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Whether you’re a breadmaking pro who crafts her own loaves or prefer the simplicity of store-bought, we all know bread can go bad faster than you anticipate. That’s why it’s so tempting to refrigerate your bread – after all, the cold prolongs plenty of almost-ripe, nearly-spoiled foods, right?
If you think bread storage is that simple, think again. Look online, and you’ll find that the topic of where to store your bread is one hotly debated subject. Some people firmly believe bread belongs out at room temperature, while others believe it’s perfectly okay to refrigerate your loaves.
So, what’s really the best way to keep your bread fresh and extend its lifespan? We’ve got the answer – keep reading to see if you’re storing your bread correctly.
Never, ever stash your bread in the fridge
Your fridge is the perfect solution to prolong quite a lot of foods, but bread isn’t one of them. Storing your loaves inside your refrigerator can have the opposite effect, shortening their lifespan and ruining their taste and texture.
Serious Eats explains the science behind how the fridge works on bread of any kind. As bread begins to go bad – or get stale – its starch molecules change. That’s why it dries out, gets crumbly and changes taste. Starch is normally crystalline in form, but when it’s turned into dough and baked into bread, that crystalline structure breaks down. However, as soon as a loaf is finished baking and begins to cool, the starch inside begins to re-crystallize and harden back into its original shape. And as this happens, your bread also hardens (and slowly goes stale).
When you refrigerate bread, the cold and not-quite-freezing temperature speeds this whole process up. Your fridge’s cool environment causes crystallization to happen rapidly, which leaves you with a dried-out, hard loaf in no time at all.
So, when you refrigerate your bread, you’re basically hitting fast forward on its shelf life.
Here’s how to make your bread last longer without ruining it
You don’t have to give up on prolonging the lifespan of your bread. Whether freshly homemade or bought at a store, there are a few tips and tricks – and storage methods – that can stave off mold and staleness without making your bread inedible. And with some methods, you might even be able to get additional weeks out of your next loaf.
Here are a few ways you can store your bread for increased longevity.
Freeze your bread
You’re reading that right: Your fridge is too cold for bread, but your freezer isn’t. Bread might go stale ASAP when it’s refrigerated, but freezing it is actually one of the best ways to extend its shelf life.
Freezing your bread will prevent mold growth and stop staleness in its tracks. Here’s how it works. When loaves are stored in temperatures that are cold, but above freezing, that re-crystallization we mentioned earlier happens. But when it’s in below-freezing temps, bread stops all of its internal changes and stale-making process.
And Insider notes that bread can last as long as three to six months when frozen. The only potential changes that might occur are your bread may get a little soggy when it defrosts. But once you’re ready to pop it into the toaster or turn it into a sandwich, you won’t notice a difference.
Use a bread box
If you don’t want to freeze your bread, there’s another option you can go with a storage method that’s been around for quite a long time: a bread box.
Bread boxes have withstood the test of time because they’re really good at what they do. With small air holes to encourage a little circulation and humidity, a bread box will offer an almost-airtight seal. You’ll be able to keep your bread in a perfectly balanced environment, and you’ll protect it from other external factors like sunlight and high heat too.
For an added layer of staleness-fighting protection, you can keep your bread in its original packaging inside the bread box. This can give you a few additional days of freshness compared to sticking your unwrapped loaf inside a bread box.
Divide your loaf
If you aren’t completely satisfied with either of these storage methods, you can try an in-between alternative to balance freshness with your need for room-temperature bread. Divvy up your loaf and keep a few slices in a breadbox or airtight container, and freeze the rest.
You can slice your bread (or if you’re working with a pre-sliced loaf, just divide the slices into two stacks) and leave out as much as you’ll need for three to four days on your counter or in your pantry. The rest of the loaf goes inside a resealable bag or container, then inside your freezer.
With this method, you’ll get the best of both worlds. Plus, freezing some of your bread helps reduce waste and takes the pressure off you to use up your bread ASAP. As you’re ready for more bread, you can simply defrost additional slices.