Food-safe fabric for a bread bag
January 18, 2011 5:11 PM   Subscribe

What material to make a reusable bread bag (that keeps it from drying out)?

I've never been described as an environmentalist - I know I am not as "green" as some people, but one thing I feel strongly about is I don't like being wasteful. As far as the kitchen goes, I tend to avoid using plastic bags, cling wrap or foil if I can use a reusable container instead. (Yes, I know that washing the items also has an environmental cost, but that isn't the topic of this question.)

I've recently started baking my own sandwich bread and am not sure what to keep the loaf in. I tried a bag that was specifically labeled as a "bread bag" made out of some bamboo fabric that did absolutely nothing, as the crust (and the cut end) got dry within a few hours of being in the bag (and I made sure it was closed tightly). And that was from just sitting on the counter - I'm likely going to keep my homemade loaves in the freezer, because that's what I've always done with the store-bought stuff - DH and I don't go through it fast enough before it gets moldy.

I'm thinking I may have to buy some fabric and make my own, but I'm not sure what to use. I guess I need some kind of coated fabric that will keep the air out (and the moisture in).

Apparently a lot of people are into making homemade "sandwich bags" and "snack bags" etc. so I found a lot of discussion online about various fabrics to use. But now I'm even more confused because there seems to be a lot of disagreement about what is/isn't food safe. Here's what I've found so far:

rip-stop nylon - OK to use if the shiny, coated side is away from food

Polyurethane coated nylon - OK to use, but apparently hard to find?

PUL fabric - not considered food safe by FDA - Others say it's OK to use if the shiny, coated side faces away from food

Oilcloth - what's sold as "oilcloth" is some kind of vinyl coating that's unsafe, but "homemade" oil cloth is better - Others say that purchased oilcloth is OK

Can anyone comment on what they think I should be using, or any other types of fabric that you can recommend? Thanks.
posted by LaurenIpsum to Home & Garden (25 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I've never had bread stay fresh at the end. That's why I cut the heel off and keep it for use as a cap on the end.

Given the speed with which mold can develop on bread I'm no sure I'd put much faith in using anything reusable for it.
posted by wkearney99 at 5:26 PM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Do you want something for freezer storage or for countertop use?
posted by cyndigo at 5:30 PM on January 18, 2011

cyndigo - It will probably be used mainly in the freezer. I've never had any of my (store-bought) bread get moldy when stored there, and since we don't go through it that fast, it's probably the main way I will store it.
posted by LaurenIpsum at 5:32 PM on January 18, 2011

For what it's worth, bread bags (like the bamboo one or the paper ones they come in at the store) are intentionally breathable. Yes, the bread will dry out faster than if it were in an airtight container, but you can eat dry bread. You can't eat moldy bread. So that's the reasoning behind that.

My personal solution for this is a gallon-size ziplock bag and the freezer. I realize you're looking for a not-a-ziplock solution, but I've been using the same ziplock bag solely for storing bread in the freezer for at least a year now.
posted by phunniemee at 5:38 PM on January 18, 2011 [4 favorites]

I freeze my homemade bread as well and I just use a... plastic bag. I either reuse a store bought bread bag or use a new ziplock. Then I reuse it for months at a time, shaking crumbs out every so often, until I manage to poke a hole in it. The thing is when freezing bread, moisture is your enemy and not much will keep moisture out like a sealed plastic bag. I suppose you could use a glass container if you really want to avoid plastic.

(I imagine the bamboo bread bag you bought was made to keep a fresh crusty loaf dry and thus crusty.)
posted by rebeccabeagle at 5:42 PM on January 18, 2011

My mother-in-law has a reusable bread bag: attractive cloth on the outside, thick plastic on the inside (bit thicker than a freezer bag). This keeps bread well on the counter. So long as the bread does not go moldy, there is no reason to wash it -- just knock any crumbs out and go on. If there is mold, I handwash the plastic part with soap and leave it to dry very thoroughly.

That said, for a freezer you want a very good seal to prevent freezer burn (this is your main threat, never mold). And that sort of bag has only an open end we fold over.

