Do you remember when you bought that bag of all-purpose flour in your kitchen cupboard? Probably not. Unlike other pantry staples such as spices and oil, maybe you’ve never even considered that white flour can expire. Surprise, it can! But don’t worry, you’re probably using it up well before you should.
According to the USDA, all-purpose flour (both regular, enriched, bleached, and non-bleached) is best used within a year of the purchase date. Whole grain flours, which include the wheat germ, have a much shorter shelf life. Use them within a few months of purchase, or store in the freezer to extend their life even longer.
Whether you’re a seasoned biscuit-maker or pancakes are a Saturday morning special at your house, chances are, you bake and cook with all-purpose flour often enough that you will not end up with expired flour. But if you happen to find a bag in the back of your pantry that you forgot all about, give it a sniff to check for any musty or stale odors, which is a sure sign that you should toss it out.
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If all-purpose flour isn’t one of your go-to ingredients, buy the smallest bag possible to prevent it from expiring and taking up precious storage space. Or buy flour from a bulk bin so you can measure out exactly as much as you need. (This also is a smart way to buy whole grain flours or other dry ingredients you might not use as often.)
If you store all-purpose flour in an airtight plastic canister or glass jar—which will help it stay fresh and keep pests away—be sure to use up the entire canister of flour before you pour in a new bag. That way, layers of “old” flour won’t get mixed up with fresh flour over time.