Flour is the essential ingredient you need for baking. It also has a vital role to play in our everyday diet. That is why we always have some flours stored in our pantry. It is made by grinding and milling different grains, beans, nuts, seeds, etc. That’s why you’ll find various types of flours available in the market.
But now the concern is, how long does flour last without getting rancid? What can we do to keep them fresh for a long time? How to tell if the flour has gone bad?
To know all these, keep reading this article.
Does Flour Really Get Spoiled?
As the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) states, “All foods eventually spoil if not preserved.” Therefore, the answer is YES; like any other food ingredient, flours also get spoiled or rancid if you don’t store them properly.
There are mainly two reasons for your flour to get spoiled: rancidification and bugs. Rancidification is the process in which your food gets an undesirable smell, and its texture is changed. This happens by chemical changes in foods, especially if they are left open and are exposed to air, water, light, and certain bacteria.
Flour bugs are known as weevils. They may come to your pantry from your local store or directly from the warehouse. Weevils are small and have a reddish-brown texture. If the amount of this bug in your flour is too many, better dispose of the whole thing!
The Shelf Life of Various Flours
We’ve various flours available in our stores nowadays. If you keep them at room temperature, each of them has a different shelf-life; the average is 3-8 months. But if you keep them in your fridge, the shelf life almost doubles comparing with keeping them in pantries.
Let’s have a look at the shelf-life of few regularly used flours:
- All-purpose flour, which is regularly used in households, has a longer shelf life comparing to others. It approximately stays healthy for a year.
- Bread flours are mainly used for making bread, as you can assume. They stay unrotten for 6 months.
- Self-rising flours have a healthy life of around 4-6 months.
- Oat flours and white whole wheat flours also have a lifespan similar to self-rising flours.
- Whole wheat flours stay good for 1-3 months.
- Gluten-free flours and alternative flours have a shelf life of around 3 months.
How to Tell if Flour Has Gone Bad
There are few simple ways to identify if your flour got spoiled or not. We’ll try to cover most of them below.
Check the Expiry Date
Checking the expiry date is the easiest way to figure it out, frankly speaking. Most packaged flours have it written on their packet. Although, quite often, the flours may stay healthier even after meeting their expiry dates. Also, you can prolong their lifespan by keeping them in the fridge.
Sniff the Flour
If you find a bad odor while sniffing the smell of your flour, that is one big indicator that this thing may have got spoiled. In fact, this is the best way to determine, according to many experts.
You may not like to do it, but this is another good way to figure out if your flour is okay or not. If the taste is abnormal, then be sure that it got spoiled. Normally flours have a neutral smell, whereas bad flour smells sour and musty.
There are certain colors of each flour. Some are white, some are off-white or cream color, some are brown or brownish. If the natural color of these flours changes, then that’s a definite red flag! Also, a clumpy and wet textured flour should be inspected.
Molds in the Flour!
If you see molds have grown in and around your flour, just throw the whole thing away – that’s a piece of genuine advice. Please, don’t act like a miser. You can buy some flours anyway; they are not that costly.
Do You See Bugs?
Seeing bugs walking all around the flour might freak out any normal person. If the amount of these bugs is too many, you may discard the bag immediately.
But if the color, smell, or texture hasn’t changed due to the presence of these little things, and you are sure that you can remove all the bugs from the flour, then it is still safe to eat; you can keep it.
Can I Use Bad Flour?
The answer depends on one thing, how bad is it really? There’s no recent study which concludes rancid flours are really that harmful to our health. If you can ignore the odd smell, you may eat them. But don’t eat it for a long time or in a large amount. Don’t make it a habit!
If you find your flours moldy, it’s better to dispose of them – as we have advised earlier. Some molds contain harmful substances such as mycotoxins, which may cause diarrhea or vomiting. You can’t identify which moldy flour has got mycotoxins, so removing them out of your pantry is the best option.
Now about bugs, we’ve already told that if you can get rid of them all, and if the texture, smell, color hasn’t changed of the flour, you may keep them.
How to Store the Flour Properly: A Few Tips
Knowing how to store flours properly is important. It will save you from facing future hassles. There are some techniques for storing them:
The Lesser the Oil, the Better
The oil present in flour causes it to spoil by oxidizing, so lesser oil in flour is better. Refined flours such as white flour, all-purpose flour, self-rising flour, bread flour, etc. don’t hold too much oil. Therefore, they don’t spoil early.
Keep the Flour in Fridge for Making It Bug-Free
Keep the fresh white flour in your fridge for at least two days to make it bug-free. The bugs and their eggs die within this time. Now transfer all the flours into a food-grade plastic or glass container. Don’t forget to tightly close the lid every time you open it.
Other refined flours such as all-purpose or self-rising should always be kept in a cool, dry place. If you keep them in your fridge, it will double their shelf life.
Unlike refined flours, whole-grain flours such as wheat, rye, rice, oat, etc. contain bran, germ, and endosperm. Keep in mind that bran and germ contain oils. These substances make whole-grain flours more nutritious and healthier. But the bad part is, oily bran and germ cause these flours to ruin quicker than the refined ones.
To keep whole-grain flours fresh, keep them in your fridge for two days and transfer them to a food-grade and well-sealed container, and again put them in the fridge.
Every time you use this flour, don’t forget to tighten the lid and put it back into the fridge. In this way, whole-grain flours will stay fresh for a longer time.
Wash the Container before Keeping the Flour
Bugs come to our flour from shops or from the manufacturer itself. If your previous flours were contaminated with bugs and you didn’t properly wash the container where you keep them, it also might be a cause for the bugs to flourish.
So, wash your container before pouring new flour into the container. Also, keeping them in the fridge will cause them to die.
To check if there are really bugs in your flour, spread them over a bowl and flatten it. Now keep this bowl at sun-heat. If you see any crawling pattern on the flattened surface of the flour, it will indicate there are bugs in it. It’s better to throw it away.
These were some common methods of figuring out if your flour is bad or not, and how to get rid of it. Hopefully, you now know how to tell if the flour has gone bad. And don’t forget to throw away your bad flours out of the pantry!