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How to soften hard bread: A guide to revive that loaf

How to soften hard bread: A guide to revive that loaf

We’ve all been in a situation where we crave a slice of soft bread, but the only stuff in our pantry has gone stale.

Even if it is just a day overdue, the bread seems to change on a fundamental level, and the entire texture of the slice just isn’t the same.

It comes down to a game-time decision - do we toss the bread in the trash and just let the craving subside? Do we find something else to scratch the itch? Do we rush out to the store to grab a new loaf, even it sacrifices our schedule?

These are tough scenarios, but there’s good news for folks who find themselves in this predicament.

You can successfully revive a stale loaf of bread if you know what you’re doing, and while it might not be as good as new, you’ll be much more satisfied with the final product.

Let’s figure out why bread goes stale in the first place, figure out our options to revive a loaf that seems lost, and determine the best bread to buy to avoid this problem in the future.

Why does bread go stale

Everyone has felt that slight sense of disappointment when they have their heart set on a sandwich or piece of toast, only to enter the kitchen and discover that their prized loaf of bread has gone stale.

We usually just deal with the letdown and look for something else to eat, but most of us don’t think twice about why this happens.

According to an article from Chatelaine, leading food scientist Nathan Myhrvold points out that the staling process has a clear scientific explanation.

Bread is fundamentally composed of starch and water molecules, which give it the supple and spongy texture we all know and love.

But when these molecules are exposed to air for too long, the bread loses the moisture and all the remains are the crystallized starch compounds with no support.

Whether you’re dealing with store-bought white bread that cost $1.50 a loaf, or you spent the whole day perfecting a homemade sourdough boule, the same laws of nature apply.

It’s more or less a myth that some bread goes stale faster than others since the ratio of starch to water is generally the same in most loaves.

The difference with store-bought bread is the inclusion of preservatives, which can help fight off bacteria and extend shelf life, but for the staling process, all things are basically equal.

Another myth about stale bread says that once it becomes tough and toothy, it’s no longer of use and should be tossed in the trash.

To that, we say STOP!

Not only can you take measures to slow down the staling process, but you can also revive the bread in a number of ways, which we’ll discuss soon.

On top of that, there are a ton of different ways to use stale bread in cooking, and even the most rock-hard chunk of sourdough can be converted into croutons, crumbs, or crostini.

If you need some inspiration for how to use that leftover stale bread, check out this list so none of it goes to waste.

On the other end of the spectrum is bread that suffers from too much moisture. The outcome here is mold, and it’s a far more devastating diagnosis than going stale.

If your bread shows signs of any off-color flecks or fuzziness, don’t think twice and just throw it away. Even the tiniest bit of visible bacteria growth can signify the loaf has gone bad.

Don’t taste it, don’t try to cut around the mold, and don’t think that toasting or using it in another recipe is going to help. It just isn’t worth the risk of getting sick.

Remember, if your bread has gone stale, just be grateful it isn’t moldy!

Storage is key to survival

The best way to avoid dealing with stale bread is to not let it harden in the first place.

According to a site called One Good Thing, recipe expert Jill Nystul says that double-wrapping bread is the ultimate method for preventing both staling and molding.

You don’t need to be a neurosurgeon to figure this out. Just grab some parchment paper or wax paper, wrap the bread once over, then hit it with another layer of super-tight plastic wrap for good measure.

You can let this bread hang out on the counter and it will last a few extra days, or stick it in the fridge or freezer to increase its longevity further.

Just be aware that when bread is stored in cold temps, it may take on characteristics that resemble staling. It may seem a bit tougher, but it has not gone stale!

As Nathan Myhrvold pointed out in the Chatelaine piece, bread stored in the fridge or freezer enters a stage called starch retrogradation, in which the starch of the bread re-crystallized to its original form. 

Again, don’t mistake this for staleness. The bread has been effectively locked in place and maintains most of its flavor that can be restored in time.

Just proceed accordingly when softening this bread in the microwave or oven which we will touch on now.

Best revival methods

So you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place, or rather, a hard loaf of bread.

What’s your next move?

Well, if you aren’t willing to convert the bread into crumbs or croutons, there are a couple of proven methods you can use to bring it back to life.

The first way is the damp paper towel technique, as highlighted in an article from The Kitchn website. All you need is a slightly wet paper towel and a baking sheet.

Crank the over to 200 degrees, then wrap the bread loaf in the damp paper towel so that it is completely covered from all sides.

Place the covered bread on the baking sheet and let it heat up in the oven for five to ten minutes.

The bread should become nice and soft before your eyes. Just be sure to slice off a little piece to make sure there is no frozen center before you serve it up.

We prefer the oven, but a microwave works as well.

If you opt for the second method, make sure to blast the bread at 10-second intervals instead of leaving it on full-power for 20 or 30 seconds.

Things can escalate quickly in the microwave and just a bit of extra exposure can turn your beloved boule into a soggy mess beyond repair. 

Another method involves gently dousing the bread under a bit of water from the sink and wrapping it in aluminum foil before sticking it in the oven.

This works better for whole loaves instead of slices, but the results can be great. Just don’t let too much moisture absorb into the bread before reviving.

And we shouldn’t have to say this, but the microwave method will not fly with tin foil! We don’t want an explosive situation on our hands.

One last thing you should avoid is the urge to just let your frozen bread sit out and thaw at room temperature. It may seem like the natural thing to do, but this will just result in soggy and potentially moldy bread. Use your oven and get it done fast.

Consistency and certainty

We know those friends or family members that have all types of bread at various stages of life scattered across their pantries, fridges, freezers and countertops.

Their love of bread is admirable, but they never seem to have a way to keep track of their inventory. This inevitably leads to frustration and waste.

Additionally, eating many different kinds of bread can be tough on the body, especially for folks trying to embrace a low-carb or keto lifestyle. Even diabetics have been warned that eating too much bread can lead to unwanted spikes in blood sugar.

Our Superfood bread solves all these problems at once, giving you fantastic fresh bread delivered right to your door so you never wonder when or where you got it.

Each slice is packed with tons of protein, fiber and healthy fat, and the net carbs per slice is a tiny fraction compared to most “healthy bread” on the market.

Plus, the bread stores beautifully, lasting weeks in the fridge and months in the freezer, ready for full restoration at any time.


If stale bread is a constant concern in your kitchen, it may be time to rethink your entire system of buying and storing your bread.

Hundreds of customers have fallen in love with our Superfood bread, not just for the taste and nutritional horsepower, but for the convenience and consistency factor as well.

If you have more questions about this revolutionary bread, we’ve got answers.

Be sure to follow us on social media for exciting recipes and updates on future product releases!


One Good Thing

The Kitchn

Food Network


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