Storage Tips

The Very Best Ways to Store Fresh Bread

Plus, the storage method that actually makes bread go stale faster.

July 30, 2020
Photo by James Ransom

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

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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 them for future croutons). If things get really dire (read: incredibly stale), make pappa al pomodoro. These are all great ways to deal with stale and almost-stale bread.

But if you're stubborn and 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. Even if you ask three professional bakers, you are likely to get three different answers. 

Let's first talk about the refrigerator for a second. It is a good place to keep your carrots crisp, but it's 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.

The Best Ways to Store Bread

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 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.

A Few Bready Recipes

No-Knead Sourdough Bread

This wildly popular riff on Jim Lahey's classic no-knead formula calls for a sourdough starter instead of commercial yeast. Pro tip: For an even crispier crust on your loaf, preheat your empty Dutch oven or pot before you add in the dough. 

Kindred's Milk Bread

One of our top-ten most popular recipes of all time (seriously), this magically fluffy, ultra-tender milk bread recipe can be used all sorts of ways—from sandwiches to French toast. Even better, the loaf comes together relatively quickly: less than four hours from start to finish.

Cinnamon Swirl Bread

Cookbook author Alexandra Stafford's favorite way to enjoy this fragrant, cinnamon-swirled bread? Toasted, then slathered with butter and a sprinkle of sugar. (And we have to admit, that sounds pretty darn great.)

Spent Grain & Herb Whole-Wheat Bread

If you're looking for a recipe that will help you achieve bakery-style bread at home, look no further than this crusty whole-wheat bread with a soft and chewy center. Just keep one thing in mind when making it: You'll probably be tempted to nibble on a slice straight out of the oven, but it needs to cool for at least an hour or two to help complete the baking process.

Edward Lee’s Popcorn Bread

"This is a variation of cornbread that is light and nutty and nostalgic," writes Chef Edward Lee of his buttery popcorn bread, which he adds is best served when it's still nice and warm. 

Tell us: How do you store your bread?

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Marian Bull

Written by: Marian Bull

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27 Comments

Isabel August 30, 2020
Best technique I’ve devised for my small kitchen is to put the bread in a paper bag, and then put that inside a ziploc-type plastic bag. (I actually use plastic bags from a bakery -they’re the same thickness of plastic but don’t have the total seal. I think it’s the thickness of plastic that matters, not being totally airtight.) I like that the whole package shrinks as the loaf gets smaller, and when I don’t have any bread, my counter space is freed up. Paper bag alone slowed the staling process, but not by much. Plastic bag alone - wherever the bread was in contact with the plastic, too moisture and then mold... the combo of paper and plastic works really well.

I also tend to freeze half the loaf as soon as I’m home from the bakery. I don’t pre-slice, just do it in chunks. Wrap tightly in foil, then again with the plastic bag, this time making sure to squeeze all air out. Thaw a chunk of bread, then slice as needed, storing on the counter as described in previous paragraph.
 
Carel H. August 29, 2020
I was quarantining and had a little fridge with a chiller on top, instead of a freezer. We have a fab bread co here, and if I put the slices in a plastic bag in the chiller part they kept perfectly.
 
Frish B. August 10, 2020
One addition to the cutting board approach: wet the wooden cutting board. Then place cut side down of loaf on the board and cover with a paper 'hat.' Almost miraculous.
 
Edwin R. August 8, 2020
My favorite use of almost stale and stale sour dough bread is to make sopa de ajo (garlic soup). It's fast, easy and delicious.
 
isacello August 7, 2020
I place mine on a wooden board cut side down so it won't dry out and place a small brown paper bag over it. I ask at the bakery if they can place it in a waxed paper bag which to me is the favorite to place over the cut bread resting on the board.
 
Barbara A. August 7, 2020
I wrap my bread in plastic wrap then put into the paper bag. When I want to use it, I put it in the toaster oven on a broil setting and it crisps right up.
 
Amy W. August 3, 2020
We use a linen bag. Plastic bags worked but mold crept in after a few days. We don’t have space for a bread box. The linen bag was a complete game changer. Our corner Italian restaurant turned into a bread bakery at the beginning of quarantine. We’ve had fresh bread every week since. We tried all sorts of storage methods to make the bread last as long as possible. Now we make it all the way to the next loaf with a crusty exterior and a soft interior. So delighted in the linen bags.
 
mlsjazz August 7, 2020
The linen bags sound interesting. Does anyone know a source?
 
GabrielleS August 8, 2020
It's funny, we got our linen bags right here at Food52--I was surprised they weren't mentioned. Maybe they don't carry them any more? Definitely my favorite as well.
But a linen or cotton dish towel works as well. I also try to balance the cut side down on the counter, or sometimes cover the open end slice with foil before putting in the linen bag.
 
lucida-bista February 11, 2020
Just wanted to say a great option for bread that is already hard is French Toast!
Fun fact, obviously in France there's no french toast, but there is something quite similar called Pain perdu (literally "lost bread"), which is basically french toast but with hard bread, and you leave it soaking for longer. I guess with baguettes lasting so little, they had to come up with something ahaha.
But yeah, great solution. My go-to for hard bread.
 
Sarah S. January 26, 2017
I'm planning on getting fresh bread and want to make sure that I store it correctly. I had no idea that a ceramic bread box allows for the ideal air circulation to keep your bread good. It would also be smart to make sure that you buy and eat bread from a reputable place. That way, you can be sure that it will last well. http://www.klostermanbakery.com/products/
 
Candace D. June 1, 2015
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.
 
Mares April 7, 2015
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.
 
Sandy M. March 23, 2015
I store my bread in the microwave...it keeps fresh for a really long time (because the microwave is airtight, I think)!
 
sindhu C. October 24, 2014
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
 
minibakersupreme September 17, 2014
Those baguettes in those photographs look so gross.
 
deb June 5, 2014
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!
 
Amy F. June 4, 2014
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...
 
Neville November 21, 2013
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.
 
BurgeoningBaker October 11, 2013
Actually if you put your bread in a brown paper bag. It will get hard and crusty.
 
mytangerinedream October 11, 2013
I store bread in my Le Creuset pot. Only place it stays moist longer
 
Stacey October 10, 2013
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.com/2010/10/terracotta-bread-bin.html)I've 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.
 
Stacey October 10, 2013
Sorry about my garbled comment. Here's the correct link to a terra cotta bread crock http://www.wayfair.com/Henry-Watson-Original-Suffolk-Bread-Crock-167-HWT1022.html. And here's another that I like though it's not available in the US: http://www.roemertopf.de/english/roemertopf_klassik/brottopf_oval.htm Maybe something for Provisions?
 
Valerie August 8, 2020
Stacey, I have tried all of your links to see what you are talking about and none of them work.