One alternative: when freezing non-meat, there is no reason not to use a regular thick freezer bag, and simply wash and re-use.
posted by jb at 5:43 PM on January 18, 2011

I am seconding rebeccabeagle. We rinse and reuse plastic freezer bags like there's no tomorrow, and we buy a new box maybe every two years at most. That feels more environmentally appropriate to me than buying some super-high-tech fabric that probably won't work as well.

Most "bread bags" you buy are, indeed, designed to keep bread dry, so they won't help you in your quest to keep it from drying out in the freezer.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:46 PM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Bread never gets moldy in my house because we let it live on the countertop and use the dry stuff for a million different things (pan fried breadcrumbs with some nice salt and pepper go with EVERYTHING and bread pudding/french toast are staples here).

But if you're not eating enough to use it up while fresh, and don't want stale bread, is the simple solution to scale down your loaves of bread? Make a half loaf or less? Make breads that stay fresh longer (sourdoughs, ryes, things with brown sugar/molases, etc)?
posted by pjaust at 5:52 PM on January 18, 2011

So I Googled a bit and nobody seems to have a definitive answer or a product as an alternative to freezer bags for bread (though I did see some very cool stainless-steel containers for stews, etc.) If you really don't want to reuse plastic freezer bags, maybe wrapping your bread in freezer paper and then putting it in a cloth bag will work equally well. But I don't think it will, to be honest.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:01 PM on January 18, 2011

If you don't mind a plastic container, maybe try a vacuum-sealed container? I don't know anything about the brand, but the Breadvac seems to be specifically made for bread.

Like others upthread, though, I personally reuse the same aluminum foil sheets & freezer bags year after year for freezer storage, especially for oddly shaped items like bread.
posted by susanvance at 6:10 PM on January 18, 2011

Thanks for all the comments so far. It's looking like large ziplock bags are the way to go.

I think some more explanation is needed from me.
DH likes plain white Wonder Bread on his sandwiches, and does not like anything with "whole wheat" or "whole grains." I thought, even if I can't convince him to eat whole grains, I can at least make him a home-made white bread that doesn't have all the chemicals and who-knows-what that is in Wonder Bread. So I found a recipe that is similar (not quite as spongy/fluffy as Wonder Bread, but close enough that it got DH's seal of approval when he tasted it). I personally don't eat white bread that often, but I do on occasion, and both of us prefer our sandwich breads to be relatively soft, not crusty. We like crusty bread at dinner time with butter or olive oil, but for sandwiches we want something a little softer.

So that's the issue. I just don't want the bread getting hard and dry on the outside. I'm not necessarily opposed to storing it on the countertop, but I'd still need something to store it *in* that won't cause it to dry out. As for making half a loaf, that's something I hadn't thought of, but I've never seen any place that sells half of a loaf pan.
posted by LaurenIpsum at 6:12 PM on January 18, 2011

I'm with pjaust - my bread lives on the counter (cut-side down on a wooden cutting board, to be exact). Hasn't gotten moldy yet. Agree with maybe making smaller loaves? Or if the recipe is hard to scale, just be open to letting it go. Homemade bread is amazingly cheap, and by being free on the counter, it takes a good while to mold, since you're not trapping moisture in. So maybe rethink it as you've got your money's worth out of that loaf, time to make a new one!
posted by spinturtle at 6:24 PM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

On preview, I see your update. What size bread pan are you using right now? They don't necessarily sell 'half' pans, but a 8.25x4.5 pan has approximately 30% less volume than a 9x5 pan. So you could cut your recipe in half, and use the smaller pan. Your loaf won't be quite as tall, but I think that would be the only difference you'd experience. (well that, and it might cook faster, so be sure to use your instant-read for an internal temp of 190-200F)
posted by spinturtle at 6:27 PM on January 18, 2011

We get ice cream in these plastic gallon buckets, then we hang on to the buckets once they're empty and use them for all kinds of things. One of the things I use them for is storing homemade bread. It does go moldy if we don't eat it fast enough, but it certainly does not get stale.

