The Right Way to Store Pantry Essentials (Even If You Don't Have a Pantry!)
Learn how you're supposed to be stashing your flour, sugar, pasta, beans, and more.
Whether or not you have an actual room designated as a "pantry" (a home cook can dream!), you most certainly have pantry items. They're the building blocks of meals, items that typically don't require refrigeration and that you can stock up on to ensure you're always able to put together a basic breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Pantry items are usually the most low-maintenance ingredients in the kitchen-think canned goods, such as tuna, tomatoes, beans, salt and pepper, which need no explanation. But there are a few guidelines to follow when it comes to storing the others.
It makes sense that dry goods need to stay, well, dry. Keep moisture out and your ingredients will remain in ideal condition for cooking and baking. To do so, you'll want to decant them into clean, dry, airtight containers. Label each container with the name of the item and the date you purchased it using custom labels or gaffer's tape, otherwise known as cloth tape, which won't leave residue (and you can write on it with a permanent marker). Here, some of the most common pantry items and how to store them.
Kept at room temperature in an airtight container or in the original packaging placed inside a zip-top bag, most flour, such as all-purpose, bread, or cake flour, will last six to 12 months.
Whole Grain Flours
These healthy alternative flours can go rancid more quickly than white flour, because the bran and germ portions of the grain contain oils, which tend to spoil. Keep whole-wheat flour in your fridge or freezer in an airtight container (or, as with white flour, in the original packaging sealed in a zip-top bag), and it will last up to a year. Other whole grain flours-including buckwheat, oat, and rice flours-will last only two to three months in the freezer. Most have expiration dates stamped on their packages, so keep an eye out.
All types are best stored in airtight containers at room temperature. Know that brown sugar is especially susceptible to moisture and has a somewhat shorter shelf life (about a year, versus two years for granulated sugar). If brown sugar hardens, you can use the microwave to soften it.
Barley, quinoa, oats, millet, and rice are reliable pantry items. Any airtight container is suitable for storing them, but if your cabinets tend to get hot, you may want to use round containers, since air can circulate between them more easily (which will help the contents stay cool). Most grains will keep for years, with the exception of brown rice. Like whole grain flours, it contains oils, which can go rancid. Store it for about six months in your refrigerator or freezer.
You can keep uncooked dried lentils and beans, such as cannellini, kidney, and black beans (which cook up amazingly quickly in a pressure cooker!), in airtight jars for a year. It's best to store them at room temperature; stashing them in the freezer can subject them to moisture, which will cause them to lose their flavor.
Dried pasta will last as long as two years if properly stored, which means a cool and moisture-free cupboard or pantry. Never store dried pasta in the refrigerator or freezer because the pasta will absorb moisture. It's fine to keep dried pasta in the box you purchased it in, though glass jars can nicely show off interesting shapes, such as colored bowtie pasta or curly noodles like fusilli.