Thanks to Carolyn, I’ve been wondering if the 50 pounds of flour sitting in my closet (still in its original thick paper bag) is really the best way to store it. Growing up, my mom had mentioned something about bugs in flour, but I’ve never seen them (or maybe never noticed them?) before.
Out of sight, out of mind, right?
Before I gross you out with pictures and making you think about cooked bugs in your morning breakfast bread (too late?), we’ll finish our cup of coffee over some warm up questions.
Does flour go bad?
The short answer: yes. Flour can go rancid (sour, stale, etc.).
The long answer: The more processed the flour is, the longer it takes to go bad. Freshly milled flour will sour much more quickly than all-purpose flour. This explains why those who bake with whole wheat flour often purchase the grain whole and mill it themselves just before use.
Where can we store it?
Going back to the level of processing, all-purpose and other non-whole grain flours can be stored in a cool, dry place without any issues for about one year. Whole grain flours should be kept in a refrigerator for the short term, or a freezer for long term.
How should we store it?
If the flour will be used fairly quickly, it can be left open or in a container with a lid. Think about local bakeries and delis – they’ll often have a bucket of flour open on the counter, or a lid may be slightly ajar. They will use a good bit of flour in a single day, so sealing it up tight isn’t an issue.
If the flour will be used within a month or two, it should be kept in a sealed container.
But notice I said should, not must. One to two months is still considered “quick” in terms of flour usage. It’s possible to not keep your flour in a sealed container (and just roll down the bags like I do), but the chances of the flour going rancid increase.
If the flour will not be completely consumed within two months, it needs to be stored in a sealed container.
What type of storage container is best?
Depending on the quantity of flour on hand, buckets are available ranging from 1 gallon up to 10 gallon, with 5 gallon being the most common. You also want something that can be sealed. Some buckets come with lids, some don’t. Buckets and seal-able lids are cheapish. The average price for the full kit & kaboodle is $5.
Why are there bugs in my grain?
If you notice little brown bugs in your flour, cereal, grain or rice, those are called weevils. They resemble little grains of rice, but they’re brown and they move. On their own.
Ever notice your flour tangled in something that looks like a cobweb? That means your flour is infested too.
First you think the flour has spiders, then you’re told it’s beetles… sorry!
Have no fear – bugs don’t just suddenly appear in your flour one day because you forgot to mop some mysterious sticky substance that one of your children accidentally (or purposely) spilled in your pantry. If you see bugs, they were already there when you bought it.
Not reassuring, I know.
The female weevil lays eggs in the wheat kernel and it can sometimes survive the milling process. The eggs will hatch if they’re in warm or humid conditions, or have reached their maturity. The bugs eat the grain and then seek to mate… while eating more grain.
Why are there bugs in my boxed cereal?
Weevils aren’t particular about what they eat. If you find them in any other seemingly sealed spot, they’ve weaseled their way out of their original infestation spot and meandered to your rice, or cereal, or coffee.
Essentially, this means that you’ve already eaten (like your flour) was infested.
Weevil-infested bread, anyone? Yummy!
What can I do to prevent eating beetles?
First, get rid of the infested item. Remove everything from the area, vacuum out any cracks and sanitize the shelves with vinegar. Check areas regularly for re-infestation as it may take awhile to completely rid of all bugs and larvae.
Freeze newly purchased grains for at least three days to kill any eggs. Some sources recommend freezing for up to one week. (Note that freezing will kill the eggs, but not remove them.)
As a guideline, don’t buy more grain than you will use within four months. Store grain in a tightly sealed container – not a bag. Weevils are HUNGRY little devils and can eat through bags.
Finally, clean your storage area regularly.
Will eating beetles harm me?
Other than give you the heebie jeebies, they’re harmless. In fact, the heat from baking kills the eggs and any beetles that may have made their way into your batter. So while the chances of us having eaten weevils are high, the mortality rate is low.
Whew – at least there is good news today!!