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We Tried 7 Ways to Store a Loaf of Bread, and 2 Methods Outlasted Them All

published Dec 13, 2023
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Overhead view of seven loaves of bread in different containers on a marble surface.
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Food Stylist: Tom Hoerup

Bread is fundamental, it’s delicious, and it’s perfect at any time of day: as toast for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch, or a reliable accompaniment for nearly anything you’re having for dinner. There are few instances where a nice slice of bread doesn’t improve a meal! 

Quick Overview

So, What Is the Best Way to Store Bread?

After testing out several different methods, we found that there were actually two different techniques that worked well: Storing the bread in its original plastic packaging, as well as storing the bread wrapped in reusable food wrap.

Given the usefulness and ubiquity of bread, it definitely hurts a little inside when a loaf starts to go stale or get moldy in your kitchen. It’s probably a safe bet that most of us store our bread in the packaging it comes in — either on the countertop or in a cabinet. But I wanted to test out those methods up against a few others that are commonly used as well. 

How I Found the Best Way to Store Bread

  • The bread: I live in Brooklyn, so I’m lucky when it comes to local bakeries. Just a five-minute walk away from my apartment is a fabulous French bakery I always pop into when I’m craving a nice loaf of bread. Yes, I’m 100% that girl carrying a baguette and flowers in her tote. But I acknowledge not all of us are that lucky. So I went with something accessible to everyone for this series of tests. I knew Arnold brand country-style white bread would be easy to find basically everywhere in the country, and it’s a popular, delicious loaf that I’d want to keep going back to for slices over the course of the test.
  • The tests: I experimented with seven different storage methods for this showdown. Before I began the tests, I made sure to get loaves that all had the same best-by date, so that I was able to judge accurately and fairly. I also routinely opened/took a slice or two out of the package and resealed it, just to simulate the actual experience of someone going through and eating the bread. I thought it wouldn’t be fair or realistic to test them completely untouched.
  • The time: I left all the loaves to sit in their designated states for a total of two weeks. Over the course of that time, the bread started to feel varying degrees of staleness, but with every loaf there were no visible signs of molding or age (this particular brand of bread has a lot of sugar and preservatives, which definitely helps out in keeping it fresh).
  • The ratings: I judged each method based on two criteria: 1) how fresh (or not) the bread felt, looked, and tasted after the two-week period, and also 2) how convenient or wasteful the packaging method was. In some cases the method of packaging was either tricky to find or it felt superfluous — why go through extra effort when it doesn’t even produce better results?
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Food Stylist: Tom Hoerup

Bread Storage Method: In Paper Bag 

Rating: 2/10

About this method: Paper bags are easy enough to find, and I loved the idea of trying this test because they’re recyclable and have a low environmental impact. I used a standard brown paper bag for this method.

Results: Unfortunately, storing the loaf in a paper bag was definitely the least successful of all the tests. I could feel that bread stored in this way was starting to feel stale after only 3 or 4 days. After one week it was nearly inedible, and after two weeks the entire loaf was rock hard. 

I felt like I had to give it some points for being such an affordable, recyclable option, and if you’re going to be eating your loaf of bread in a day or two, I’d definitely recommend this option! But on the whole, it’s definitely too bad that one of the most environmentally friendly options also happens to be the least successful.

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Food Stylist: Tom Hoerup

Bread Storage Method: In Paper-Plastic Bread Bag

Rating: 3/10

About this method: Oftentimes, grocery store bakeries will package their bread in these types of bags, a hybrid of paper with a clear plastic film panel so you can still see what’s inside. This method also allows you to partially see the condition of the bread from the outside over time.

Results: Right off the bat I detracted points away from this method simply for being kind of specific to source. Meaning, I could only get these bags from ordering them online. I guess it was kind of nice to have a window into what was sitting on my counter, but it was only slightly better in keeping the bread fresh than the 100% paper bag, which was terrible.

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Food Stylist: Tom Hoerup

Bread Storage Method: In Freezer

Rating: 5/10

About this method: I stored the loaf on the top shelf of my freezer, safe from being squished by anything else! I stored the bread in the plastic packaging that usually comes with this brand of bread. Like with the other methods, I checked on the bread over the course of testing to see how stale (not stale) it was becoming. 

