So how long does flour last in the freezer or in the cabinet before going bad? Flour, while not always considered a food in itself, is a valuable ingredient to many, many baking dishes. In fact, it can be considered a staple of the ingredient world, being an inexpensive and easy-to-come-by addition to just about any pantry. However, one thing that some people may not be aware of is the fact that flour actually does have a shelf life. It is not a timeless product that can last for ages at a time, and depending on the type of flour you get, it can spoil in a matter of a few months.
Because flour can spoil, it becomes important to learn a few different things. First, you should know how long each type of commonly used flour lasts. This will give you a good idea of when you need to replace the flour with something new and fresh. You should also know what to look for in your flour if you are not sure about how long it has been in your pantry. Once you understand the basics of this, you can go on to learn about how you can extend the shelf life of the flour you have. For an ingredient that is so important in so many dishes, it is important to know how to properly store it so that you don’t have to worry about it anymore.
So How Long Does Flour Last?
The amount of time that your flour lasts will depend entirely on what type of flour you get. Some types of flour will be good for a few years after the printed date. Others will expire in less than half a year. The amount of time that your flour will last will be the following:
- Whole wheat flour lasts for four to six months past the printed date
- Self-rising flour lasts for four to six months past the printed date
- Traditional flour lasts for six to eight months past the printed date
- Rice flour lasts for six to eight months past the printed date
- Potato flour lasts for six to eight months past the printed date
- Corn flour lasts for 9-12 months past the printed date
- Corn meal lasts for one to two years past the printed date
Because of the special features of whole-wheat flour and self-rising flour, these types of flour tend to spoil the quickest. Thankfully, “quickest” is still a matter of months with flour, but it is something to consider when you are thinking about how much you should purchase if you are restocking your pantry. On the other hand, the opposite is true with corn meal. While it might not be a traditional flour, it is commonly used as a type of flour and it can last the longest out of these types of flour. If you are looking for a healthy alternative to flour that will last a fair bit in your pantry, corn meal and corn flour are the way to go.
On average, you can expect that most other flours will last just over half a year, maybe a little bit more if you are lucky. When you are planning your meals, deciding how much flour to purchase for your next baking project, and generally just keeping track of what is in your pantry, it is important to know how much time is left before you should be tossing the bags of flour. Unfortunately, there’s always the chance that the date has been faded or removed from the bag of flour, leaving you at a loss for how to check if the flour is still good. Thankfully, there are some other signs for flour that has gone bad.
How Can You Tell If the Flour Is Spoiled?
Flour, like many foods, has a few telltale signs when it has passed its prime time for consumption. Of course, how easy it will be to see these signs depends on the type of flour itself, as each type of flour has properties that others don’t.
Take whole-wheat flour for example. Whole-wheat flour is made from the entire grain, meaning that it retains some of the important oils from that original grain. Over time, the oils inside the grain will degrade as it oxidizes, and it will begin to smell rancid and rotten. If you open your bag of whole-wheat flour only to find that it smells nearly unbearable, you can usually assume that the bag has good bad and that you need to toss it out.
It is not as easy to tell with other types of flour, as flour is tasteless, has no smell, and usually doesn’t change in appearance if it has gone bad (whole-wheat flour aside). Instead, you will need to pay close attention to the bag of flour and what is inside of it. The most telltale sign of rotten flour is going to be the presence of weevils in the flour. Weevils are very small little bugs that inhabit the flour and lay eggs in the bag. Absolutely nobody wants to be eating bugs with their baked goods. If you notice that there are small little bugs moving around in the flour bag, it is time to cut your losses and dump the entire thing out. To make sure that the weevils haven’t spread elsewhere, you will need to sanitize the entire pantry where the flour was located.
Prolonging the Life of Your Flour
Nobody really wants to have their flour expire, especially when it is high-quality flour. Thankfully, there are a few things that you can do to ensure that the shelf life of your flour is prolonged just a little bit more.
Usually, you will want to make sure that the flour is inside of an airtight container. This could very well be a plastic bag that fits all of the flour in it, or it could be a glass container that you use for other things. Almost every type of flour will last longer when it is stored in an airtight container in a cool and dry environment. You should also make sure that the container is also vapor proof, as any sort of moisture will quickly cause the flour to degrade.
For whole-grain flour in particular, you can choose to put it in the fridge or the freezer to prevent the oils from degrading. However, keep in mind that this is unique to whole-grain flour and nothing else. If you try this with any other flour, it can mess with the rate that it decays, since the expiration date counts on it being completely dry.
Some Facts About Flour
Everyone loves to learn a little bit more about the food they eat every day. While flour doesn’t quite count as a food, it is such a staple of an ingredient that it is still worth something to learn about it and where it comes from. For instance, a five-pound bag of flour almost always equals about 17.5 cups of flour. Something else that is worth knowing, especially if you plan on making your own version of self-rising flour, is understanding what is in it. Self-rising flour is essentially traditional flour with baking powder and salt mixed in. How evenly the flour rises will depend on how evenly distributed the leavening agents are, which means that some bags of self-rising flour will produce better results than others. Unfortunately, this is par for the course with self-rising flour. The ingredients of self-rising flour are also the reason why it has such a short shelf life compared to the other forms of flour. Baking powder usually doesn’t last nearly as long as flour does.