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Whole Wheat flour go bad?

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?


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

      1. 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. <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. 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. 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. 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).

                18 Replies
                1. re: joyoon

                  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

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

                      1. re: mcf

                        Mercifully, it appears that this hound is no longer active. Hopefully people will read this entire thread, realize that his/her claim is based on a survivalist pamphlet which is contradicted by overwhelming testimony of users of whole wheat, and evaluate it accordingly.

                        1. re: greygarious

                          Yeah, noticed after I posted, it edit.

                          When I had flour in the house, it all was sealed tightly and kept in the freezer.

                  2. re: joyoon

                    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

                      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

                        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

                          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

                            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

                              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

                                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

                                  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

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

                      2. re: greygarious

                        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


                          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

                          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

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

                            1. 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. 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

                                  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. 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

                                    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.

                                  2. From a thread on another site.

                                    Kathi, what's "no brainer" for some will be "Hmmm, I didn't know that!" for others. So never hesitate to ask - you'll surely get an answer!
                                    Whole wheat doesn't go bad, in that it would make you ill; it simply gets old and doesn't taste good. The way I check to see if whole wheat is OK to use is simply to taste it. Put a big pinch on your tongue, and wait 10 seconds or so. Do you get a very bitter taste in your mouth? That same flavor will come through in your baking, so best not to use it.

                                    I "researched" because I can get a great deal on a "sack" of stale dated ww flour. I will pass.
                                    Just bought a box each of staled dated currants and apricots , 22.5 Kg, $12 each in New Zealand.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Vinnie Vidimangi

                                      I challenge the validity of that info. Whole wheat turns rancid eventually. Sooner when not chilled/frozen. Rancidity won't make you ill in the gastrointestinal upset sense, but it is a reflection of oxidation, and oxidation contributes to inflammation. Inflammation leads to arthritis, coronary disease, and other major problems. Therefore, limiting/avoiding consumption of rancid foods is advisable.

                                    2. I ordered a 50 lb bag from amazon and UPS decided to just leave out at my front door in the hot 100+ heat for more than 8 hours. Will this affect the flour?