Finding a good place to store flour doesn’t seem difficult. The traditional advice is to place it in a cool, dark, and dry space. That makes the pantry sound perfect, right? However, this dry food needs a little more protection than what the pantry offers. The latest recommendation? Store flour in the fridge or freezer instead.
This is especially important for whole grain flour. Regular white flour can usually withstand the mild temperature variations in a pantry. It can also last about a year in the open air as opposed to the fridge. On the other hand, whole grain flour may last only one to three months in a pantry, even if it’s in an airtight container, because the manufacturing process breaks down the protective bran layer which allows oxygen to reach all parts of the grain. Plus, whole grain and whole wheat flour have added oils from the germ and bran of the grain. Those oils can oxidize and eventually go rancid, hastening spoilage. Fortunately, it’s not too late to save that flour!
How to Store Flour in the Fridge or Freezer
To slow down that oxidizing process, first transfer your whole grain flour to an airtight container. The paper bag has a nice, old-fashioned look, but it does a poor job of protecting flour from temperature changes, air, and water. Good airtight containers include large glass jars and canisters with tight lids. The glass won’t absorb smells or give the flour a plastic taste because it’s non-porous. You’ll also be able to wash it well whenever you finish off your flour store.
Once you pour the flour into its new home, pop it in the fridge or the freezer. The freezer will make it last up to a year according to some bakers. The fridge will extend the life of the flour to about six months. That’s not as long, but fridge storage comes with its own advantages.
For example, bakers recommend that you bring the flour back to room temperature before using it. Refrigerated flour will return to room temperature far more quickly. With either storage method, this extra step is simple if you think about it. It just requires a little forward thinking.
How to Tell If Your Whole Grain or Whole Wheat Flour is Spoiled
The easiest way to tell if your flour has gone bad is to smell it. (Don’t taste it! Flour is a raw food and hasn’t been treated to kill germs.) Good flour shouldn’t have any odor. Or if it does, it should only have a mild, slightly nutty smell. Old, rancid flour may smell sour or musty. If it smells off to you, don’t use it. It’s also a good idea to check the entire container for mold. When moisture gets into flour, it can cause mold spores to form.
It’s always a good idea to write down the use-buy date before you transfer your flour to a new container. To prevent yourself from losing the date, write it down on a label and stick it to the new container. Flour that’s gone a little past the use-buy date may still be good, especially if you stored it correctly. Just remember to check it for signs of spoilage.
We know it’s hard to keep track of your flour quality and find space in your fridge or freezer for those large containers, especially with everything else going on in life. But creating a little extra room in your fridge or freezer is worth it for high-quality baked goods. It will save you money, too!