeze flour. Freezing extends the shelf life of every flour type for a few more months while preserving its best qualities. It is the recommended storage method for all kinds of flour, especially whole-grain and alternative flour varieties that are richer in nutrients and oils.
This article is the complete guide to flour storage. If you have ever wondered about the best storage method for flour and how long different flour varieties will last in the freezer, then keep on reading.
Does Flour Go Bad?
We are so used to keeping flour in the kitchen cabinets that it seems like we have forgotten that it goes bad.
While flour has a long shelf life, it does go bad. How long the flour will retain its quality depends on a range of factors.
What makes flour spoil is air and moisture. These two factors speed up the fat oxidization process which leads to the gradual deterioration of flour.
Though there is a small amount of fat in flour, it is still enough to make it go rancid if you don’t store it properly.
To store flour so that it lasts longer, it is important to keep it away for moisture.
The smallest droplet of water may cause a package of flour clump up and spoil. Thus, it is recommended not to keep flour in the paper or cardboard packaging it comes in as it can easily absorb water.
Transfer flour into a glass, plastic, or metal container to ensure that it is moisture-free and protected.
Another thing you should protect your flour from is bugs.
Here are a few things you should do to avoid any interaction with these types of guests in your pantry:
- Keep the shelves in your pantry clean.
- Store flour in a tightly-sealed container.
- Store flour in the freezer for at least 7 days before you transfer it to the pantry.
Can You Freeze Flour?
If you have experience with flour going bad no matter how hard you keep it dry and cool, then storing it in the freezer is what you should try doing.
You can freeze flour. Doing this is almost a must for specialty flours as they tend to go rancid rather quickly.
Freezing flour is a safe and easy way to extend the shelf life of these staple ingredients. Colder temperatures slow down the deterioration process of flour, thus retaining its best qualities for many more months.
Why Freezing Is the Best Way to Store Flour
If you are someone who bakes often, you may find it pointless to store your flour in the freezer. However, if you bake once in a while and buy a pack of flour only to use it for a recipe you have seen on the internet, freezing is the way to go.
There are three reasons why freezing is the best method to store flour:
No Bugs in Your Flour
Not only does freezing ensure that no pests get into your flour while it is sitting in the pantry but it also kills any eggs that may be there even before you bring the flour home.
Freezing flour is the most effective way to get rid of any unwanted organisms inhabiting it.
Extended Shelf Life
Freezing extends the shelf life of flour. Otherwise, it would expire before you decide to use it again.
Gluten-free and whole-grain flour varieties in particular have too short of a shelf-life. Considering the health benefits of these types of flours, it is a shame to let them go to waste by keeping them in your kitchen cabinet.
No Worries about the Storage Conditions
Last but not least, you don’t have to worry about the conditions you store the flour in.
When stored in the pantry or a kitchen cabinet, you have to constantly make sure that the flour is safe from moisture. Packaging and storing the flour in the freezer properly once is enough to keep it safe.
How to Freeze Flour
Freezing flour is a matter of minutes as it is an easy product to work with. Here is how to freeze flour:
1. Transfer flour from its original packaging into an airtight container. You can use a plastic container or a sealable plastic bag. Airtight containers are the best for preventing moisture from getting into the flour.
As there is no moisture in flour to freeze and turn it solid, there is no need in freezing it in smaller batches. Simply freeze it in a comfortable container or bag that will allow you to easily scoop out your desired amount any time you need flour.
2. Don’t leave too much space in the container. The less air there is in the container the better will your flour keep. In this respect, plastic bags are more convenient to use as you can remove excess air from the bag once you take out some of the flour.
3. Label the container with the date. While flour can be used a few months after its ‘best by’ date, it is always good to keep track of the expiration date stated on the packaging.
4. Store flour away from foods with a strong odor. While well-sealed containers should be able to prevent the flour from absorbing any odors, it is always good to take steps to ensure the product doesn’t change any of its qualities, including the smell.
Note: Do not freeze flour in its original packaging even if you have not opened it yet. Paper packaging will attract moisture and all your flour will go to waste.
The only way of freezing flour while keeping it in its original packaging is by wrapping it with multiple layers of plastic wrap.
However, this is not a convenient way of storing flour as you will have a hard time taking out your desired amount to use in a recipe.
How Long Does Flour Last in the Freezer?
Storing flour in the freezer significantly extends its shelf life. Some flour varieties are recommended to be kept in the freezer as soon as you open the package.
