We know that foods in our fridge, like veggies, milk, and meat, expire pretty quickly and need to be tossed out. But what about common baking staples? While your bag of flour or sugar may sit in your pantry for years, there comes a time when even these essentials need to get replaced. If you let them sit (especially once opened) for too long, you can leave them susceptible to bugs, mold, and other harmful consequences.
As a general rule of thumb, dry baking ingredients should be replaced about once a year -- however, double-check the shelf life of individual items to determine the best timeframe. Flour, for instance, can go bad after eight months. Once it starts spoiling, it can develop chemicals called mycotoxins, which can lead to vomiting and potentially serious illnesses, according to Healthline. Sugar, syrup, and honey, on the other hand, may be safe to eat long after that, although you may want to replace them every two years for taste reasons. And according to the United States Department of Health & Human Services, coconut oil is good for three years in the cupboard, canola oil lasts for one year, and baking powder and soda are okay to use up to six months after opening.
Of course, proper storage is essential for ensuring your pantry items last as long as possible. Flour can stay good indefinitely if you freeze it, but if you'd rather not, keep it in an airtight container -- and make sure to refrigerate white flour. While sugar, honey, and corn syrup are typically safe to consume indefinitely, you'll want to keep them in an airtight container as well to maintain freshness. If you notice your honey starting to crystallize, it doesn't mean you need to replace it -- just place it in a big container of hot water until it goes back to the consistency you want.
Also, keep in mind that different types of grain products may have a shorter shelf life. Barley flour, for instance, should be swapped out after three months in the pantry, oat flour after two months, and rye flour after three months. On the other hand, coconut flour can last up to a year if refrigerated, while cake, flour, and bread mixes are good for up to 18 months. And cornstarch, which is typically used as a thickener in baking, is safe to consume for up to 18 months after opening.
The bottom line is that your pantry baking staples do need to be replaced, some more often than others. To make sure you're not putting yourself at risk, store your ingredients properly and check their shelf lives individually.
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