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Test Kitchen tips: Storing flour

January 30, 2009 |  9:03 am


We just got this e-mail from a reader:

"How long can I keep flour? It is in the original bag and in a plastic outer bag." -- Arlene

Sure, flour may not be something we tend to think about often in the kitchen, but it's one of those things that can stale or go rancid if not stored properly, potentially ruining a recipe. Here are some tips for storage:

Basic flours (including all-purpose, cake, pastry and bread flours):

  • These flours are generally more stable for storage than whole grain or alternative flours. Before grinding, the grains are stripped of the bran and germ, leaving only the endosperm to be processed. The stripping (and optional "bleaching," or oxidizing) gives the flour its white or creamy color.
  • Store these flours in a sealable plastic bag or airtight container.
  • Label them with the purchase date and store for up to three months at cool room temperature (no higher than 75 degrees) or frozen for up to six months. Bring the flour to room temperature before using.

Whole grain and alternative flours (including whole wheat, barley, oat and rye):

  • These flours contain more or all of the grain, starch or nut when processing, increasing the flavor, color and texture of the flour. The fat content also is higher because of the oil in the grain, which makes the flour less stable and prone to rancidity.
  • Because these flours can go rancid quickly, check to see whether the packaging has a processing date before buying; many producers now date their flours for freshness.
  • Store these flours in a sealable plastic bag or airtight container and freeze for up to three months; do not store at room temperature. Bring the flour to room temperature before using.
  • To check to see whether a flour has gone rancid, smell it. Rancid flour will give an "off" smell.

Hope this helps! For other kitchen questions or tips, e-mail us at food@latimes.com.

-- Noelle Carter

Photo credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times