I'd think anything with a lid that seals would work, and you could probably find something like Tupperware that is more like the shape of the bread.
posted by galadriel at 6:28 PM on January 18, 2011

I use a large ziplock in the freezer as well, and rewash.

You are probably already doing this but make sure you brush the freshly baked loaf with melted butter on the crust and that will help stop it from getting too crusty.
posted by Cuke at 6:37 PM on January 18, 2011

I you're looking to go the reusable route, you can make one from canvas with a plastic liner and a drawstring end.

I made mine, but I've also seen them at our local kitchen store.
posted by empatterson at 6:46 PM on January 18, 2011

Very timely question for me too as we have been faithfully using our breadmaker over the last month. We did a little research and found that most home-baked bread is good for about two days, (we have personally found two and a half or even three is o.k.) That means the worst case scenario is that we have two days to eat it. Usually this does not happen, but sometimes it does. So.....

We decided that we would bake a new loaf every two to three days. My wife makes croutons with whatever we haven't eaten at that point. Or we feed it to the birds in our yard. This means we are making bread about three times a week. With our breadmaker, it is about 15 minutes of prep time and then the waiting per loaf.

I can see how this would not work if you did not have the time, but it hasn't been a real issue for us generally, and we are VERY busy. Best of luck! Oh, btw, after the loaf cools, we store it in a gallon size freezer bag on our counter and it is fine for its two/three day shelf life.
posted by boots77 at 6:59 PM on January 18, 2011

I wouldn't change the recipe you're using, just make the bread, freeze it (to make it easier to slice), then slice it and put most of it back in the freezer, with a few slices out a time to use. Or don't even do that - slices of bread don't take that long to thaw.

I too would say to use freezer-type ziplocks for your bread, but if you want something else, there are several options when you search for "bread container" on amazon that look like they'd do just fine in the freezer or on the countertop.
posted by lemniskate at 7:02 PM on January 18, 2011

If you don't like crusty sandwich bread, keep it in a plastic container that you reuse. Plastic coated fabric smell like plastic and would make your bread smell like plastic coated fabric. That's what you'd need for a soft crust though, as anything breathable is going to allow the crust to be crusty.
posted by oneirodynia at 7:05 PM on January 18, 2011

Wax paper, that old standby, might work if you wrap the bread in it completely, with overlap, and store in an old-fashioned tin bread box. If you like, keep the box in the fridge. I tend to stay away from plastics and reuse the ones we do use.
posted by ragtimepiano at 7:57 PM on January 18, 2011

This has nothing to do with bags, but if you'll add two or three tablespoons of instant mashed potatoes to one of the cups of flour in the bread, it will keep the bread softer 'way longer... Just spoon the potato flakes into the measuring cup, then fill it up with the flour. Enjoy!
posted by northernlightgardener at 8:12 PM on January 18, 2011

I asked a similar-ish question last year and now when we bake bread we wrap it in a towel and store it in the microwave oven. It keeps a little longer and stays soft.

We actually so rarely use the microwave for anything other than a timer we now refer to it as the Electric Breadbox.
posted by bibliogrrl at 8:43 PM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

(sorry about the slight derail...)
Would you mind sharing the recipe that your husband approves of? The biggest reason I don't make more homemade bread is because I like the soft squishy texture of store-bought. I'll try the potato flakes tip, but an approved recipe would be great. Thanks.
posted by CathyG at 7:56 AM on January 19, 2011

This is the recipe:

It's not quite as squishy as Wonder Bread, but it was fairly soft and fine-crumbed, at least enough for DH's taste. King Arthur Flour has several sandwich bread recipes here: . There's a recipe there called "White Sandwich Bread" that calls for potato flakes as part of the recipe, so I'm thinking of trying that one too.
posted by LaurenIpsum at 10:13 AM on January 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Lauren, we have the same sandwich bread/toast issue, and I finally found a 5x5 pan that cuts down on waste a lot! MeMail me if you want and I'll see if I can dig up the ordering info.
posted by cyndigo at 12:51 PM on January 19, 2011

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