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Where to Store Bread

My wife and I are having a debate over where to keep the bread.  I prefer to keep it at room temperature, but she says that bread should be stored in the refrigerator.  Which is better?


Bread kept in the fridge goes stale about four times as fast as it does at room temperature.

Why?  Staling can occur either when the bread dries out through evaporation or when cooked starch molecules in the bread cool and form a crystalline structure (see Leftover Rice in Fried Rice).  Crystallization forces water out of the starch molecules and causes the bread to become more firm in texture.  We think of staling as being a loss of water when in fact, the water content may still be the same, just no longer trapped by starch molecules.  The cooler temperature of the fridge increases the speed at which crystallization occurs.

As long as it hasn't actually  dried out, bread that is stale from crystallization of its starch molecules can be made palatable again by reheating it.  This usually only works well one time, though.

So, for soft textured bread, keep it in a bread box or paper bag.  This will hold some of the moisture in, while keeping the crust firm.  Some people prefer to use a plastic bag, which will keep the bread softer longer but encourage spoilage by holding moisture in.  It will also soften the crust.

Bread kept in the fridge may spoil slower, but it will go stale much faster.

If you don't usually finish a loaf before it starts to spoil at room temperature, freeze part and thaw it at room temperature later.  Frozen bread neither spoils nor goes stale quickly and can be kept for several months.

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Does storing bread in a microwave oven keep it from going stale?
Think of the microwave as an expensive bread box, or a really expensive paper bag. It will help to keep the humidity in by confining it to the inside of the microwave and therefore it will work the same as a bag or bread box to help keep bread from drying out. That is until you turn the microwave on with the bread still in it. Then all bets are off!

We kept our bread in the fridge for 20 years because of space - no problems, but recently got a new kitchen and started using a bread bin. It goes mouldy within 2-3 days. I'm now thinking of going back to keeping it in the fridge!

Perhaps true, but bread goes bad much more slowly in the fridge (in terms of growing mold, etc.). I think it's definitely worth it to store it in the fridge. I've had my current loaf in there for about a week after freezing it and it's still VERY soft.

Thank you, thank you, thank you. I submitted to the "bread stays fresh longer in the fridge" argument for nearly a decade and have thus been forced to eat sandwiches with crappy bread. This post could prove to be the Emancipation Proclamation for my "sammiches." A thousand thanks.

It takes me so long to go through a loaf of bread, I freeze the whole thing and defrost slices in the microwave as required. Four slices on cook for 30 seconds seems to do the trick. I never really understood the whole "defrost" button thing :D

If the cooler temperature of the refrigerator accelerates starch crystallization, why does this not happen in the freezer?

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