Results: I don’t think I’m revealing a groundbreaking scientific discovery when I say that the freezer will obviously last the longest, but I do think it’s worth noting that it’s the least flexible method of storage. Not to mention that a slice of bread defrosted from the freezer always tastes a little off to me. So I think in order to avoid that, you’re kind of forced to toast your bread before eating it, which I suppose is a bit limiting if you just want a sandwich without toasted bread.

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Food Stylist: Tom Hoerup

Bread Storage Method: In Bread Box (out of Plastic)

Rating: 6/10

About this method: My first impression of this particular bread box is that it takes up a lot of space. It doesn’t seem necessary for shelf-stable grocery store bread that already comes in its own packaging, and because there was so much space in this bread box, that meant there was a lot of air trapped inside, too. 

But I suppose the nice thing about a bread box (that’s an actual freestanding box, as opposed to something built into your cabinets or countertop — retro!) is the fact that I can theoretically use it for other temporary storage if I wasn’t using it for a loaf of bread. 

Results: The slices didn’t get as stale as I thought they would after two weeks, but they did dry out a little bit. I do think, though, that bread boxes can serve as kitchen storage for other things when they’re not being used for bread. So it’s actually not as much of a single-use item as it sounds!

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Food Stylist: Tom Hoerup

Bread Storage Method: In Refrigerator

Rating: 8/10

About this method: I kept the loaf of bread on the bottom shelf of my fridge, toward the front. Every few days I would open up the package, take out a slice, and close it up again using the plastic bread clip that came with the package.

Results: Given what we know about refrigeration preserving things, if this test lasted a month rather than 2 weeks, I think the fridge method might be the winner. I detracted one point over matters of real estate. It felt a little annoying to dedicate precious fridge space to something that could technically live on the counter.

I detracted a second point because in keeping your bread in the fridge, you obviously have to be OK with cold bread as your default bread temperature. But otherwise, this was a great option that kept the bread fresh for the whole length of the two-week test.

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Food Stylist: Tom Hoerup

Bread Storage Method: In Reusable Bread Wrap 

Rating: 9.5/10

About this method: This was my first experience using/storing things in bees wrap, and I actually really liked it. It’s definitely easier to manage than plastic wrap (particularly unwrapping and rewrapping), and it looks nicer on the counter too. I made sure to give the bees wrap a rinse, and scrunched it up a bit just to encourage it to become a bit more pliable. I kept the bread slices bundled in the wrap on the kitchen counter out of the sun.

Results: I was glad to see that the bread stayed really fresh using this method, and didn’t dry out even as I unwrapped/rewrapped it several times throughout the test. The downside is that managing the wrap to keep the bread protected sometimes meant squishing/deforming the bread a bit to make sure the wrap was sealed. It also felt a little silly to take the bread out of its original packaging just to put it in other packaging. But if you’re buying a fresh bakery loaf that might just come in a paper sleeve, this is definitely a good storage option. 

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Food Stylist: Tom Hoerup

Bread Storage Method: In Original Plastic Bag in Pantry or Cabinet

Rating: 10/10

About this method: The particular Arnold loaf I tested came wrapped in a layer of plastic that was sealed and airtight, then that little package was placed inside the plastic bag with all the printing on it, tied together with one of those standard bread clips. I opened the bread up, took out a slice, and rewrapped it as I normally would, twisting the bag closed and fastening it with the same clip. 

Results: Kind of unsurprisingly, this worked out to be the best test. It’s worth emphasizing, however, that this particular brand of bread does come with additional packaging which some other brands do not. That said, keeping the loaf of bread in a dark cabinet away from the light kept it fresh, free of moisture or humidity, and the original plastic packaging did its job well. I’m willing to bet there are scientific stress tests run on this stuff! Consider me sold. 

This article originally published on The Kitchn. Read it there: We Tried 7 Methods for Storing a Loaf of Bread, and 2 Winners Outlasted Them All