For most bakers out there, flour is the foundation for all treats and the answer to our questions. Whether you're using all-purpose, whole grain, spelt, or coconut flour; it's important to be aware of what you're working with. One important question to ask is "does flour expire" because there is nothing worse than having perfectly softened butter to find out you need to run to the store to get more flour. Here is the low-down on flour and when to toss it:

So, Does it Expire?

beer, cream, milk, coffee
Casey Irwin

Long story short, yes. The first thing to know is that it will remain good long past its "best by" or "better if used by" date that can be found on the original container.

Regular flour tends to last 6-8 months past its printed date, while whole wheat flour is typically only best for an extra 4-6 months. According to Eatbydate.com, the type of flour can drastically change its shelf life. 

How Can You Tell?

bread, egg, milk, wheat, cereal, dough, flour
Jocelyn Hsu

This answer is a bit trickier and is based more on your senses. If the flour smells, then definitely no.  An unpleasant taste or smell means it is rancid. Too long after its "best by" date, flour will begin to smell. This it the time to part ways and toss your flour.

The very worse case scenario is that insects may even infest the flour as the moisture can attract them, but that is more rare.

There is a time before these situations where it may be past the printed expiration date but smells all right, so you find yourself wondering if you can still use it. 

Can I still Use it After it Expires? 

sweet, dough, wheat, coffee, bread, dairy product, cereal, milk, flour
Jocelyn Hsu

That time between fresh flour and rancid flour is a precious one. Personal preference comes in to play here. Consider taste testing a pinch of flour to make sure that it tastes normal because that may turn bad before the smell goes. 

If the smell and taste is not rancid, there is really no reason to toss flour. Also take a look at the color, as it should not change. The outcome of the product, if you are baking or cooking, should not be strongly effected by the "best by" date. 

It is just important to be aware of the time frame for how long past the "best by" date you should start paying closer attention to your flour.

How Can I Keep it Fresh?

beer
Victoria Guo

One of the worst things you can do for your flour is leaving it out in the open in that punctured bag you struggled to get open in the first place. That exposes the flour to unwanted heat and moisture. 

In general, the FDA recommends that shelf-stable foods, like flour, be stored in dry, cool cabinets. If the original container is still intact, keep the flour there. One option is to add additional sealing with a plastic bag.

One of the easiest and best looking ways to keep most ingredients fresh is to invest in a countertop jar that can hold a number of products. They're often sold with their different labels for flour or sugar, but more importantly, they seal off any air or moisture to keep the product inside fresh. Added bonus, they look great on any countertop. 

relish, pepper, salt, herb, cereal, condiment
Karlie Kramer

While most of us go through a bag of flour faster than a cookie crumbles, there is bound to come a time where we encounter a bad bag and ask ourselves "does flour expire". Keep an eye on your "best by" dates, but don't take them too seriously.