Flour may be considered a pantry ingredient, but unlike a can of beans or a box of pasta, it doesn’t last in the pantry for years on end.
Depending how often you use your flour and what types you regularly keep on hand, storage recommendations can vary.
Generally speaking, refined white flour that sits in its unsealed bag lasts for about a year from when it is packaged. After that, the quality may begin to deteriorate and the flour may take on an unpleasant flavor and scent.
Here are our tips for how to keep your flour fresh.
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1. Use an Airtight Container, Keep in Cool and Dry Place
All types of flour should be stored in an airtight container after opening. It'll keep roughly the same length of time as an open package (about a year), but the advantage is that the container will keep out air, humidity, and pesky bugs and critters.
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2. Consider Storing Whole-Grain and Stone-Ground Flour in the Freezer
Whole-grain and stone-ground flours, which have some bran and germ in them, contain more fat and can go rancid more quickly than white all-purpose and bread flour.
If you bake a lot and go through flour fairly quickly, store it in a cool, dry place for up to six months. If you’re only using it sporadically, put it in the freezer and it will last indefinitely.
3. Buy Only What You Need
Some of us don’t have a lot of extra space in the freezer. If you’re in the same boat, buy small quantities (especially when it comes to whole-grain and stone-ground flours) and replace them with a fresh bag as needed.
4. Rely On Your Senses
If your flour looks or smells different than when you bought it, it’s probably time to toss it. It’s easy to see bugs or any change in color in white flour but a little trickier in a bag of whole-grain or stone-ground flour that has specks of bran and germ, so rely on smell. If it smells musty or sour, it’s time for a new bag.