While almost all types of flours have a few months of shelf life at room temperature, there is always a risk of deterioration if you don’t provide the right temperature or moisture gets into the package or container of flour.
Here is the shelf life of popular flour varieties when stored at room temperature and in the freezer:
|Flour Type||In the Pantry||In the Freezer|
|All-purpose flour||8 months||24 months|
|Bread flour||6 months||12 months|
|Whole-wheat flour||1-3 months||12 months|
|Rye flour||1-3 months||4-6 months|
|Spelt flour||4-5 months||6-12 months|
|Barley flour||1-2 months||4 months|
|Buckwheat flour||3 months||12 months|
|Rice flour||3 months||12 months|
|Oat flour||3 months||6 months|
|Sorghum flour||1-2 months||4-6 months|
|Coconut flour||3 months||6-12 months|
|Nut flours||3 months||12 months|
Time periods in the table above are only rough estimates of how long different types of flour last in the pantry and in the cold storage.
The shelf life of flour depends on a range of factors, including the consistency of temperature and humidity levels, how well the flour is packaged, and the ‘best by’ date indicated on the package.
What Types of Flour Can You Freeze?
From regular all-purpose flour almost used on the daily to specialty flours that expire with the package half-full, you can freeze it all.
Refined flours, such as all-purpose, pastry, cake, and bread flour, have a longer shelf life. Made only from the endosperm of the grain, these flours are finely milled and bleached.
There is very little moisture in flour in general. In refined flours, however, the moisture content is brought to a minimum as the germ and the bran containing nutrients and oils are removed.
Storing refined flour in a cool place where no water or insects will get to it is enough to keep it fresh for months. However, this may be a challenge for you if it is too warm where you live.
So what do you do? You freeze it!
Freezing refined flour may not be necessary for those of you who can easily provide the right conditions for storage. However, if the climate is not favorable, freezing is.
Keep refined flour in the freezer to make sure it retains its best quality for many months and stays bug- and moisture-free until you finish it.
Can You Freeze Self-Rising Flour?
Self-rising is a refined flour with shorter shelf life. It will keep for around 4 to 6 months in the pantry.
Self-rising flour contains salt and baking powder. The latter makes it unsuitable for freezing.
Although there are no health risks involved in freezing self-rising flour, doing it may lead to unwanted results when you decide to bake with previously frozen self-rising flour.
It is not recommended to freeze self-rising flour as it will gradually lose its effectiveness. The leavening agent, i.e. baking powder, may not work as well as it would before freezing the flour.
You can freeze self-rising flour. However, if you decide to use it after some time of keeping it in the freezer, it is a good idea to add a small amount of leavener to make sure your dough rises.
Self-rising flour will keep for up to 12 months in the fridge, or in the freezer if you are willing to risk its effectiveness.
The shelf life of whole-grain flours is much shorter as they are made from the entire kernel. All parts of the grain – the bran, the germ, and the endosperm, are ground.
The bran and the germ contain oils. This is what makes whole-grain flours go bad more quickly than refined flours do.
Additionally, as whole-grain flours contain nutrients, they attract more pests. Thus, freezing whole-grain flours is a good option not only for those who don’t use it often but for every cook.
In the case of some whole-grain flours, such as rye flour, freezing is the only recommended way of storing them.
Commonly used whole grain flours include buckwheat, corn, rye, barley, and spelt flours.
Gluten-free flours include such flour varieties as rice and nut flours, coconut, sorghum, corn, and cassava flour.
They are great alternatives to regular flour and can easily replace it in all cooking tasks. However, there is one drawback. The shelf life of some gluten-free flour varieties is shorter than the shelf life of refined flours.
Nut flours, including such a widely used variety as almond flour, have a shelf life of around three months if stored at room temperature.
This is quite short and wasteful, considering that they are more expensive than refined flour varieties and you may not be using them that often.
How to Use Frozen Flour
Before you use frozen flour, it is important to take it out from the freezer and leave it at room temperature for some time. Once you bring the flour to room temperature, go ahead and use it for your favorite baked goods.
Freezing flour doesn’t affect its qualities if you let it ‘come back to life’ before using. If you use cold flour to bake, your baked good won’t rise. They may also turn out heavy and rubbery.
If you have the flour stored in a larger bag or a container, pour some on a baking sheet and spread it out into a thin layer. This way the flour will warm up much quicker.
In any case, take the flour out of the freezer an hour before baking to make sure it will be ready to use by the time you mix it with other ingredients.
