Flour is indispensable as one of the big staples for baking and providing food. But like any other food, it will become unusable if it isn’t stored correctly. If you’re storing flour in your pantry and using it regularly, you don’t have to worry about spoiling.
Storing flour long-term means eliminating, as much as possible, the interaction of the flour with the agents that can ruin it: water, oxygen, and insects. Some solutions allow for more extended storage than others, so your chosen method should align with how long you plan to store it.
If you plan to change your supplies once a year, you can use a less extreme storage system than if you want your flour to last for ten years or more. Some storage requires electricity, too, so you’ll want to ensure access to an uninterrupted source. More on that later.
Why Flour Spoils
Knowing what causes the flour to go bad can directly influence how we store it. There are four main culprits, each with its way of degrading flour:
- Odor absorption
Here’s how each of them negatively affects your flour supply.
The boll weevil is the main culprit here, but he’s not the only bug that wants to eat your flour. However, the problem isn’t just that they consume the flour but that they live in it, which means they, you know, leave stuff behind. Yuck.
So you want to keep them out by sealing off the flour. But since it’s entirely possible that your flour already has eggs when you buy it, sealing it from outside bugs becomes superfluous.
Freezing your flour for at least two days after buying it can kill those eggs and prevent the bugs from hatching and ruining your cache.
If you want to avoid storing your flour, I recommend purchasing canned Ready Hour flour from My Patriot Supply. Their #10 can contain 3.5 lbs of flour lasting up to 25 years!
Mold seeks out just about any moisture it can find, and once it takes hold, it’s pretty hardy. Keeping your flour sealed tightly will prevent humidity from getting to your flour and give mold a chance to gain a foothold.
You’ll know if your flour is moldy, even if you can’t see the mold. Of course, if you notice black spots, you’ll know. However, before you see the mold, you’ll be able to smell the telltale sour odor of a mold infestation.
If there are bugs in your flour, you can eat it and still be okay, but that’s not the case with mold, which can be very dangerous to people’s health.
3. Odor Absorption
Another reason to keep your flour in an airtight container is because of flour’s great propensity for absorbing the odors around it. Storing your flour in the paper bag from the store, then placing it next to your Vidalia onions will soon smell like those onions. So will anything you bake with that flour.
As with a bug infestation, you can still consume flour that smells like onions, garlic, or cantaloupe, but it won’t make for the tastiest cookies you’ve ever had.
Oxidation is the most insidious threat, which is hard to escape since oxygen is everywhere. Oxidation is why your bag of flour has a sell-by date on it because as the flour remains exposed to oxygen, that element interacts with the oils and fats in the flour.
This interaction causes them to break down, and the oils become rancid. You can still consume this flour, but as the nutrients have broken down, you won’t get any nutritional value, and it will taste bad.
If your flour has a rubbery smell, it’s oxidized past its useful days.
Storing Flour Long Term
We can better store flour for long periods with a working knowledge of these four culprits. One of the key takeaways from the above list is that keeping oxygen away from your flour is your best bet for preserving it.
Storing Flour for Up to Six Months
If you’re not storing flour in a prepping capacity but instead keeping it in your kitchen for regular use, you can keep it safe for about six months. Do this by storing it in an airtight container at room temperature.
You can also keep it in the paper bag your grocery store sold it to you in. Unfortunately, if you live in a high-humidity area with lots of insects, you’re taking a chance on the flour by storing it that way.
I recommend the OXO Good Grips POP Container (available on Amazon.com) since it is airtight and can hold more than four quarts of flour. Its clear plastic is BPA-free, so you won’t be concerned about keeping foodstuffs inside.
Storing Floor Up to One Year
Vacuum sealing removes oxygen (as much as possible) from your flour. As a bonus, it makes it a little easier to store your flour since the procedure decreases the bulk of an item by removing air.
The FoodSaver V4840 2-in-1 Vacuum Sealer (available on Amazon.com) offers a couple of options for vacuum sealing and bag sizes, which is essential. You want to vacuum-seal the entire bag of flour. If you pour the flour into the vacuum sealer bag, those tiny pieces of flour will get sucked out with oxygen, so you need a vacuum sealer that can accommodate larger cargo.
Back to what we said earlier about bug eggs in your flour during purchase, freezing the vacuum-sealed package for two days, minimum, will kill any larvae inside.
Storing Flour for Five Years or Longer
If you can guarantee a power supply, you can freeze your flour and keep it safe indefinitely. However, can you guarantee any such thing? Also, if you freeze flour, you must let it return to room temperature before using it. Failure to do so will result in condensation, and wet flour is useless to you.
Long-term storage of five years or longer involves airtight containers and oxygen absorbers. Since you’ll have difficulty finding any container that remains airtight and leak-free forever, you’ll need to use something to eliminate any oxygen that comes calling.
Lining a five-gallon bucket with Premount 14-Mil Mylar Bags (available on Amazon.com) is a good start. There are several sizes in this set, and the 14-mil thickness will help discourage any bag tears that would be catastrophic.
Along with the flour, you’ll want to include an oxygen absorber. These usually use iron powder to initiate a chemical reaction. Oxygen molecules bond with the iron molecules, causing them to rust. As long as there’s unrusted iron in the packets, oxygen will continue getting removed from your storage area.
Consider the Wallaby 300cc Oxygen Absorbers (available on Amazon.com), which come in a 100-count package and are rated safe for food storage.
An airtight container with oxygen absorbers will be your best bet for storing flour for long periods and then (and this is key) having that flour still usable when you break it out.
Flour is an essential staple for baking and providing food, but it can spoil if it is not stored correctly. To extend the shelf life of flour, it is necessary to eliminate the interaction of the flour with water, oxygen, and insects as much as possible.
There are several methods for storing flour, including using airtight containers, vacuum sealing, and freezing, which can help prevent mold, odor absorption, and oxidation. It is also essential to consider the length of time you plan to store the flour and whether or not you have access to an uninterrupted source of electricity. Following these guidelines ensures that your flour stays fresh and usable for as long as possible.