When you start baking more and more, you may want to start organizing your kitchen to suit your baking needs. This also means learning how to properly store all of your baking ingredients. You want everything to be kept in a place where it is safe, won’t go bad and is also accessible to your baking.
So where are the best places to keep every baking ingredient? Get ready to learn how to store everything to optimize you baking!
The general rule for storing all kinds of flour is to keep it in a cool dry place in an airtight container. The best place to store flour will also depend on how quickly you use flour.
Most flours tend to have a longer shelf life which means they will not go bad quickly. You can actually lengthen the shelf life of flour by storing it properly and here is how.
Most people keep their flour right on their pantry shelf, still in the bag from the manufacturer. This will work just fine if you plan on using the flour quickly and regular, white flour will keep for about 6 months when stored this way.
Want your flour to last double that long? Then simply pour it into a container with an airtight lid then place the flour in the fridge. Storing flour in the fridge will double its shelf life! In addition, you will not be at risk of your flour getting tiny bugs called weevils which will live in room temperature, unsealed flour.
Just like flour, sugar will last the longest when kept in a cool dry place. This is especially true for sugar as it can melt if stored in a hot or humid location. You don’t want to have a bag of melted sugar!
Okay, while it is not likely to melt completely, it can melt slightly and form hard clumps of sugar in the bag. This can happen due to heat and also due to moisture.
While most sugar bags are lined with plastic to help prevent moisture from entering through the bag, it is still best to transfer your sugar to an airtight, sealable container. Keep the sugar in your pantry if it will remain cool or in your fridge to be sure it does not get hot.
If you choose to store your granulated sugar in the fridge, that airtight container is super important to prevent moisture from the fridge from getting into your ingredient.
When stored properly, sugar can keep almost indefinitely. It is one of the rare ingredients that never spoils. However, most sugar companies and chefs will recommend replacing your sugar after two years.
Powdered sugar, also known as confectioners sugar, definitely needs to be kept in a container that is completely sealed. You can pour your sugar into a plastic container with a sealable lid or just pour it into a Ziploc bac. Many brands of powdered sugar now come in plastic bags that have a resealable zipper, making storage much more convenient!
While powdered sugar, once again, needs to be stored in a cool dry place, it should not be kept in a fridge. Even in a sealed container, the moisture from the fridge is just too high for this fragile ingredient and will cause it to melt.
When stored correctly, powdered sugar will last for two years, if not longer!
Canola, Olive and Vegetable Oil
Oil is actually quite a fragile ingredient in the world of baking. While you may think that that bottle of oil can sit on your shelf forever, this is not true. The fats inside canola, vegetable and olive oils are all quite sensitive and can easily oxidize when exposed to heat, air and also light.
If the bottle of oil gets too hot, it can cause the oil to spoil. If the bottle is left open, it can also cause the oil to go bad. Even too much light will make the oil have an off-taste, giving your baking products a bad taste as well.
To store oil successfully, make sure it is in a dark bottle that is sealed completely. Keep the oil at room temperature but somewhere that it will not be exposed to high heat (aka, not directly behind your oven or in a window!).
Oils will last about 2 years but always be sure to give them a quick sniff before you use them- you will immediately be able to tell if they are bad!
Baking Soda and Baking Powder
Both baking soda and baking powder can keep for up to one year when stored in a cool place that is free of moisture in the air. Baking powder tends to come in a container that is suitable for storage (the common metal container and plastic lids are great!) but you may want to consider putting your baking soda in a container that you can seal (the box it usually come in can allow moisture to seep in).
Baking soda and baking powder start to lose their potency after a while, making them less effective for baking. A good way to test these ingredients is as follows:
Baking Soda- Add a few drops of white vinegar to a fourth of a teaspoon of baking soda. If the mixture starts to bubble immediately, it is fresh and active.
Baking Powder- Mix half a teaspoon of baking powder into a ¼ cup of warm water. If the baking powder bubbles, it is fresh and ready to use!
If there is no reaction when you perform these tests, toss the ingredients and buy them new- your baked goods will thank you!
Most brands of yeast will have an expiration date written clearly on each individual packet or large container. These dates signify when the yeast will start to loose its power, much like baking soda and baking powder.
