Crusty French bread. Sandwich loaves. Ciabatta. Pretzels (hey, they count!). Homemade bread is truly an art form, but it's a tricky one. That's 'cause the same freshness that makes artisan bread a standout also happens to be its downfall. Without preservatives, it seems to go stale almost instantly. But with proper storage, you'll be able to carbo-load for longer and — real talk — isn't that what we're all after?
How to Store Homemade Bread
Option 1: Leave it Out
In general, bread really shouldn't be left out for extended periods of time. If you leave it uncovered, bread will usually form a crust and get stiff and stale in the blink of an eye. Plus dry climates suck the moisture out of bread even faster. (Breads that contain fat, like Parker House rolls , are the exception to this rule ... they will fare better for longer if they're left out in the open air!)
However, it's not always a loss if you mess this one up — if the outer edges of your bread are stiff from sitting out, the bread inside might still be fine. To tell, slice off the hardened outer parts with a bread knife, then use a different method to store the rest.
Option 2: Bread Box
These old-fashioned contraptions are making a comeback, because they do actually work. They allow bread to breathe without letting in enough air to totally dry it out.
If a bread box seems like too much of a spatial commitment for your counter top, try covering the bread with a clean, dry kitchen towel and then putting it in a paper bag. It mimics the bread box by allowing the bread to breathe while still protecting it from the elements.
Option 3: Plastic
There's no middle ground here — plastic is either the best or the worst way to store bread. If your bread is double-wrapped in clean plastic and stored in a cool, dry place, the plastic can really extend the bread's life (especially in drier climates).
But beware: If there's even a drop of moisture in that plastic, the water can incubate and make the bread mushy or — way worse — moldy.
Option 4: Freezing
If you're playing the long game, freezing is where it's at. Wrap cool, dry bread thoroughly in plastic, and be certain no moisture or condensation sneaks in. Then you can store it in the freezer for up to 2 months (you can store longer, but the flavor might not be quite the same).
Slicing the bread before storing is even better, since sliced bread thaws quicker and is easy to pop in the toaster for quick warming.
The Fridge: Just Say No
Refrigerating bread is just about the worst thing you can do, because it'll completely dry it out. Sure, it's fine to put a sandwich in the fridge for a few hours, but when you're talking about a loaf (sliced or unsliced), the fridge gives it a funky texture that just isn't good.
Fixing Stale Bread
We don't want to get your hopes up too too high, but sometimes stale bread can be saved.
- Try adding a slice of apple to the packaged bread. The apple might soften the bread enough to give it a second chance.
- Microwave magic: Put a few slices of bread on a moistened (but not wet!) paper towel, and microwave for 10 seconds.
Embracing a Less-Than-Perfect Loaf
We get it, sometimes bread goes stale and just can't be fixed. If it's too crispy to be enjoyed as-is, try using it in a French toast casserole or as homemade croutons. Homemade bread crumbs are another great open, and can work their way into tons of recipes. That way it's not a total loss.