HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >

Whole Wheat flour go bad?

sammyw Sep 12, 2008 07:46 AM

I planned on making some whole wheat blueberry muffins this morning, but my flour 'sell by date' says 7-2008.

I've had this flour for a long time, stored in my pantry, does this stuff ever go bad?


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. l
    lcool RE: sammyw Sep 12, 2008 08:13 AM

    Not a worry about the date.Other problem indicators would be ?smell,aroma,flour should smell like flour,not musty or mouldy.Critters?weevils and grain moths (millers) are a natural OK problem in storage.If they are in there it will be obvious.If it's a small population,I just sift and freeze,then use.The only way to remove the eggs is to STERILIZE the grain.After that why buy it?An future worries can be solved with freezer

    1. o
      OldTimer RE: sammyw Sep 12, 2008 08:16 AM

      Since whole wheat has some germ oil in it, it will go rancid after a time. You can usually smell rancid flour.

      1. j
        jenn RE: sammyw Sep 12, 2008 09:06 AM

        Concurr. And whether it goes rancid depends on how hot your kitchen is or where you store it. You should be able to tell by smelling or tasting a bit of the raw flour.

        Grain Moths!!!! don't get me started.....they may not eat much but they can be really annoying. While you can sift them out of the flour once they have hatched, the eggs themselves are too small to see. And they are in all grain products including manufactured stuff like pasta. We had an infestation in our last home--the weather got really hot--- and it was AWFUL. I'm not sure we ever really got rid of them.

        1. ChefJune RE: sammyw Sep 12, 2008 09:59 AM

          <does this stuff ever go bad?>

          Yes, and you will know by the sour odor when you open the bag. However, if you have not had that sack of flour stored inside a tin, you probably need to check for weevils, too. They are much easier to spot in ww flour, because they are lighter in color.

          As others have said you CAN sift them out, but they really gross me out, so I usually toss anything that has the little offenders inside.

          1. FoodFuser RE: sammyw Sep 12, 2008 10:40 AM

            Freeze it. When I get the bag home, I put the flour into quart jars, one of which goes in the fridge, and the others in the freezer. Makes a big difference, especially if it's stoneground.

            1. greygarious RE: sammyw Sep 12, 2008 06:46 PM

              My supermarket now stocks 2# bags of whole wheat flour, for those of us who don't use it up fast enough. Even so, best to keep it in the freezer or at the very least, the refrigerator. Glass jars with metal lids do the best job of keeping out refrigerator odors.

              1. j
                joyoon RE: sammyw Jul 13, 2011 10:53 PM

                Whole Wheat flour does not go bad, it can be kept indefinitely. There are four foods that can keep indefinitely provided they are kept tightly sealed and in a dark place. It is whole wheat flour, salt, honey, and powdered milk. During the civil war, soldiers mixed flour with salt and water to bake it into "Hard Tack" and used as survival food.

                Source: The Survival Chemist (book).

                15 Replies
                1. re: joyoon
                  smtucker RE: joyoon Jul 14, 2011 05:44 AM

                  You can quote whatever book you want, but my whole wheat flour has certainly gone rancid in the past. Of course, I now know how to prevent this from happening, but that is not the same as saying "it can't go bad."

                  One quick smell of the flour should tell you if you want to use it in your special muffin recipe.

                  1. re: smtucker
                    joyoon RE: smtucker Jul 14, 2011 07:11 PM

                    Was your whole wheat flour sealed and kept in a dark place?

                  2. re: joyoon
                    greygarious RE: joyoon Jul 14, 2011 05:07 PM

                    How can you possibly claim that? You don't think rancidity is bad? Not only does it ruin the taste but rancid fats can harm liver function. As for the rest of your four - honey crystallizes (OK not "bad" per se), powdered milk contains fat so can also go rancid, and why not include sugar crystals?

                    1. re: greygarious
                      joyoon RE: greygarious Jul 14, 2011 07:12 PM

                      I never said rancidity is "bad", not sure where you're getting that from unless you made a correlation connection? And yes, honey does crystallize but it can be warmed and used again.

