How to Store Bread So It Lasts Longer

Published Categorized as Food
Fresh breadKostya Klimenko /Depositphotos

Never let bread go stale again. These simple tricks will help you store your bread so it stays fresh and crisp longer.

The pleasures of a freshly baked loaf of bread are many.

There’s the crisp, golden crust that makes a crackling sound when you bite into it. Then there’s the steamy, delicate crumb that sits in your mouth like a cloud, dotted with pockets of air from escaping gas bubbles. And let’s not forget the rich aroma of browning that takes the experience of smelling bread to epicurean levels.

But the bittersweet reality of life is that all good things come to an end. Bread, dear friends, is no exception. Sooner rather than later, the bread will go stale. If you keep it a little longer and don’t use it up, it will get moldy—and the only thing that’s left to do with moldy bread is to throw it away.

There are many who would settle for this and be content with it. But you and I both know you’re not one of them. You’re reading this article, after all, and we’re about to look into the best ways to prolong the pleasures of bread by making it last longer.

What’s the Best Way to Keep Bread?

You can safely store bread, whether freshly baked at home or store-bought and packaged, at room temperature. Unlike other foods in your household, bread isn’t moist enough to provide a breeding ground for the disease-causing bacteria that can give you food poisoning.

But there is a trick to storing bread so it will keep longer. As you already know, you can’t just leave the bread on the counter. If you do, the water will leave the starch molecules and they will become solid again. This is known as “crystallization,” and when it takes place, it makes the bread crumbly and hard.

Bread is best stored in a bread box, a linen bread bag, or cut-side down in a paper bag to keep it from drying out. Regular bread can be kept for 3 to 4 days, while sourdough bread will keep for 4 to 5 days.

It’s fine to store bread in a plastic bag or wrap it tightly in cling film, but the problem with these storage methods is that they don’t allow the loaf to breathe. So if you choose to do this, you will lose all the crispness of the crust.

Oh yes, I almost forgot: If you baked the bread yourself at home, you should wait until it cools before storing it. Otherwise, the steam will turn into moisture, and the moisture will make the crust soggy.

Is It Better to Refrigerate Bread?

“Fair enough,” you’re probably thinking. “Room temperature it is. But what happens if I put the bread in the fridge?”

That’s a good question. And an important one to ask.

The fridge makes most foods last longer because it slows down the replication of spoilage bacteria and disease-causing germs. Perhaps putting the bread in the fridge will also extend its shelf life. Or will it?

Storing bread in the fridge isn’t a good idea. At fridge temperatures, the starch contained in the bread crystallizes very quickly, and the bread becomes stale much faster than at room temperature.

We’re talking about your bread staling in hours rather than days here. You don’t have to refrigerate bread for safe keeping in the first place, so storing it in the fridge is pretty much pointless and does more harm than good.

However, the same can’t be said for freezing bread—and we will get to discuss why in a moment.

Can You Freeze Bread?

Why, yes, you can freeze bread! Homemade and store-bought bread freezes well, and freezing bread is by far the best way to keep it crisp and fresh for more than just a few days.

To freeze bread, cut it into meal-sized portions, seal it in freezer bags or airtight food containers, and place it in the freezer. Frozen bread will stay safe to eat forever, but it will only retain its best quality for up to 6 months.

Some of our peers out there on the Internet will tell you that you can just wrap the bread in plastic wrap and freeze it, but the fact of the matter is that this isn’t enough. The cold air circulating in the freezer will penetrate the plastic wrap—drying out the bread (that is, giving it freezer burn) and making it smell and taste funny.

Thawing frozen bread is easy. Take it out of the freezer, remove it from the bag or container, and let it sit at room temperature or slide it into a 300°F (150°C) oven until it’s warm again.

Can You Revive Stale Bread?

Not everyone knows that stale bread can be revived. Just sprinkle the bread with a little water to keep the crust from drying out and put it in the oven at 300°F (150°C) for 5 to 7 minutes. Take it out when the inside is soft and the outside is crispy.

Rochelle Bilow of Bon Appétit goes a step further. She recommends turning on the faucet and briefly holding the bread, cut-side down, under running water. (According to Bilow, you can use hot or cold water; it won’t necessarily make a difference.)

The caveat to this method is that the bread loses some moisture and becomes noticeably crispier than it once was, no matter if you just sprinkle it or stick it under running water. But hey, at least you can then bite into it and chew it again!

In Conclusion

Store your bread at room temperature in a bread box, linen bag, or paper bag. Avoid plastic bags or the bread will lose its crust, and never store bread in the fridge lest it goes stale within a few hours.

Stale bread is edible, and you can easily revive it by sprinkling it with water and putting it in an oven preheated to 150 °C for 5-7 minutes. Moldy bread isn’t. So if you see mold on your bread, you should throw it away.

By Jim Stonos

When Jim isn't in the kitchen, he is usually spending time with family and friends, and working with the HCW editorial team to answer the questions he used to ask himself back when he was learning the ropes of cooking.