Tired of having your bread go stale after only two days or stopping by the bakery every other day?
Perhaps it’s time to change your bread storage habits a bit.
Let’s talk about how long bread typically lasts, how to tell if it’s bad, and how to store it so that it doesn’t go stale that fast.
Table of Contents
- How Long Does Bread Last?
- How To Store Bread To Keep It Fresh
- How to Tell if Bread Is Bad?
- Bread Shelf Life and Storage Summary
How Long Does Bread Last?
|Store-bought bread||4 – 6 days||7 – 14 days||3+ months|
|Homemade bread||2 – 4 days||7 days||3+ months|
Homemade bread typically keeps for 2 to 4 days on the counter and up to a week in the fridge. Store-bought bread lasts for a few days longer – 4 to 6 days at room temperature and 7 to 14 days if refrigerated.
If that’s not enough, you can freeze bread.
Those periods are just rough estimates, as every bread is slightly different, but they should work about 90 percent of the time.
Next, let’s talk about factors that influence the shelf life of bread, such as the type of bread, storage method, and whether it contains preservatives.
If you want to store your bread for more than a couple of days, you need to either refrigerate or freeze it. There’s no way around it.
If your bread tends to go stale after only a day or two on the counter, try refrigerating it and see how things go.
And if that fails, there’s the tried and tested method of freezing bread and grabbing slices from the freezer as you go.
This is pretty straightforward – if the bread you’re buying contains preservatives, it’ll probably keep for a day or two longer before it grows mold. In other words, it’ll be on the higher end of the shelf life spectrum I outlined above.
Because of that, most homemade breads last only a couple of days, while ones that you buy in the supermarket can keep for up to a week on the counter.
Obviously, preservatives only help against microbial growth and don’t prevent the bread from going stale.
The better quality, the longer the bread lasts. It’s as simple as that.
So if you buy yours at a renowned local bakery and pay a slight premium for each loaf, it’ll most likely last longer than the cheap stuff from the supermarket.
Furthermore, bread baked with quality ingredients often holds up better too.
Time for a quick personal story.
I used to buy bread in the supermarket, and it always grew mold after 4 to 5 days on the counter.
Now I’m a regular at a certain bakery, and their bread easily keeps for a week without any signs of mold (and it’s preservative-free). Sure, it’s pretty stale after a week at room temperature, but it’s safe to eat and tastes a-okay after toasting.
Type of Bread
Some types of bread usually last longer than others. For instance, sourdough bread keeps better than yeast-based bread. And dense breads, like rye or ones that are loaded with seeds, tend not to go stale that fast.
Then there are a bit fancier bread types.
For instance, keto-friendly breads often require refrigeration and keep for between 7 and 14 days in the fridge. Or banana bread that lasts up to a week in the fridge.
If you’re baking your own bread, no matter if whole wheat, sourdough, rye, or else, read the storage instructions that come with the recipe. This way, you’ll know what to expect when it comes to shelf life and how to store the baked good so that it retains quality for longer.
Look for Patterns
If you’re buying or baking the same bread over and over, look for patterns. After a couple of loaves, you should have a rough idea of how many days it stays mold-free and when it gets stale.
Then you should try different storage practices, e.g., storing the bread in the fridge instead of the bread box, and see what helps and what doesn’t. After a couple of tries, you’ll know what works.
And if you’re still unhappy about the storage time, consider trying another bakery, or freeze the leftovers the same day you buy the bread.
The date printed on the bread you buy in the supermarket is only a rough estimate of how long it’ll retain quality. It’s by no means an “expiration” date, nor does it guarantee the bread will be mold-free and fresh until that date.
I think it’s much better to assess the quality yourself than to rely on that date. For example, your bread might be moldy a day or two before that, but just as well, it may be fine three days after it.
That also means that it’s impossible to say how long past the printed date the bread will stay good for. Check its quality yourself and go from there.
How To Store Bread To Keep It Fresh
You can store bread on the counter, in the fridge, or in the freezer. If you decide to refrigerate it, sealing it tightly is a must. For freezing, it’s best to slice the bread beforehand so that you can grab only as much as you need at a time.
The storage options below work just as well for similar baked goods, so if you’re wondering how to store pita bread, you now know the answer.
Now, if you do a bit of research, you’ll learn that some people are really adamant about how you should store bread and why room temperature storage is so much better than refrigeration. Ignore them, test out both options, and draw your own conclusions.
Let’s get into details.
On the Counter
Most of us leave bread on the kitchen counter, which is not a bad choice.