                      1. re: joyoon
                        greygarious RE: joyoon Jul 15, 2011 03:21 PM

                        I realize you never said rancidity is bad. I and the other posters just don't see how you could think it isn't! You LIKE the bitter taste and sour smell? Freedictionary.com def of rancid: "Having the disagreeable odor or taste of decomposing oils or fats; rank" Yum...
                        If you don't believe whole wheat flour gets rancid, you are flat out wrong.

                        1. re: greygarious
                          joyoon RE: greygarious Jul 16, 2011 01:17 PM

                          Wow, so you think you're correct and I'm "flat out wrong" just because you think you're right? Where are your sources? I have mine.

                          1. re: joyoon
                            pikawicca RE: joyoon Jul 16, 2011 07:27 PM

                            There is general agreement that whole grains and flours made from them eventually go rancid. This is not a personal opinion -- it's fact. It's a simple matter of chemistry.

                            1. re: pikawicca
                              joyoon RE: pikawicca Jul 19, 2011 04:32 PM

                              It probably will go bad if you don't keep it properly sealed. And by the way, I said only whole wheat flour, I didn't say anything about other whole grain or flours. Please read more specifically into my comment.

                              1. re: joyoon
                                pikawicca RE: joyoon Jul 19, 2011 05:35 PM

                                Proper sealing has nothing to do with it, and the last time I looked, and what goes for whole wheat flour, goes for all whole grains and the flours made from them.

                                Want to do an experiment? "Properly seal" your whole wheat flour and put it inside a car in a sunny spot on a summer day. You'll end up with rancid yuck in short order. When I lived in Saudi Arabia, everyone gave up on whole grains: by the time you bought them (from un-aircontitioned shops), the flours were rancid.

                                1. re: pikawicca
                                  joyoon RE: pikawicca Jul 19, 2011 05:43 PM

                                  In response to your statement, that what "goes for whole wheat flour, goes for all whole grains and flours made from them," I am not knowledgeable about other products so I can't agree or disagree with what you said.

                                  Putting the wheat flour in a sunny area is against what I originally said about keeping it in a dark place that is tightly sealed, so your experiment would not be valid in proving that wheat flour goes bad.

                                  1. re: joyoon
                                    pikawicca RE: joyoon Jul 19, 2011 05:48 PM

                                    So, put it in your trunk -- same result.

                      2. re: greygarious
                        willdupre RE: greygarious Jul 15, 2011 03:38 PM

                        to be fair most powdered milk on the market is non-fat so shouldn't go rancid. and I have also heard that about honey, that it doesn't go bad, crystalizing is just due to the fact that its a supersaturated liquid and when water content evaporates the crystals form which does no real harm and can be reversed as has been noted. salt is a no brainer, as it is a mineral. but I also have to agree that whole grain flower will go rancid if it isn't preserved in some way. I've considered vaccuum sealing flour as my freezer space is at a minimum but not sure if that along with storing in a dark place would be effective or not it certainly would be proof against bugs but not sure about rancidity.

                        1. re: greygarious
                          joyoon RE: greygarious Jul 16, 2011 01:23 PM


                          Here's how I am breaking down your argument. You are stating this as the premises:

                          1. Joyoon quoted "Whole wheat flour does not go bad, it can be kept indefinitely" which was quoted from the book, "The Survival Chemist."
                          2. Joyoon states four other foods that can be kept indefinitely: honey, powdered milk, flour, and salt, provided they are kept tightly sealed in a dark place.
                          3. Joyoon quotes that during the civil war, soldiers made Hard Tack with these ingredients.
                          4. Every sentence from Joyoon is quoted from The Survival Chemist and is not Joyoon's personal opinion.
                          Gregarious' Conclusion: Therefore, Joyoon thinks rancidity is bad.

                          Your logic is stating, in other words, Joyoon thinks:
                          1. Joyoon thinks A.
                          2. Joyoon thinks B.
                          3. Joyoon thinks C.
                          4. Joyoon's source is from a book.
                          Therefore, Joyoon thinks D.

                          The correct conclusion from the premises above should be that "Joyoon thinks A, B, C, and the agreement of the source." D, or rancidity, was not even mentioned in my statement. You created that, Greygarious. I never advocated for rancidity. I never said anything about rancidity in any product, nor did I ever say that I "LIKE" the bitter taste of food.
                          If you're going to argue, argue with the correct conclusions.

