Does Bread Go Bad?

Bought an extra loaf of your favorite bread? If you haven’t finished it in a few days, you probably wonder: how long does bread last before it goes bad?

Unfortunately, bread has a short shelf life because it is vulnerable to mold growth. And even when it is still safe to eat, bread goes stale quite quickly.

The reason why bread goes stale is that the starches within the product start degrading. Because of that, packing the bread before storage is so important. You definitely don’t want to waste a perfectly good loaf of bread.

If you want to learn more about storing, shelf life, and signs of bread being bad, read on.

Slices of dark fresh bread with seeds
Image used under Creative Commons from Marco Verch

How to Store Bread

When it comes to storing bread, there are three options for you to choose from. Every one has its pros and cons.

Storing bread at room temperature

Storing bread in the pantry at room temperature is the default way. As long as it’s unopened in its original packaging, it doesn’t require additional layers of protection.

Once you open the package, make sure to keep it sealed tightly at all times. If sealing using the original bag is not an option, transfer the bread to a breadbox or a plastic storage bag. You want to protect the loaf from moisture and air because they increase the risk of mold growth.

For freshly made bread with no packaging, you can use a brown bag to store the bread in the pantry. Just place the loaf in a brown bag, fold the top of the bag and secure it with paper clips to seal. Keep the bread in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight to extend the bread’s shelf life.

Storing bread in the fridge

Storing bread in the fridge is the second option. There’s a lot of misinformation on the Internet saying that you shouldn’t store bread in the refrigerator.

The main point is that the cold temperature dries out the bread and makes it stale faster. That’s true as long as the bread is not sealed tightly.

If it’s appropriately isolated from the environment in the fridge, for example in a freezer bag or original plastic packaging (if it’s left untouched), it stays moist.

You can store bread in the refrigerator to keep it fresh for a few days longer.

Sliced bread
Image used under Creative Commons from muffinn

Last but not least, you can store bread in the freezer.

Can You Freeze Bread?

You might be surprised to know that bread does keep well in the freezer (same for banana bread).

You can freeze it as a last-ditch effort to save loaves of bread that are about to go stale. Or you can freeze some of it if you already know that you won’t eat the entire loaf before it goes stale. My wife often buys an extra loaf to freeze it and have some extra bread in case we run out.

When it comes to freezing bread, the first thing is to make sure it’s pre-sliced. You don’t want to slice a frozen loaf. Plus, since it’s pre-sliced, you can quickly grab a couple of slices and leave the rest in the freezer. Defrosting slices doesn’t take long, so that’s another reason to freeze only pre-sliced bread.

Now let’s talk packaging bread for the freezer.

For unopened loaves of bread, you can stick the product directly into the freezer, no extra packaging needed.

For leftover bread, transfer the slices into freezer bags and remove as much air out of the bags before sealing them. If the bread might be smashed by other food in the freezer before it freezes, transfer it into a plastic container for additional protection. Otherwise, there’s no need for one.

Defrosting bread

Once you need a few slices of bread, here are some options on how you can defrost them:

  • On the countertop. Separate the slices and lay them on a plate to defrost quickly. The process should take between 10 and 20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the slices.
  • Use a toaster oven or a sandwich toaster. Take frozen slices and warm them up using one of the appliances. If you don’t plan to make toasts, let the device heat up a bit and then turn it off and put the bread in there. This way it will defrost and get to room temperature in a few minutes.

Please remember to always use the bread right after defrosting.

Sliced bread on white surface
(credit: Louise Lyshøj)

How Long Does Bread Last

Store-bought bread, both multi-grain, whole-grain, and white, lasts about 5 to 7 days in the pantry. While it might still be safe to eat after a week, it will definitely become stale.

When it comes to homemade bread, you can store in the pantry for about 4 to 5 days. It goes both stale and bad faster than store-bought bread.

Transferring the bread into the fridge (and sealing tightly!) will extend its shelf life for a few days.

You can keep the bread in the freezer for how long you want, but it’s suggested to use it within three months for quality reasons. Bread’s quality slowly deteriorates in the freezer, hence the recommendation.

The longer you plan on storing the bread in the freezer, the better its wrapping should be. So if you want to keep it there for more than a few months, double-layer the slices with aluminum foil or additional freezer bags.

 PantryFridgeFreezer
Store-bought bread5 – 7 days7 – 12 days3 months
Homemade bread3- 5 days5 – 8 days3 months

Please note that the dates above are approximate.

Person holding bread in white towel
(credit: Kate Remmer)

How to Tell If Bread Is Bad?

Let start with stale bread. Bread that is stale is dry and tough. It is not, however, considered bad. At least not bad in a sense that it will make you ill. It’s perfectly safe to eat, maybe just not the most pleasant one to consume. You can eat it or decide to throw it out for quality reasons. It’s up to you.

Tip

One nice trick when it comes to stale bread is heating it in a toaster maker or the oven. It tastes much better after that heat treatment. Also, you can use stale bread to make croutons or breadcrumbs.

When it comes to bread being bad, there are some pretty obvious signs.

Visible signs of mold or white, black, blue, or green spots on the bread are a sure sign it has spoiled and you should discard it.

If your store-bought bread smells sour (like vinegar), yeasty, or even like alcohol, get rid of it too. When the process of spoilage is so far underway that you can smell it, it’s time to cut your losses and toss out the bread. Yes, even when there are no visible signs of spoilage and it “just smells bad.”

If the bread looks and smells fine, it’s likely safe to eat. To confirm, eat a small piece (sans butter or anything). If it tastes sour, throw it out. Otherwise, the bread seems to be perfectly safe to eat.