If you buy yeast in individual packets, keep them sealed and store them in the refrigerator to keep the yeast powerful through it’s expiration date. If you have a large container of yeast, be sure it is sealed well and also stored in the fridge. Yeast can also be kept at room temperature if it is guaranteed not to get too hot!
Yeast will last about a year but you can also test it to see if it is still active. The first step in using yeast is typically to combine it with lukewarm water. When you do this, the yeast should bubble after about 5-10 minutes. If there is no bubbling and the water just looks murky and flat, the yeast is not active and should not be used.
Chocolate will last quite a while when stored correctly. The main goal with chocolate is to keep it away from extreme temperatures. You do not want your chocolate to be exposed to high heat or to freezing cold.
Both extremes will knock the chocolate out of “temper” and cause some of the fats to separate from the sugar crystals, causing a white film on your chocolate which is known as bloom.
In addition to throwing off the delicate balance of chocolate, you are probably aware that chocolate will melt in high heat, leaving you a blob of mushy chocolate instead of nice chocolate chips.
Keep chocolate sealed and in a dry, cool area (like a pantry shelf) and your baking chocolate will last for several years.
As a dry good, cocoa powder should follow the same guidelines as many of the other dry ingredients- stored in a cool, dry place. Keeping it sealed is also essential. Cocoa powder is not quite as fragile as chocolate but it still can spoil if the fats in the powder go bad.
After about two to three years, you should invest in new cocoa powder. Not only may the ingredient be a little sour but it also loses some of its chocolatey taste over time.
Honey can be quite temperamental when it comes to storage. If too cold, the honey will crystalize, too hot it may be too liquid (and then crystalize when it cools). It honey is exposed to too much humidity, crystallization may occur. If it is too dry, again, crystals!
To avoid those finicky honey crystals, keep your honey jar completely sealed and in a consistent, “room temperature” spot.
If your honey does happen to crystallize, place the entire container (still sealed) in a bowl of warm water to soften the crystals and cause them to melt. Even if the honey does crystallize, honey can last pretty much forever.
When sealed properly, honey cannot absorb moisture meaning it will stay the same forever. Once you open that jar though, honey will undergo some color and flavor changes. Most honey brands stamp their products with a shelf life of 2 to 3 years.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are both high in oil content which also means they can spoil easily. Store your nuts and seeds inside glass jars where they are completely sealed from the air. Keeping nuts and seeds in the fridge will definitely extend their shelf life but, in general, nuts and seeds will last about two to four months.
When the oils in nuts and seeds go bad, you will easily be able to smell that they are spoiled. Toss the expired nuts and get new ones- rancid nuts and seeds won’t only taste bad but may also make you sick!
Spices and Herbs
Spices and herbs are typically sold in a container that is suitable for storage. They need to be kept in an airtight container that will prevent moisture from getting to the ingredient.
In addition, spices need to be kept in a cool place. If you store your spices near the oven, the heat will diminish the strength of the spice as it is being heated and “used” every time you turn on the oven. Maybe you like how the spices omit a lovely smell when kept by the over but that smell is also the scent of your spices loosing their taste.
Spices last for about 2 years before they lose a lot of their flavor. A good test to see if the spice is good or bad is to smell it. When you open the jar, does it smell strong? If so, the spice is good! If you smell almost nothing, you should probably replace the spice.
Thanks to the high alcohol content in vanilla, it can last quite a while. In fact, vanilla will last for about 5 years if left unopened and then one full year after opening.
While vanilla will not actually go bad, it will mature and the taste will change as the vanilla bean becomes more like a powerful alcohol rather than a lovely ingredient.
Keep your vanilla in the bottle it came in or in any airtight container. A cool and dark place is where your vanilla want to be!
While learning about where and how to store baking ingredients, you may have concluded that a cool, dark place is optimal for many kinds of baking ingredients. Invest in some great storage containers, with lids, for your ingredients and then adjust the temperature of your pantry to remain consistently “room temperature.”
Always test your ingredients before using them by giving them a quick smell, seeing if they are still active or even taking a tiny taste. Toss anything bad or questionable as it will not add anything to your final baked product- you don’t want to waste your hard baking work!
Time to go and reorganize your pantry and get your baking ingredients ready for storage. However, you are likely now in the mood to bake and use many of those ingredients right away!