                        2. re: joyoon
                          foiegras RE: joyoon Jul 14, 2011 05:17 PM

                          Well, I guess it depends what kind of survival you're talking about. If we're talking the type where you're eyeing your shoes and your (kind of ex) roommate on ice when planning dinner, then yeah--bring on that rancid whole wheat flour.

                          To me, I open the bag when I get it home from the store and it doesn't smell good.

                          1. re: joyoon
                            goodhealthgourmet RE: joyoon Jul 14, 2011 07:41 PM

                            whole wheat flour can indeed spoil as it contains the oils in the germ...and keeping it in a dark place does you no good if that place is humid or warm.

                          2. b
                            brooklynkoshereater RE: sammyw Jul 14, 2011 07:33 PM

                            whole wheat flour should be kept in the fridge, to preserve its freshness.

                            1. j
                              jvanderh RE: sammyw Jul 14, 2011 10:20 PM

                              I'm pretty sensitive to thinking whole grain flour tastes fishy, but it seems like many people aren't as sensitive. I think it's unlikely to make you seriously ill, but may not taste great.

                              1. b
                                BrooksNYC RE: sammyw Jul 14, 2011 11:56 PM

                                The OP posted his/her question three years ago, but I'll chime in anyway.

                                All whole grain flours go rancid eventually because the germ is intact, and the germ contains oil. Store whole grain flour in the freezer to prolong freshness. On baking day, taste a pinch of raw flour . Flour that's begun to "turn" has a distinctly bitter taste. Fresh flour tastes slightly grassy and sweet, not bitter.

                                If the recipe calls for a lot of flour (as for breads, muffins, etc.) it pays to shop at stores where there's rapid turnover in inventory. This especially important in summertime -- a time of year when fewer people bake, and bags of flour can languish on the shelves for weeks unrefrigerated. For summertime baking, I often order whole grain flours directly from the mill (try kingarthurflour.com or bobsredmill.com). The odds are better that it's been freshly ground.

                                Happy baking!

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: BrooksNYC
                                  goodhealthgourmet RE: BrooksNYC Jul 15, 2011 12:12 AM

                                  The OP posted his/her question three years ago, but I'll chime in anyway.
                                  yeah, someone resurrected this thread to pose the argument that it doesn't go bad :) we can only hope that the OP has used up that flour or bought a new bag by now!

                                2. FoodFuser RE: sammyw Jul 16, 2011 05:54 PM

                                  As posters, when we give a citation to a publication that gives support to our statements, we should be open to scrutiny of that document.

                                  "The Survival Chemist", a 59 page paperback, with author's credentials unknown, has been cited above. It seems (links below) that the publication has a survivalist focus, giving details on fabricating many sorts of defensive explosives, building shelters, tanning leather, etc. The publisher (links below) focuses on survivalsit material, building you own guns, etc. Make your own decision about the cited source's credibility.

                                  An important caveat: if the poster is talking about whole wheat flour that is ground and packed into vacuum sealed #10 cans in a nitrogen nitrogen environment, then it is true that the shelf life becomes long extended. If that is a component of the poster's "no rancid" environment, I hope they will inform us.

                                  We have had many good solutions in this thread as to retarding the inevitable process of rancidification, which occurs within time/temperature parameters as do all chemical reactions.

                                  I've been cooking with whole grains for more than thirty years. Rancidification is real. I'm lucky to live less than than 40 miles from a large flour mill, and a buddy who works there is able to get me fresh whole kernels of wheat. I freeze it and then grind it to flour in my VitaMix. Such fragrant and rich fresh aromas. Sure, sometimes I buy King Arthur or Hogdson's Mill, in which case I freeze it.



                                  Descriptions from resellers:


                                  To obtain whole wheat flour vacuum packed:
                                  Google the stream for "vacuum packed whole wheat flour"

                                  Introduction to food science of rancidifcation:

                                  If we have better techniques to afford us freshest whole grain flours, let's post them here.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: FoodFuser
                                    jvanderh RE: FoodFuser Jul 17, 2011 07:01 AM

                                    Sometimes I buy wheat bran and stick it in the freezer, then add it back into white flour. It's easier to find a space to stick that little bag rather than a 5-pound bag of flour.

                                  Show Hidden Posts