If you want to store your bread at room temperature, your options include:
- paper bag
- cloth bag
- aluminum foil
- plastic bag (or freezer bag)
- cut side down on a cutting board or any other flat surface (often recommended for sourdough bread)
- wrapped in a kitchen towel
- many others
These options can be divided roughly into two categories: breathable and not. Plastic bags and aluminum foil are not breathable, while the others are.
Breathable options make the bread dry out and go stale sooner, but they keep the crust crispy (for a limited time). After a couple of days, that crust hardens, and it ends up hard instead of crispy.
Non-breathable options trap the moisture inside, which means the bread stays fresh for longer, but the crust softens. If that’s an issue for you, you can always restore the crispness by reheating the bread.
Now, whether you want to go with one or the other is up to you. Feel free to test both options and see which one works better for the bread you usually buy or bake.
In the Fridge
While many sources say you should never refrigerate bread, that’s not exactly true.
The issue here is that storing bread in the refrigerator might dry it out or allow it to absorb moisture and grow mold earlier. Both are possible if your bread isn’t sealed properly.
To fix that, you need a freezer bag or an airtight container to store the bread in. If it’s sealed properly, you can expect it to last a couple more days than it keeps on the counter.
That said, not all bread refrigerates well. And you won’t know if yours does until you test it.
Check the bag or container for condensation every day or so, and wipe clean any water drops that you notice. Or wrap the bread with a paper or kitchen towel that will absorb the extra moisture.
This practice is critical when refrigerating that particular bread for the first few times. After that, you’ll get a feel for whether it stores well in the fridge and if it has condensation issues.
For me, I never store bread in the fridge. Instead, I leave the current loaf on the counter and place any extra loaves sliced in the freezer. This approach works well for me, and I never worry about the bread going moldy.
In the Freezer
The freezer is the perfect place to store any bread that might go stale instead. Furthermore, freezing bread takes only a few minutes, so there’s no excuse for not doing it.
Here’s what you should do:
- Slice your bread. Freezing it sliced makes things easy later on – you can quickly grab and defrost a couple of slices instead of struggling to cut into a frozen loaf.
- Put the slices into a freezer bag. Frozen slices don’t really stick together – you can pull a few no problem without defrosting the whole thing. Add a label if you like.
- Place the bag in the freezer.
That’s it. The bread retains quality for 3+ months in the freezer.
If you need to defrost frozen bread, here are your options:
- Leave the slices on the counter. Make sure they’re not sticking together so that the area exposed to room temperature is the largest. This way, bread defrosts between 20 minutes and an hour, depending on its ingredients and thickness. The same process works for thawing tortillas.
- Toast frozen slices. Grab as many slices as you need, and thaw and reheat them in a toaster. This whole procedure takes only a couple of minutes, and you can do it while prepping other ingredients. If you love toasted bread (like I do), that’s your go-to option.
If you don’t like toasted bread slices, let your toaster warm up, and then power it off. The warmth will defrost your bread in a couple of minutes.
How to Tell if Bread Is Bad?
Do the following when checking if your bread is safe to eat:
- Look for mold. If you notice any fuzzy spots (most likely white, green, or black), that bread is done for. And by that, I mean the rest of the loaf, not only the moldy area. Scraping mold off bread is not an option.
- Give it a whiff. If it smells off (in any way), get rid of it.
- Taste it. If everything until now seems to be okay, it’s time to give that old bread a try. If it tastes bad or the texture is off, throw it out. Otherwise, it’s your call on whether it’s good enough to eat or not.
What about stale bread? Stale bread is okay safety-wise but not the best taste-wise. It’s up to you whether you’re going to consume it or not.
I usually toast any bread that’s older than 3 days and find that old toasted bread quite palatable.
If you’re into toasts, give it a go. If not, it’s always worth a try. The worst-case scenario is that you’re going to discard that bread anyway.
Alternatively, consider making homemade breadcrumbs or baking bread pudding (bread pudding lasts about 4 days in the fridge, but it’s usually gone in no time ). Both are better than discarding the baked good.
Bread Shelf Life and Storage Summary
Thanks for reading this primer on the shelf life of bread. Here are the takeaways:
- You can store bread on the counter, in the fridge, and in the freezer. If you’re going to freeze your bread, slice it first.
- Bread usually lasts 3 to 4 days on the counter and a few more days in the refrigerator. If that’s not enough, you can freeze it.
- You can use stale bread for breadcrumbs or bread pudding. Or toast it to freshen it up a bit.
- Discard bread that’s moldy or smells off.