Kitchen Confidence

How to Store Fresh Bread

By • October 10, 2013 • 15 Comments

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Inspired by conversations on the Food52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun. 

Today: How to stave off staling.

How to Store Bread on Food52

Let's start off with the bad news: If there's a loaf of lean bread on your counter -- meaning a loaf without added fat or sugar, such as a sourdough boule, ciabatta, or a baguette -- it's only at its best for a few days after baking. After 48 hours or so, the bread loses flavor and becomes harder and dryer.

This puts you in a predicament: Either you eat an entire loaf of bread in two days (not easy for even the hungriest of single people), or you watch something beautiful die. Or mold. Or stale. 

A fun fact, via Harold McGee: Staling isn't an issue of moisture loss. It's an issue of starch retrogradation. More on that here

How to Store Bread on Food52  How to Store Bread on Food52

The good news: you can stop time after two days. You can turn your bread into bread crumbs, or freeze it in slices for toast, or turn it into croutons for a panzanella. Or freeze your cubes for future croutons! If things get really dire (read: incredibly stale), make papa al pomodoro. These are great ways to deal with stale and almost-stale bread.

But if you're stubborn and you insist on holding onto your bread for more than a few days, you'll want to store it properly. And if you ask around for the best way to keep your bread edible, you'll receive a huge variety of answers. You might get confused. Even if you ask 3 professional bakers, you may get 3 different answers. 

How to Store Bread on Food52

Let's first talk about the refrigerator. It is a good place to keep your carrots crisp. It is not a good place for your bread. Scientifically, bread will actually stale faster in the refrigerator because of the low temperature. Luckily, you've got some better options.

A ceramic bread box allows for ideal air circulation: Just enough to keep your bread moist, without drying. If you don't have space for one -- or don't feel like buying one -- not to worry. The most low-tech method is to sit your bread on a wooden board, cut-side down; this keeps the exposed crumb from drying. 

How to Store Bread on Food52

You can also employ the same technique with a paper bag. This will better protect your loaf and allow for good air circulation, meaning that your crust won't get soft. Some people claim that a sliced loaf stored cut-side down in a paper bag will stay the freshest. Our results on this one have been mixed.

How to Store Bread on Food52

If you want to avoid staling at all costs, go with a plastic bag -- this is what the bakers at King Arthur Flour suggest. Make sure to get as much air out of there as possible before sealing. Your crust will soften, but your bread won't dry out or harden prematurely. Make up for unwanted softness with toasting. It makes everything better.

And lastly, a note on baguettes: After a day, they're only good for crostini, or as weapons, or for hilarious staged photographs. So slice and freeze before things turn south, or share with a friend. 

At the end of the day, if you have a strategy that works for you, by all means keep it up. And share it with us in the comments.

Tell us: How do you store your bread?

Photos by James Ransom

Tags: bread, storing, storage, stale bread, freezer, freezing, how-to & diy

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Comments (15)

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about 20 hours ago Candace Darnell

I appreciate what you're doing on this site. I live in the Ohio Valley, and the humidity and temperature swings here can affect food viability. Mostly I just sigh heavily and go to the trash can to dump stuff. Please keep up the good work.

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about 1 month ago Mares

We place homemade artisan bread cut side down on a plastic cutting board and slip a jacket over it. We make the jacket from empty cereal box liners or from waxed paper, using staples or tape. Do not fully enclose the loaf. Just slip the waxed bag over the bread until it reaches the cutting board, like slipping on a toaster cover or stand mixer cover. Fold down any excess above the bread. This keeps the crumb fresh and the crust crunchy. The bag can be used/reused until it's worn out. If we bake multiple loves at one time, we cool them completely, double wrap in foil and freeze until needed. When needed, place directly from freezer into a 350 degree oven for 20 to 30 minutes, remove from oven, unwrap and it's like fresh baked bread....lovely moist crumb and crunchy crust. We live in a very dry climate at over 7,000 ft altitude. Never tried this in a humid environment.

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2 months ago Sandy Minea

I store my bread in the microwave...it keeps fresh for a really long time (because the microwave is airtight, I think)!

