Can I Eat This: expired alternative flours
March 18, 2020 9:42 AM   Subscribe

I have an unopened bag of Bob's Red Mill teff flour that allegedly expired in October 2019 and an opened bag of Robin Hood gluten-free all purpose blend that allegedly expired December 2018. Should I just chuck them entirely, do a sniff test (what am I smelling for?), or proceed with negligible caution?

I don't have a lot of money to replace these supplies in order to fuel my panic-baking in a celiac-safe way, so I'm really hoping some of you can put me at ease.... but also now seems like a truly terrible time to get food poisoning, so. Advise me, o wise MeFites!
posted by cabbage raccoon to Food & Drink (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I would 100% use them if there's no obvious signs of weird growth.
posted by DoubleLune at 9:43 AM on March 18, 2020 [6 favorites]

Best answer: From this page:
How To Tell If Flour Is Bad

Unless water or insects get into the container or bag, flour doesn’t go bad in a way it’s unsafe to eat.

If water gets to the powder, there will be big clumps or some sort of organic growth on the surface. If that’s the case, trash the product.

Flours also attract flour bugs. If you see in your flour anything that’s alive, throw the product out. And possibly clean and disinfect the cabinet, because there might be more bugs in there.

If the flour is bug-free and looks okay, give it a sniff. If it has a rancid smell, which is more likely to happen for whole wheat flours, it’s past its prime, and you should throw it out.

Give that the flour looks and smells okay, it’s almost certainly safe to use.

If you use an old flour and the baking or cooking project doesn’t go that well, the flour most likely isn’t that good anymore. As I mentioned earlier, powder degrades in terms of quality over time, and at a certain point, you probably should discard it for quality purposes.
So it's likely fine.
posted by number9dream at 9:54 AM on March 18, 2020 [7 favorites]

The 2018 might be iffy. I think the other one might be ok. Really varies though.

Smell it, yes. You’re smelling for rancid. If it smells off at all. If it smells normal, I’d do a pinch taste test too. Also, is it the right color?

If I didn’t see, smell or taste anything I would be inclined to use it. But also knowing it’s not going to work as well as it would when fresh.
posted by miles1972 at 9:57 AM on March 18, 2020

If it doesn't have a rancid oil smell I'd be OK with it. The Teff one I'd use without a second thought. The Robin Hood one I might be, but it's mostly rice flour which would be OK 6-8 months or so past the expiration date if it was stored in an airtight container. Neither of them should make you sick if off they just might not act right in a recipe and might not taste great. You might want to sieve them to check for bugs first.
posted by wwax at 10:02 AM on March 18, 2020 [2 favorites]

Sometimes it can be difficult to tell if the flavor is so off that it isn't tasty enough to eat. Therefore I recommend mixing up a little with water and then heating and tasting again. The last thing you want to do is waste other ingredients. But otherwise I would use, even if it tastes a little off, as long as you are ok with flavor for eating.
posted by dawg-proud at 10:39 AM on March 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you see in your flour anything that’s alive, throw the product out. And possibly clean and disinfect the cabinet, because there might be more bugs in there.

lol "might."

Not to add anything useful to the article quoted above, but I have some "experience" with this.

We noticed a weevil infestation when my daughter was happily eating an afternoon snack and excitedly said, "cracker bugs!" (And kept on eating; she didn't care!) We had to clean out the entire pantry. They were in all the cereals, crackers and flours we had.

For the longest time I had no clear idea what "rancid" really meant. It just vaguely meant "disgusting" to me but as it turns out I don't find it particularly off-putting. Which is how I made a batch of rancid cookies using some shortening found in the back of the fridge. They seemed just a bit off to me but the family recognized it right away and couldn't believe I'd served them. I've learned to recognize it now.

Since whole grains contain fats they're more likely to spoil. If it's gone rancid and you're like most people you'll notice it right away. If you're like I was maybe get someone else to smell it. But don't worry too much because rancidity is not particularly bad for you.

FWIW, even cooking up the bugs isn't likely to be harmful but I doubt you'd want to. :)

So if there's anything wrong with it, you'll probably notice it right away. And if you don't notice it, it should be OK to eat although not everyone will find it palatable.
posted by sjswitzer at 1:56 PM on March 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: The flours are dry, contain no bugs or visible mould, and smell fine to me (maybe I'm like sjswitzer and just don't find rancidity off-putting, but seeing as any baking I do is going to be just for me and my partner, who eats everything, I think we'll be quite all right). I think I'll make a tiny test batch of pancakes or something to make sure the flours behave themselves before using them in any full-size recipes.

Thanks all!
posted by cabbage raccoon at 2:51 PM on March 18, 2020 [2 favorites]

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