It can be incredibly tricky to buy the correct amount of bread, especially considering that fresh bread doesn’t stay fresh for long, and stale bread isn’t too appetizing.
That’s not to say there are no breads with a longer-than-usual shelf life, but unless you’re willing to accept the presence of multiple preservatives in your food, you may be stuck with typical bread shelf life – which isn’t great.
We can of course use the usual channels of staving off the expiration date on a good loaf, freezing being the obvious choice, but what about refrigeration.
How long will the mild chill of a fridge keep that carby treat good for?
Let’s find out!
How Long Does Bread Last In The Open?
Many things affect bread shelf life, but store bought bread typically has a longer shelf life than homemade bread, usually due to the complete absence of preservatives, an example of which is lactic acid bacteria.
It’s great for keeping bread fresh and fighting off mold spores, yet it won’t kill bread yeast.
We’re also more likely to get a little sloppy with homemade breads and leave them out uncovered for extended periods of time, amounting to a comparatively short shelf life (4 days or less).
Pro Tip – Lightly oiled bread lasts longer, so it’s great to incorporate into your home baking and reduce bread waste. It’s a total game-changer for freshly baked bread.
The expiration date differs from product to product, but generally speaking, you’ll hear of store bought bread lasting between 4 to 7 days.
For bakery bread bought fresh, it’s best to treat it like homemade bread and assume it will expire around the 4 day mark.
But, if you’re anything like me, you’ll think the best thing about fresh bread is eating horrific amounts of it as soon as you get it home, so an expiration date isn’t normally an issue.
Even if you store bread in a bread box, it’s not thermally secure, and room temperature bread goes bad quite quickly.
How Long Does Bread Last In The Fridge?
Depending on the bread in question, how long it was out before refrigeration, and the storage methods used, bread in the fridge will last between 7 and 12 days, possibly even 14 at the best of times.
How long bread lasts primarily comes down to the type of bread in the fridge. For example, Sourdough bread, due to the acid in its composition, lasts a lot longer than other bread types.
If you’re trying to extend the life of your bread, correct food storage is essential.
If you can resist opening the bread’s original packaging, you can pop it directly into the fridge.
Granted, keeping a whole loaf in the fridge isn’t great in terms of economy of space, but once you’ve eaten a few slices, it’s not so bad.
Some bread arrives in a paper bag, and believe it or not, this is actually better for longevity than a plastic bag, as it deters bacterial growth, so try not to rip that brown bag.
A plastic storage bag or plastic wrap isn’t completely out of the question, but storing bread in a hard plastic container is better.
Make sure it’s an airtight container, though, as oxidation accelerates the wasting process.
Aluminum foil is another good choice in a pinch to preserve bread, both in and out of the fridge.
Oftentimes, bread packaging isn’t the most suitable for storage, so you may want to switch it out first thing.
Properly stored bread, whether store bought or homemade will last in the fridge a lot longer.
Speed Of Refrigeration
The quicker you get your bread in the fridge, the longer it will last. Bread that’s sold frozen will likely stay good for even longer, but it’s best to keep that stored in your freezer.
What About Bread Dough?
Bread dough usually only lasts about 3 days in the refrigerator, but quality will dip beyond the 48-hour mark.
It’s not the longest duration, but it’s better than the 4 hours you get at room temperature.
Pro Tip – Before refrigerating your bread dough, give the surface a spritz with cooking spray. It will prevent your bread dough from drying out in storage.
What Can You Do With Leftover Bread?
I absolutely despise food waste, but expired bread is something we all deal with from time to time. Not to worry though, as old bread can still be used in a number of ways.
My personal favorite is making croutons, but you can also have yourself a great time making and eating bread pudding.
As long as the old bread isn’t old and moldy bread, you can use it for either. It’s generally seen as fine to eat expired bread.
In fact, it’s not exactly dangerous to eat moldy bread. It’s gross, and it might give you an iffy tum, but that’s it.
So, in the absence of bread mold, don’t throw that stale bread in the trash; it’s got some life in it yet. Get imaginative with it in the kitchen and prevent bread waste.
How Long Does Bread Last In The Freezer?
If you frequently fail – as we often do – to consume every crumb before your bread’s shelf life, even with refrigeration, it’s time to consider freezing bread.
Freezing is the best method of preserving bread, as it will usually keep it edible for up to six months.
In this instance, it’s a good idea to use a freezer bag, or failing that, standard plastic bags will do the job, as will aluminum foil. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s airtight.
You can freeze a whole loaf in a large freezer bag if you like, but it can be tricky portioning it if you only want a couple of pieces at a time.
It might suit you more to freeze bread in pre-prepared portions. This way you can thaw individual slices without having to defrost the entire loaf.
Defrosting Frozen Bread
Ideally, you should thaw bread gradually in the refrigerator.
On the other hand, if it’s standard frozen slices you’re dealing with, you can pop it straight into the toaster, and when it pops, it should be good to go.
Otherwise, rest frozen bread products on a plate in the fridge.
Final Thoughts: Extending The Life Of Your Bread
Even if you don’t plan on keeping your bread in the fridge, do try to keep it at room temperature, max.
Leaving it on a warm windowsill or rubbing up against a warm oven is out of the question, as even though bread yeast loves warmth during the baking process, it’s the cold temperatures that preserve bread and stave off bread mold.
Bread stored properly will typically last for 3 to 4 days, but store bread in the fridge and it should last for 7 to 12 days, but this is quite general.
There are exceptions, as ultimately, the shelf life of bread depends on a number of factors.