The only exception when using frozen flour is recommended is when you are making pie crusts. Some bakers agree that flour right from the freezer makes the perfect dough for a flaky crust.
Note: Do not take the entire container or bag out of the freezer and leave it on the counter while you decide how much flour you will need for your recipe. Freezing and defrosting flour multiple times will make it go bad.
Changes in temperature will create a moisture which is the worst thing that can happen to flour.
How to Tell If Flour Has Gone Bad
While freezing is an efficient way of preserving the quality of flour and extending its shelf life, it still may go bad. Thus, we always recommend you closely inspect the flour before using it, whether you have been keeping in a cabinet or the freezer.
The primary thing to give bad flour away is the smell. Flour doesn’t usually smell like anything – unless it is a nut flour that has a distinctive nutty smell. If your flour smells rancid and stale, it is has gone bad.
Color changes also indicate that the flour is no longer good to use. This is easier to detect with white flour.
Lastly, lumps in the flour are also an indicator that it is spoiled. In case of frozen or refrigerated flour, let it come to room temperature before you check it for clumps.
What If You Use Spoiled Flour?
Using rancid flour doesn’t involve any health risks. Although the structure of flour molecules changes when it goes rancid, nothing serious will happen to you if you eat food prepared with stale flour. The taste, however, will be off-putting.
Flour that has mold in it, on the other hand, should be immediately discarded as consuming food made with it may cause health issues. Moldy products contain not only bacteria but also dangerous substances that bring forth a range of problems.
How to Store Large Amounts of Flour
Stocking up on white flour is always a good idea as it is a cooking staple that you will always need. However, not storing it properly may cause your product to go to waste.
If you live in a warmer climate where providing the necessary conditions for such products as flour is difficult, stocking up on it might be a little risky.
Freezing is certainly an ideal method that ensures that your flour is bug-free and in good condition. But when it comes to larger amounts of flour, this storing method is not practical.
So, how to store large amounts of flour? Here’s what you should do:
- Get a large food-grade bucket with a screw-on lid.
- Clean it properly and dry it making sure there is no moisture left in the bucket.
- Check the flour before transferring it into the container.
- Fill the container with flour and close the lid tightly. Make sure to leave as little space in the container as possible.
- Label the container with the date and type of flour.
- Put the container on a shelf or somewhere above the ground.
- Clean the shelf from time to time and check for moisture.
- Keep the room temperature between 40 to 70°F.
Storing Flour in Mylar Bags
It is not a secret that Mylar bags are the best option for long term storage when it comes to such products as flour or grains. Using Mylar bags to store bulk flour can extend the shelf life of your product to up to 25 years.
Here is how to store flour in mylar bags:
- Measure 120 grams of flour for each Mylar bag. Here is a Mylar bag that would work perfectly for this purpose.
- Remove as much air as you can from the bag to make it airtight.
- Seal the bags and put them into a clean and dry food-grade bucket. Seal the container tightly.
- Use oxygen absorbers to maintain the quality of the flour. If you are going to use the flour within the following months, oxygen absorbers are not needed. For long-term storage, however, they are essential as moisture is the number one enemy of flour. Use up to 300cc oxygen absorbers for a bucket filled with flour.
- Put the bucket with flour bags in a cool and dark room in your house. Try to store the bucket somewhere above the ground. You can store flour in the pantry too. However, the temperature in the panty should be below 70°F.
This method of storing flour long-term is very convenient as you can open the bucket and take out a bag of flour every time you need it.
You can substitute Mylar bags with sealable plastic bags. In this case, however, the extended shelf-life of over two decades is not guaranteed as plastic bags are not as durable.
What You Should Know Before Storing Large Amounts of Flour
- When storing flour what container you use is of primary importance. Don’t store flour in its initial packaging unless you are going to use it shortly.
- Avoid storing flour in regular plastic containers. Pick heavy-duty plastic container with a tightly closing lid. This will ensure that no bugs get into the flour. Glass or metal containers will also work as long as they are airtight. Airtight lids prevent the flour from soaking up odors or moisture.
- Keep the room where you store flour cold and dark. As we have already mentioned, there are small amounts of fats in all flour varieties. Fats in the flour go bad when it is exposed to light. This why flour kept in closed storage preserves its qualities for much longer.
- If you want to stock up on white flour but don’t want to spend time and effort on storing it properly, buy flour in long-term storage containers. These are metal containers with a shelf of up to 10 years.