Refrigerator Shelf Life of Bread (Until It Becomes Unhealthy)?
May 8, 2010 6:54 PM   Subscribe

How long can one keep bread in the fridge? (If it matters, usually a Brownberry multigrain loaf.) StillTasty tells me merely that it's not recommended, but doesn't offer a date. If I'm willing to accept that refrigeration causes the bread to dry out and become stale, how long does it on average remain "good", i.e., not hazardous to eat?

The two answers I'm not looking for are:

(i) I already know freezing it or keeping it on the counter are the recommended ways to handle bread, but that's not what I'm asking with this question.

(ii) I also realize to look for mold, etc., but I'm not asking so much for symptoms to look for, as I am asking for the average shelf life.

posted by WCityMike to Food & Drink (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: (By the way, I ask this not because it's that habitual a problem – food does not often spoil in my fridge — but because I've really grown to rely on StillTasty as a good resource for how much longer certain foodstuffs in my fridge are "good", and the bread is the one area where it habitually fails me.)
posted by WCityMike at 6:56 PM on May 8, 2010

I'm a little confused by your question. Bread goes bad in one of two ways: it gets stale, or it gets moldy. Mold is pretty obvious (just stick your nose in the bag and sniff). Staleness is also pretty obvious, and will happen far faster in the fridge than at room temperature.

The specifics will depend on your set-up, the bread (how many preservatives it has), and your ambient humidity both inside and outside. If you want to really nail down the answer, take two identical slices of bread, and wrap them them in identical bags. Put one in the cupboard, and one in the fridge.

If bugs are your concern w/r/t shelf storage, I always use a giganto Ziploc bag to store my bread.
posted by ErikaB at 7:00 PM on May 8, 2010

Bread lasts us at least a week in the refrigerator, especially grocery store bread which is designed to last. We've got two-week old bread in the fridge that I bet is fine.

Every refrigerator and brand will be different, so why not just see for yourself? Sight and smell are your best friends here.
posted by farishta at 7:03 PM on May 8, 2010 [2 favorites]

I have kept Thomas' English Muffins in my fridge for upwards of 18 months, eaten them, and not died. They were not particularly tasty.

I agree that it probably depends on the amount of preservatives. Or maybe I have a magic crisper, idk. Regular bread lasts forever in my fridge as well, maybe 2-3 months without a hint of mold.
posted by elizardbits at 7:19 PM on May 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Growing up, my mom would only go to the Brownberry outlet once every couple months, so there would be like, eight loaves in the freezer. We also got a side of beef from time to time. If the Brownberry outlet trip followed soon after the intake of a side of beef, the bread would be kept, instead of in the freezer, in the old 48 Kelvinator fridge. For a month or two, it seems.

(Of course, I don't know if Brownberry has changed its recipe since 1982 or so.)
posted by notsnot at 7:24 PM on May 8, 2010

I regularly keep mutigrain bread in the frig for 2+ weeks. It doesn't get especially stale or dry, because I keep it in a plastic bag sealed with a twixit clip). It gets a lot less dry than keeping it in a bread bin.
posted by Susurration at 7:26 PM on May 8, 2010

Definitely depends on the preservatives in the bread. I use multigrain/whole-grain bread, and mine keeps for an average of 7-10 days in the fridge, though I prefer to keep it at room temperature. I'm also pretty good about using all of my bread, so a lot of the time I don't generally have to worry about if it's still good, because it's gone within several days. YMMV.
posted by rachaelfaith at 7:28 PM on May 8, 2010

I buy Alvarado Street bread, which comes frozen and then you store it in the fridge. It has no preservatives in it, but it usually lasts several weeks (the couple times it got moldy before that, the store was selling it unfrozen and I suspect it had aged on the shelves before I bought it), until whenever I finish the package. It gets dry and tough after a while, but I'll still eat it and don't suffer any ill effects. If the bread isn't moldy, it's safe to eat, and like others have said it totally depends on whether or not it contains preservative to say if it'll last a few weeks or a few years. I always store my bread in the fridge, just toast it before using and it's great.
posted by wondermouse at 7:48 PM on May 8, 2010

I regularly keep bread in my fridge for 2-3 weeks with no mold developing. It could probably go longer than that, but I haven't experimented. I do put it in the fridge as soon as I get it home though.
posted by Diplodocus at 8:15 PM on May 8, 2010

Believe it or not, bread keeps much better in the freezer than the refrigerator. If you use it for toast, or lightly-toasted sandwich slices, then you can keep it frozen and just toast frozen slices (calibrate your toaster setting for this, though).
posted by amtho at 8:42 PM on May 8, 2010 [2 favorites]

not hazardous to eat

It's unlikely to ever become hazardous to eat. Bread mold isn't toxic, just gross.
posted by magnificent frigatebird at 9:41 PM on May 8, 2010

Put it in the freezer as soon as you buy it. When you want to use it, mist it with water and put it in the toaster--it comes out tasting like it's freshly baked. The water makes a big difference.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:24 PM on May 8, 2010

You ask how long the bread will stay safe to eat if it is stored in the fridge. This really does depend heavily on the bread you get and how preserved it is. It also depends on how good the bread was when you got it. Something fairly fresh and highly preserved usually lasts about a month to six weeks. When I say "usually", I mean just that. Do not be surprised at all of it is moldy within a week, the amount of time it sits on the shelf matters a lot. You could also have ideal conditions and have bread that lasts well over two months. Since bread is not typically stored refrigerated, it doesn't really have the most predictable shelf life that way.

elizardbits brings up a good point. English muffins have this strange capacity to almost always last indefinitely in a fridge. They certainly become stale and unpleasant. If you insist on making your own apocalypse hardtack, just keep some English muffins in a cold and dry fridge.
posted by Saydur at 10:54 PM on May 8, 2010

I eat bread that has been in the fridge for literally months. If it does not have mold, it's fine but will be stale. I find that the bread with the inside sleeve and the outside sleeve stays fresher longer. You can deal with staleness by toasting. I also mostly easy English muffins and keep a spare sleeve in the freezer and one in the fridge.

So, with standard bread I usually find that it last for a week or two with no mold. For the other double-sleeve stuff, I've seen it go more like a month or two [meaning I've eaten slices of bread after six weeks or so, not that I've thrown it out at this point]. A lot depends on how you store it and the humidity of your fridge. There is basically no hazardous thing that happens to bread except mold. If it's not moldy [visibly modly] it's still okay to eat. hard core people might just lop off the mold and eat the rest of it, but I think that's excessive in nearly all cases.
posted by jessamyn at 11:06 PM on May 8, 2010

What you need is a willing goon to taste test for you. Do you have such a goon on hand? Canned goon is no good, you'll need fresh. If no good is readily available, a roomate, or a spouse or loved one who can be plied with liqour first will often suffice.

Failing that, crutons!
posted by Jilder at 4:00 AM on May 9, 2010

Another option: keep bread in the microwave--a 21st century bread-box! Stays fresh.
posted by Carol Anne at 5:13 AM on May 9, 2010

If it does not have mold then it is still good. How long it takes to mold varies.
posted by OmieWise at 6:22 AM on May 9, 2010

It's unlikely to ever become hazardous to eat. Bread mold isn't toxic, just gross.

Bread mold can be toxic. While some bread molds are relatively harmless, others cause nausea, vomiting, and allergic reactions. Some can even be deadly if eaten in large enough amounts. It's best to just avoid it.
posted by Ortho at 12:54 PM on May 9, 2010

4-6 weeks, in our experience. (And perhaps even past that! It's just that we typically eat it within that timeframe.)
posted by onepot at 4:31 PM on May 10, 2010

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