When shelter-in-place first went into effect, many flocked to new cottage core inspired at-home hobbies: knitting, gardening, fostering pets, and of course, baking bread.
By this time, you very well may have mastered the no yeast bread, have a thriving sourdough starter living on your kitchen counter, and have been slowly working on mastering your craft. As a devoted bread baker (and eater), you may have found that your ability to eat bread has not been able to keep up with your desire to make it.
So you’re left wondering how to maximize the shelf life of your fresh and store-bought loaves, signs that it may be going bad, as well as what to do with nearly stale leftover pieces. And you’re wondering, “How long does bread last?”
The Shelf Life of Your Bread
Multigrain, whole grain and white store-bought loaves will last about 5 to 7 days in the pantry, while homemade bread will typically last 2 to 5 days. Most sliced and store-bought loaves, except those from local bakeries, contain preservatives to help them last longer.
Often, homemade bread is made with perishable ingredients like eggs and milk which can cause them to spoil faster.
Gluten-free bread is made with moist ingredients and often contains few preservatives, causing them to go bad faster. This is why you typically see them in the frozen or refrigerated section of stores.
No matter what kind of bread you’re working with, it’s more likely to spoil in warm, moist environments. So where do you keep your beautiful loaves?
How Long Does Bread Last in the Freezer or Fridge?
While many bread fanatics will advise against storing bread in the fridge as it loses flavor and texture, it can extend its shelf life by a week or longer.
If you know you’re going to take your time making your way through a loaf, it’s best advised to keep it in the freezer, where it will last around six months. Your bread may lose flavor and texture after a few weeks, but as long as there is no mold, it is safe to eat.
How to Refrigerate or Freeze Bread
Before freezing bread, be sure to first check for any mold. If mold-free, you can slice it, making sure the slices aren’t stuck together, before putting it in the freezer in an airtight container.
It’s perfectly fine to freeze store-bought bread in the plastic bag it came in, but if you’re storing it in tupperware, be sure to wrap it in aluminum or plastic wrap beforehand to keep out moisture.
Thawing Frozen Bread
When defrosting it, you can stick a slice or two in the toaster, or broil them in the oven for a few minutes. Once defrosted, a great way to add flavor and texture to previously frozen bread is by popping it on a cast-iron skillet with a bit of oil or butter for a couple of minutes on each side.
Got a whole loaf you’re looking to freeze? Go ahead! When you’re ready to dig in, defrost it in its container at room temperature for a few hours, then place it in the oven at around 375 degrees F for a few minutes. And voila! It’s just like a fresh loaf once again.
How to Tell if Bread Has Gone Bad
Wondering how to tell when your bread has gone bad?
As the starches in your bread start deteriorating, it will start to go stale. For the most part, it is still perfectly fine to eat, although it may not taste the freshest.
Use your senses to determine if your bread is safe to eat.
First look for bread mold. It may be green, black, white, or pink. If you see any bit of mold, even on the crust, it’s advised to throw out the whole loaf. White mold and flour can be difficult to tell apart at first. To test it, scrape it with your finger. If it comes off easily, it is flour and probably ok to eat after a sniff test. If it’s clumping together, it may be mold—toss the loaf!
Next is the sniff test. Your nose knows. Trust its instinct. If your bread smells funky, it’s time to toss it. If it made it past the sniff test and into your mouth but seems off, put down that toast. Sorry to tell you, your bread has probably gone bad.
It’s totally ok to eat stale bread but it may not taste the best. Instead of eating it how you normally would, try repurposing it into bread crumbs or croutons.
Risks of Eating Expired Bread
While many types of mold are totally harmless, there is always a risk that you could get sick from eating moldy or expired bread.
Some molds, especially those that produce mycotoxins, can disrupt your gut bacteria, potentially weaken the immune system, and cause stomach issues. It’s especially important to keep this in mind for people with compromised immune systems or who have mold sensitivities.
Because of this, it’s best to toss a loaf once you see mold creeping in. Better safe than sorry!
How to Maximize Your Use of Bread
In order to maximize the use of your bread, you’ll want to store it in a pantry, bread box or freezer. It’s perfectly fine to store bread in a paper bag, although it may dry out and get stale faster.
For an environmentally friendly option, try keeping it in washable cotton bags. Check for moisture in the container or bag before storing your bread since mold thrives in moist environments.
If you’re baking bread, be sure it’s completely cool before storing it to minimize moisture levels and prevent mold. During the summer months, your bread can develop mold faster, so you may want to opt for the freezer after it’s been out for a day or two.
Stale Bread Doesn’t Mean Dead Bread!
Do you have a loaf that’s rapidly approaching stale territory but can’t bear to retire it to the compost? Have no fear. We have some extra tips on getting the most love from your loaves:
- Make breadcrumbs. These will keep in your fridge, and can be used to bread meat or tofu, for homemade tempura batter, or topping macaroni and cheese.
- Chop into croutons. Throw them on the pan for a few minutes with some olive oil, salt, fresh ground black pepper, and your favorite spices, and you’ve got the perfect salad topping.
- Make bread pudding. Turn your stale loaf into the ultimate comfort food.
What are your favorite ways to make the most out of your bread?
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