Bread Shelf Life: Can It Go Bad?

Bread is easy to eat with anything, almost no prep time, and cheap! If bread is part of your regular diet, buying extra loaves seems practical. 

Unfortunately, bread doesn’t last very long. It goes stale and rancid in just a few days. Every now and then, having stale or a-little-moldy bread always causes a dilemmatic situation. 

Can I just cut the moldy part and eat the rest? What can I do to keep my bread supply fresh? Can I freeze bread? 

If you find yourself in a similar situation above, don’t worry. In this article, we take a closer look at bread’s shelf life, how to keep bread fresh, and how to tell if bread goes off. Sounds interesting? Read on! 

How To Store Bread

The critical point in storing bread is to keep it dry, preferably at a cool temperature. Warm temperature and extra moisture will speed up the growth of molds. 

Depending on your situation, you can keep your bread at room temperature, in the refrigerator, or in the freezer.

Keeping bread fresh at room temperature

If you plan to finish the loaf in 2 to 5 days, leaving it at room temperature should be fine. Pick a dry, cool spot, away from heat and sunlight, preferably your cupboard or pantry. 

Store the bread in its original package. Fresh bakery bread is usually placed in a brown paper bag. You can keep it like this. Don’t slice it until you need to serve it. Store-bought bread is typically packed in a plastic bag, especially the sliced one. 

After opening, always seal the package tightly. Use a paper clip if necessary. Alternatively, you can transfer the bread into a bread container or resealable plastic bag. 

Storing bread in the refrigerator

If you’re going to use the bread a bit later, refrigeration will keep it fresh a little longer. 

Don’t forget to close the package tightly to prevent moisture from getting into the bag. Otherwise, the bread will either go stale and become moldy. 

Can you freeze bread?

If you’re not the type of person who goes to a bakery every 2 to 3 days, buying more loaves of bread and freezing them at once might be your new life hack! 

Freezing bread is a tested and effective way to prolong bread’s shelf life and prevent mold growth significantly. In fact, this is also what most Dutch people do. 

Don’t forget to slice the bread or buy the sliced loaf. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a rock-solid frozen block of bread. 

For unopened bread, simply toss it into the freezer, no preparations needed. For an opened pack, squeeze out the air from the plastic or use a sealed container. 

To defrost the bread, move some slices into the refrigerator until they’re not frozen anymore. Heat the oven to 200ºC or 380ºF, and put the slices in the oven for 3 to 5 minutes. Let it cool a bit, and it’s ready to be served!

If you’re short in time, simply toss the bread into an oven or oven toaster. 

See more: How to warm bread in the oven

How Long Does Bread Last?

By now, we’ve already known that bread is prone to microbial spoilage, and going bad is inevitable. Soon after the bread comes out of the oven, the clock is ticking. 

Store-bought bread usually has a “best-by” date printed on the package. You can expect that your bread will stay fresh until this date. If you don’t plan to use it anytime soon, consider freezing it to benefit for much longer shelf life. 

On the other hand, bakery bread or your homemade bread doesn’t have a “best-by” date. You can estimate its shelf life from the day you buy or make it. 

There are hundreds of types of bread (especially if you live in a country where bread is a staple). The essential ingredients are wheat flour (and its alternatives), water, and yeast.

Next to that, other ingredients are added, such as milk, egg, flavoring, preservatives, etc. that also affect the shelf life of fresh bread. 

The table below shows how long your bread can last in the fridge, freezer and pantry:

Homemade and bakery bread (without preservatives)3 to 5 days5 to 8 days6 months
Store-bought bread (with preservatives)5 to 7 days7 to 10 days6 months

Bakery bread and homemade bread usually don’t contain preservatives. These stay fresh for only 3 to 5 days maximum in the pantry, or up to a week in the refrigerator. 

Store-bought bread (those you’re buying at a grocery store) is usually added with preservatives. Thus, it can stay a little longer than the other types, typically until a week in the pantry and ten days in the refrigerator. 

Frozen bread keeps well up to 6 months. Either way, always check for spoilage signs if you have bread that’s been a little old. 

How To Tell If Bread Goes Stale or Bad

As mentioned above, bread lasts for a short time. Bread goes stale and eventually goes bad. 

Stale bread is a common sight in the kitchen. It’s dry and hard. Stale bread is not spoiled; it just has past its prime. It won’t get you sick if you eat it, but it’s unappetizing. At this point, you can still revive the bread and turn it into something nicer, like crouton or breadcrumbs. 

When it comes to spotting general traits of bread going bad, let your senses be the judge! 

Bread is high in carbohydrates. Thus, bread is susceptible to the mold’s growth. The first sign you want to check for old bread is any visible molds. Any white, grey, greenish specks mean your bread is no longer edible. 

If you’re often facing a dilemma (like many other people) when your bread gets moldy, think again before serving it for your family. 

Remember this rule of thumb. If the foods are not supposed to be moldy (like bread), and the molds grow on a soft and porous surface (also like bread), the food can’t be saved. 

If the molds appear on a hard and dense surface such as hard cheese (such as Parmesan cheese), cut 1 inch around and below the affected area and keep the rest. 

Next, if bread smells sour, yeasty, or something like being fermented, that’s another sign that your bread supply should not end up on the dinner table. 


Can expired bread make you sick?

Bread typically has a short shelf life when kept at room temperature and in the refrigerator. Molds start to grow before you know it, and your bread is no longer edible.

If that’s the case, you’re risking yourself to food poisoning. Hence, better give your old bread a thorough check-up. Whenever in doubt, better get yourself a fresh loaf of bread!

How do you refresh stale bread?

To revive stale bread, simply cover the bread with a damp cloth or spray some water onto the surface. Pop it into a microwave for an interval of 10 to 15 seconds and repeat until the bread is soft and moist.

What can I do with old or stale bread?

There are plenty of creative ways to use your bread if it’s not moldy and showing no spoilage symptoms. Try making bread pudding, homemade croutons, breadcrumbs, etc. Voila, you’re getting something tastier and, at the same time, preventing food waste.

Final Thoughts

Bread is a staple for many households. Bread typically lasts for only 3 to 7 days at room temperature.  Keeping it in the refrigerator stretches its shelf life to a few more days. After that, bread goes stale and eventually goes bad. 

Before bread starts to grow molds and becomes inedible, make it into croutons, breadcrumbs, or whatever your creative minds lead you. If that’s not your preference, consider freezing your bread supply to extend the shelf life of up to six months.

bread shelf life

*Photo by Gulsen_Ozcan/depositphotos

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