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7 months ago sindhu chadee

for years I have been storing over left bread in freezer, without any problem.specially sliced loaf bread,which is easy to pull out the needy required daily slices from the freeze

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9 months ago clementinebakes

Those baguettes in those photographs look so gross.

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12 months ago deb

slice it, wrap pieces in foil, store in ziploc in the freezer, and when I need to eat it, remove foil wrapped pieces from the ziploc, pop into oven for 20 mins. on 400 deg. and it's soft on inside and still crunchy on outside! Works every time!

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12 months ago Amy Ferguson

I bake my own sour dough etc for sailing trips that take a week or more... we preserve our breads by brushing vinegar on the crust and turning the cut side down..I learned this on an Italian sail boat sailing from Panama to Colombia...

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over 1 year ago Neville

I travel a fair distance for my bread (lean) so preservation is somewhat a necessity. I have been bringing multiple loaves home, vacuum-sealing with the food-saver system. I am able to extend the life of the loaf for weeks in the freezer with little appreciable deterioration of texture or taste.

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over 1 year ago BurgeoningBaker

Actually if you put your bread in a brown paper bag. It will get hard and crusty.

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over 1 year ago mytangerinedream

I store bread in my Le Creuset pot. Only place it stays moist longer

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over 1 year ago Stacey

The best way to store bread is in terra cotta. Unfortunately there are few terra cotta bread storage containers on the market and those that are available (here's one. it's too big for my counter http://breadbindesign.blogspot... improvised by using an oval terra cotta planter that I invert over a cutting board. It's not ideal (it's on the small side) but it works and keeps bread fresh for days. With dense loaves, I find that it works to keep them cut side down on a cutting board.

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over 1 year ago Stacey

Sorry about my garbled comment. Here's the correct link to a terra cotta bread crock http://www.wayfair.com.... And here's another that I like though it's not available in the US: http://www.roemertopf.de... Maybe something for Provisions?

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over 1 year ago trampledbygeese

trampledbygeese is a trusted home cook.

Storage is important, but I wonder if the shelf life of bread has more to do with how you bake it (including how you cool it), then how you store it.

When I bake a sourdough bread (flour, salt, water, and a stiff starter) it lasts about two weeks before going hard, stale, or mouldy. I don't know if this is because I wrap my bread in a cotton towel for at least 24 hours (up to three days if I am looking for a harder crust) before bagging it in plastic, or if using a more sour starter influences how the bread ages. Having a thicker starter encourages more acid and less rapid yeast development for a longer rise and more sour taste.

In the winter (when our house is between 65F and 72F) the bread can last up to three weeks, with a slight moistening of the crust near the end of week two. In the summer, it lasts half that long, and tends to go mouldy before it goes stale.

If I use any fats or sugars in my bread, then the shelf life is reduced to 4 days at most. What kind of flour (white, whole wheat, rye, mixed with leftover rice or beans, whatever) has no noticeable effect on how long it lasts. But a runny (100% hydration) starter will shorten the shelf life considerably. Yet a runny sponge from a stiff starter has little effect either way.

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over 1 year ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

trampledbygeese, that's so interesting. I find that if my artisanal breads are left alone, i.e., not sliced, for at least four hours after they come out of the oven, they stay "fresh" a lot longer. (I read somewhere that the minute you cut the bread, you let out whatever steam is inside, thus depleting the internal moisture levels. It seems to be true.) Our bread never lasts long here, but the breads made with my wild yeast levain do hold up beautifully for the 4-5 days that it takes for my husband to work through them when our sons are away. My Pullman loaves sometimes get a bit moldy, so I recently bought some "Forever" bread bags which are supposed to extend the shelf life. I just put a loaf in one for the first time the other day, so it's too soon to tell whether it makes a difference. ;o)

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over 1 year ago trampledbygeese

trampledbygeese is a trusted home cook.

You're lucky to live in a house of bread eaters. I wish we gobbled through bread that quickly, but most of us are rice and pasta people and keep up with my love of baking. Let us know how the new bags work out.