How to Store, Freeze, and Refresh Bread
The ultimate how-to-guide for storing, freezing, and refreshing sourdough or fresh bread at home!
As most of you know, I’ve gotten very into bread baking over the past six months! I started my very own sourdough starter (Breadley Cooper) this past July and have been regularly making this sourdough bread recipe ever since.
It was one of the most fun projects that I tackled in the last year and I can’t wait to share more sourdough bread resources with you this year. If you’re looking to get started, be sure to check out my extensive list of sourdough bread tools for beginner and experienced bread bakers.
One of the most frequently asked questions that I get (particularly over on Instagram) is how I store fresh bread, particularly since I live in a small household and regularly bake two loaves at once.
I’m here today to share all the secrets! Below you’ll find extensive tips on how to store bread, how to freeze bread, and how to refresh bread so that it tastes just as good as new.
Basic Bread Storage Tips:
While there are several ways to store bread, my favorite method is below. This method will ensure that you keep that crisp, crusty exterior for as long as possible. For this post, I’m referring to artisanal boules, batards, baguettes, etc., not your typical sandwich bread from the grocery store.
It is worth noting that one of the benefits of fresh sourdough bread (bread made with a sourdough culture) is that it has a longer shelf life than typical store-bought bread. It can typically last for about 4 to 5 days at room temperature.
Whatever you do, please do not refrigerate your bread. It will cause your bread to stale significantly faster. Depending on how recently your bread was baked, you’ll want to approach bread storage slightly differently.
Why You Shouldn’t Slice into Warm Bread:
It is very important to allow bread to cool completely to room temperature before storing or slicing. Place it on a cooling rack and resist the urge to dig into it. Slicing fresh warm bread out of the oven, while extremely tempting, affects its texture and flavor (it will be gummier and less airy; and will result in loaf that dries out much faster).
How to Store Bread
Day One – Day Two:
- for bread that has just been baked, I always leave it out, completely uncovered, at room temperature on the first day of baking. The crust on freshly baked bread will remain at its best texture for at least one day, if not two full days.
- If you slice into your bread: it is best practice to leave it cut-side down on a cutting board uncovered, particularly if you enjoy a crisp crust. This will help protect the interior from drying out, but not result in any moisture collecting on the crust and it becoming too soft.
- If you have not sliced into your bread: if I choose not to slice into the bread on the day of baking, I generally transfer the whole loaf to a large paper bag and fold over the edges. While the crust won’t be quite as crisp as the first day of baking, the porousness of the paper bag will allow air to circulate, yet also help it not dry out too quickly.
Day Three – Day Four:
- While the above method works really well for freshly baked bread, you’ll want to cover it a couple days after it has baked, otherwise it will dry out quickly and become stale/too hard to slice.
- Usually by day three, the best option is to store it bread box (if you have one) or a large Ziploc bag. It’s important to note that this isn’t a perfect solution, bread (or covering it tightly) in this manner will inevitably cause the moisture from the loaf to be trapped, resulting in a softer textured crust. You can get around this by toasting your bread lightly.
- Alternatively, you can also wrap your bread in natural beeswrap (affiliate link) which is a wonderful and better alternative as it is naturally porous and won’t cause as much moisture to be trapped!
Day Five +:
- Why haven’t you eaten all your bread? No, but seriously, if you do not plan on consuming your whole loaf of bread within the first few days of baking, I generally always advise storing it in the freezer (see my instructions below).
How to Freeze Bread:
One of the best tools in your kitchen for storing bread is the freezer! If you have limited access to fabulous bread or need to buy bread many days (to a few weeks) in advance of a dinner party or special occasion, I highly recommend buying an extra loaf or two, freezing the loaves, and enjoying them at a later date.
Since I bake two loaves of sourdough bread at a time, I almost always freeze my second loaf. If I follow a few basic steps, that frozen loaf out of the freezer can taste just as good as the freshly baked loaf.
For freezing bread, it is very important to allow your bread to cool completely before freezing. If stored properly, bread can be stored in the freezer for about 3 to 6 months; however its flavor will diminish the longer it is stored.
How to Freeze Whole Loaves of Bread:
To freeze entire loaves of bread, allow the bread to cool completely, then transfer to a large, durable Ziploc bag, press out any excess air, and seal. If you are all concerned that your bread crust will puncture the bag, you can wrap the loaf tightly in plastic wrap, aluminum foil, or place it in a small paper bag, and then transfer it to a Ziploc bag.
This is my favorite method for short or long term bread storage. My frozen bread loaves taste just as good when refreshed properly, as my freshly baked bread loaves do.
How to Freeze Sliced Bread:
If you only consume a small amount of bread at a time (or have it occasionally here and there) or have a small household, one fabulous way to store bread is to slice it before freezing.
To do this, slice your bread evenly with a serrated bread knife and transfer it to a large Ziploc bag. If your crumb is extremely moist, I advise placing a small piece of parchment paper between each slice to ensure that the slices don’t stick together.
This method allows you to take one slice out at a time, toast it (undefrosted) in your toaster or favorite method of choice, and have a delicious breakfast or snack whenever you want!
How to Refresh Bread Perfectly:
This is my favorite method for freezing (and refreshing) whole loaves of bread. It sounds a bit crazy, but you will be amazed at the results. This results in a very crisp crust that tastes and feels as it does just after baking.
I promise, once you try this method, you will never go back! Your frozen bread will taste like you just baked it. Even if you have a lackluster loaf of bread from a bakery (the crust has softened considerably), try this method below, and it will be elevated instantly.
This method works incredibly well for artisanal loaves of bread, as well as baguettes, etc.
How to Refresh Whole Loaves of Bread:
- Allow your frozen loaf of bread to thaw (in the bag) at room temperature for several hours or overnight on your countertop the night before.
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (175 C) for at least 20 minutes with a rack in the center position.
- Remove the loaf of bread from the bag and lightly run it, very quickly, under cold water. You do not want to saturate your loaf of bread, just lightly saturate/spritz it evenly with cold water on all sides. This light coating of water steams in the oven and results in a far crisper, fresher crust than placing a loaf in the oven dry. *Do not complete this step until your oven is completely preheated and you’re ready to stick it in the oven.
- Place the whole loaf of bread directly on the oven rack and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the crust is crisp and cracks slightly when compressed slightly. This time might vary slightly depending on the size of your loaf of bread (baguettes might only need about 15 minutes at the most), but I always err on the longer side.
- Remove and allow your perfectly crisped, refreshed loaf of bread to cool completely on a cooling rack – usually at least an hour – before slicing. Store bread as directed above. I generally find that refreshed whole loaves of bread will store just as well, perhaps drying out slightly faster, as freshly baked loaves.
Let me know if you have any questions below and I’m happy to answer them!