Flour is a basic food with which a long list of products is made, starting with the essential bread and ending with the many preparations, from pasta to pastries, in which it is used as the main ingredient. It is a long-lasting food, which can spend weeks or months in the pantry, but about which there are doubts as to whether it can expire and, finally, end up deteriorating.

The type of flour in question and the way in which it has been preserved are important factors in determining its optimal period of consumption and they are basic when it comes to answering this question, which you have probably ever asked yourself.

Does flour expire or not?

Generally, what usually appears on flour packages is a best-before date and not an expiration date because, as explained by the Organization of Consumers and Users (OCU), expiration refers to fresh products, such as meat and fish, that can start the decomposition process after that date and present, on occasions, pathogenic microorganisms that can pose a health risk if the food that contains them is ingested.

In this sense, it can be said that flour does not expire, although this does not mean that it cannot go bad or lose its good properties once the best-before date has passed.

In principle, the flours have a long period of possible use, since, in most cases, the best-before date extends three months, or even more, after packaging.

Do you use expired flour?

Discovering a packet of flour, open or unopened, that has been left behind on some pantry shelf is not unusual. In this situation, you do not have to throw it away immediately because it is likely that you can continue using it.

As long as it has been correctly preserved, the flour is good even if a few months have passed from the best-before date. Logically, if more than a year or two has passed, it is preferable to discard it because even if it is not bad, it will not be in optimal condition. Also keep in mind that wholemeal flour last less than white flour and that, on the other hand, flours derived from legumes can be kept in good condition for longer.

The ‘expired’ flour can be useful but, before using it, you should check its general condition. If the flour has gone bad, it is likely that:

  • It appears abnormally caked, perhaps because it has picked up some moisture.
  • The smell that it gives off is also reminiscent of rancid oil, this is a good clue to know that this flour is not in good condition for consumption.
  • If it presents alterations in its normal color or insects of some kind, due to having been invaded by a pest, there will be no choice but to throw it away.

Although it does not expire, if a long time has elapsed from the recommended consumption date, the flour could spoil a recipe for that rancid taste that it could leave, especially if we are talking about pastry preparations.

How to store flour correctly

Keeping flour in perfect condition for longer is easy by following a series of tips. Wheat flour, the most widely used, can last even more than a year or a year and a half as long as you store it in proper conditions, thus allowing it to maintain its characteristics and properties.

The idea is to keep the packages that have not been opened in a clean and dry place, such as a pantry shelf or cupboard. They must be protected from direct sunlight and also from humidity (including the vapors that can be released from the kitchen while cooking).

Once its original container has been opened, it is important to keep the flour in an airtight container to keep its conditions unchanged, preventing it from absorbing odors or being attacked by pests.

Finally, it must be remembered that the flour, if it is not going to be used for a long period of time, can also be kept in the fridge, especially if it is whole wheat or organic flour, but it is essential that it packaging or wrapping protect it completely from possible humidity, for example, with a ‘zip’ closure bag that manages to pack it under vacuum or almost under vacuum. Although it may surprise you, you should know that flour can also be frozen to prolong its useful life in those cases when you are clear that you are not going to need it. In this way, you could have it in good condition for even more than two years.

Now that you know that flour does not expire itself, but rather has a best-before date and can go bad if it is not stored well, we recommend you read this other article on What is the difference between strong flour and normal flour.

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Stephanie Cleghorn

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