Kitchen & Cooking

Here are the best ways to keep your bread fresh

Nobody likes a stale loaf.

Here are the best ways to keep your bread fresh Credit: Getty Images / Oxana Medvedeva

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If you’re baking more bread at home than ever before, you may have found that fresh loaves go stale more quickly than the store-bought ones wrapped in plastic. Because they’re missing added preservatives and sugar, fresh breads naturally go stale without extra attention and care.

What makes bread go stale?

Staling is not drying. It’s a retrogradation process where the starch transposes to a crystalline form in the presence of water contained within the bread. The staling process speeds up in cooler temperatures, i.e. in a fridge. But when frozen, moisture can be retained in the form of ice, which means that bread stored in the freezer can actually survive longer without losing its texture.

As a home baker who makes fresh bread each weekend, I’ve tried different ways to preserve my loaves—and many of them have failed to meet my expectations. Here's a breakdown of each way you can store your bread with all the pros and cons that come with them. Note there’s no single best way, because it really depends on the type of bread you're trying to store; buttery, sugary breads like brioche can stay at room temperature for way longer than a baguette, which really should be consumed the same day it was baked.

1. In a brown or cloth bag at room temperature

Bread bag
Credit: Getty Images / undefined undefined

Brown or cloth bags can provide enough protection to keep sweet breads fresh.

Pros: Convenient
Cons: Not aesthetically pleasing; prone to molding in certain environments

If you buy fresh loaves of bread from a bakery, you may choose to just leave them in the brown paper bags they come in. This is only suitable for dry environments, and the loaves should be consumed within four days—the bread will eventually become tough. If you’re looking for something that looks great on your counter, these bread bags come in different sizes and colors to suit your needs.

2. In a breadbox

Bread box
Credit: Getty Images / Михаил Руденко

A bread box can be the ideal environment for some loaves: cool, dark, and humidity-controlled.

Pros: Can keep the crust crunchy and interior soft and chewy
Cons: In humid conditions, the trapped moisture can lead to mold

Before bread was commercially made with preservatives, bread boxes were a common household item for people who wanted to keep their loaves out of sight. The purpose of a bread box is to provide a cool, dark, and humidity-controlled environment for freshly baked loaves, which tend to deteriorate once they leave the oven. If you make your bread at home, you may want to consider getting a bread box—as mentioned, the lack of preservatives in your home baked loaves may go stale faster than the store bought ones.

Although the wooden and ceramic bread boxes are aesthetically pleasing for some, plastic ones are more practical and easy to clean. If you live in a warm and humid environment, you may want to consider an oversized bread box with more empty space, as the moisture from the bread can bring mold over time.

3. In the fridge

Fridge
Credit: Getty Images / Paul Gulea

In warm environments, storing bread in the fridge can prevent mold from growing—but it's rarely the best solution.

Pros: No mold
Cons: Bread will go stale more easily

When it comes to storing bread, putting it in the fridge is generally a no-go. It loses texture more easily because the cool temperature accelerates the staling process. This solution is only advisable when either room temperature storage isn’t an option, or the bread contains enough butter and sugar to keep stable (i.e. store-bought English muffins or pastries). If you’re storing your bread in the fridge, make sure to use a sealable plastic bag and push out as much air as possible when you seal it. Bread in the fridge should be consumed within a week.

4. In the freezer

Freezer
Credit: Getty Images / Dontstop

If you don't plan to consume the bread immediately, freeze it in slices.

Pros: Keeps bread as fresh as possible
Cons: Will take time to thaw

One of the best ways to store bread—if you’re not eating the loaves immediately—is to freeze them. Freezing will put the starch in the bread to sleep, which prevents the bread from going stale. To revive the bread when you’re ready to eat, you can either let it thaw on your countertop for a few hours or defrost the bread in a toaster oven. I like to slice my bread into small slices before freezing so I can thaw the slices individually without taking out the entire loaf. Frozen bread can stay fresh for at least a month.

You can do your best to prevent bread from going stale, but there are times things just happen. Don’t be bummed if your bread goes stale—there are many dishes like panzanella and French toast you can make with stale bread.

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