If I had to guess, most people need a simple solution for keeping bread fresh whether it’s store-bought or homemade. This is especially true for homemade bread, which tends to start to lose its freshness after just a couple of days.
The fridge and freezer are modern day marvels that work wonders for preserving a variety of food. But we all know some food is best kept out of the fridge and some out of the freezer.
So where does bread fall in this fridge vs freezer debate? Is it okay to put bread in the freezer?
Freezing bread is the best way to store and preserve it, which ensures freshness for up to 6 months. This is true for both sliced and whole loaves as well as homemade and store-bought bread. For best results, freeze bread in a sealed plastic freezer bag to protect against freezer burn. If storing sliced bread, leave space between slices to keep them from freezing together.
If you are wondering about the refrigerator, the answer is no. The refrigerator is actually the worst environment to store bread, as it speeds up the time it takes to go stale. Additionally, if molding is a concern for your environment the fridge is inferior to the freezer for preventing mold as well.
Our preferred method for storing bread starts with staying out on the counter for a couple of days before moving to the freezer. This is true for both our homemade or store-bought (though we honestly have more experience with homemade bread). Store-bough is by far the easier of the two to preserve, as they have added ingredients which help protect them from going stale among other things.
If you’d like more on the process of how bread goes stale, we have an in-depth post on that very topic with a host of great tips and tricks for preserving bread. It goes way beyond the scope of this post, so feel free to jump on over there if you want more on that.
But for now, let’s preserve some sliced and whole bread!
How to Freeze and Thaw Sliced Bread
Step 1. Place bread in freezer bags.
Freezer bags are our preferred method. Heavy-duty freezer bags are even better for protecting against freezer-burn. But, if you will not be storing your bread for several months you have no need to worry. The bag your bread came in will work just fine for most households.
For us, we usually are working with homemade bread. Which is why our preferred method is freezer bags, as they don’t come conveniently packaged in a plastic bag. 🙂
If you’d prefer tin-foil or plastic-wrap that works too, just not as well as freezer-bags. If you plan on using up your bread within a couple of weeks, you’re likely going to be fine either way.
*Pro-tip (homemade): Make sure your bread is completely cooled before slicing and storing, or you will end up with soggy and possibly moldy bread.
*Pro-tip (store-bought): Don’t tie the bag off right at the top of your bread, go a little higher to allow room for the bread slices to spread out in the freezer. This helps to avoid having slices stick together.
Step 2: Place bread in freezer.
Seriously, that’s it. Just take care that as much air as possible is out of the bags, and the slices are separated. You will be amazed at how well this works to keep your bread fresh.
Freezing will give you upwards of 6 months, depending on your freezer, before your bread starts to succumb to freezer-burn. Now, keep in mind, we’re talking heavy-duty freezer bags in a top-notch freezer will get you that 6 months range.
Our 10-year-old budget fridge doesn’t quite get us there, but we can safely pull off 3-4 months this way.
Step 3: Pull out the amount you want to use and let it thaw.
For your sliced bread, just pull the pieces out and pop them in your toaster or toaster oven. You can let it go the full length for fresh toast, or stop it short after just a few seconds for something like fresh from the oven bread. You’ll get the feel for it after just a few slices.
If you don’t have a toaster, you can go with a frying pan on medium heat. Simply place the bread in the preheated pan for 10 to 15 seconds on each side. Eat it right away for something close to fresh-from-the-oven or let it cool a minute for your typical sliced bread.
If you’re not after the perfectly fresh slice of bread, letting the slices sit out at room temp for 15 minutes or so works well also. It can be a bit more “stale” than fresh bread, but I personally don’t find much difference.
What About Whole Bread?
Whole bread follows the same process as sliced bread. The only difference is in thawing.
We got this method from a Cook’s Illustrated article which involves wrapping the bread in foil (take out of the plastic bag first) and place it in a cold oven. Set the temperature to 300 degrees, and leave the bread for 15 – 30 minutes (depending on the size of the loaf). Remove the foil and allow the bread to bake for 5 more minutes to get a crisp crust. This will get you something very close to freshly baked bread!
If your bread is really dried out, Bon Appetite recommends an even more drastic approach – running the loaf underwater before reheating it in the oven. We’ve recently tried this method, and have been blown away by the results. It can revive even revive stale bread!