Save The Food: How To Save Your Breads & Grains

[ This article is part of our Save The Food series on how to make the most of your food ]

Can you still use your bread and grains?

  • Grains generally come dried, so the risk of grains going bad is rather low. You can store most dry grains for many months. If you notice a substantial change in color, smell, or texture then it's likely best to discard them.
  • Bread is a bit trickier. The USDA estimates the shelf-life of bread to be 2-4 days at room temperature and 7 to 14 days in the fridge. These are just estimates, so it's still best to use your senses to make a determination on whether your bread is still ok to eat.
  • Mold is the most common food safety concern with bread. If you see mold you're best off discarding the entire piece of bread. Since bread is rather porous you can't safely cut away or discard only the moldy area, since the mold may have spread throughout the bread, even if you can't see it.
  • Stale bread isn't great for making sandwiches, but it can still be used for many other applications.

How to save breads and grains

Revive: A loaf of bread can be revived with a simple trick. Wet the exterior of the loaf either by placing it directly under running water or using your hand to rub water along the entirety of the exterior of the bread. Try to avoid wetting the cut side of the bread too much. Then place the loaf in a 300-350 degree oven for 6-7 minutes. Check the bread to see if it appears to be refreshed. If it's still wet put it back into the oven for a few minutes. Note this trick only works once. As soon as the bread sits around for a bit after using this trick it will become stale again and harder to revive.

Freezing: Freezing is the best way to prevent bread from going bad. You can toast frozen bread directly. Just increase the time a bit beyond how long you would toast non-frozen bread. If you don't want toast you can easily defrost the bread by placing it into the microwave for 10-30 seconds. Microwave in 10 second increments and check the bread after each increment to determine if its ready.

Incorporate: Once bread is stale there are still many splendid uses for it.

  • Bread crumbs: Pulse bread in the food processor to make bread crumbs. Simply toast in a large skillet with olive oil for about 5 minutes until golden brown and crunchy. Add seasoning to taste.
  • Bread pudding, like the Pecan, Bourbon, and Butterscotch version from Bon Appetit, is a wonderful way to use up your bread.
  • French toast actually works better with bread that's been aged a bit, you'll find the end product will have a bit more texture.
  • Croutons are a great way to use up old bread and kick your salads up a notch.

How to prevent breads and grains from going bad

  • Keep you grains dry, that's the most important storage criteria. Store them in an airtight container of your choosing - glass, plastic, or aluminum are all suitable.
  • As we mentioned above, the best way to keep bread from going bad is to keep all or part of it in the freezer. If you buy a larger quantity consider keeping a portion of it in the freezer. You can bring it out of the freezer to put it into the fridge, in a bread box, or on the counter once you're nearing the end of the unfrozen portion. You can effectively eliminate all of your bread waste by freezing all or part of your bread.
  • Fresh loaves of bread that will be eaten within 2-3 days can be kept on the counter. Avoid using plastic bags as this can encourage mold to grow, use paper instead. Keep bread in a cool and dry area of your kitchen (i.e. avoid the top of the fridge or anywhere near the dishwasher).

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