How to Choose the Right Flour

Flour is a cereal grain that has been finely ground into a powder. Wheat flour is most common in Western cooking, but many other grains, including corn, rice, barley, and oats, can also be used to make flours. Even among wheat flour, there is a remarkable variety: self-rising, all-purpose, cake flour, pastry flour, and bread flour to name a few. Which are which? Do you need special flour? When can you substitute? Read on to find out.


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    Notice any specifications or modifiers surrounding the word "flour" in the recipe. Does it call for "flour", or does it call for cake flour, bread flour, or something special?
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    Read the rest of the recipe. Try to understand the role of flour in whatever you will be preparing. Here are some things to look for.
    • Is the recipe primarily a yeast bread? Does it use yeast as the primary leavening (rising) agent? Yeast bread recipes usually also include a lot of kneading and rising.
    • Does the recipe use mainly baking soda, baking powder, or cream of tartar as leavening?
    • Does the recipe use flour as a thickening agent for a sauce or soup?
    • Does the recipe call for a mixture of flours, for flours made of other grains, or for additional sources of starch (such as cooked potatoes or oatmeal)?
    • Does the recipe call for only a particular part of the grain, such as the grain or bran?
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    Distinguish between whole grain flour and refined flour.
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    Understand what cake flour is and when to use it. When making a cake, the result should be light and fluffy. What this means for the flour is that it should be finely milled with a lot of starch and relatively low protein content. That lets it absorb the fats more readily. Most recipes will call for cake flour if it is warranted. Yeasted breads should not be made with cake flour. [1]
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Categories: Baking | Food Selection and Storage