How to Make Stale Bread Soft Again

Three Methods:Heating in the OvenSteamingMicrowaving

Before you throw out hard, stale bread products, try restoring its texture with heat and moisture. This is most effective if the bread was kept wrapped and still has a little give, but it can even improve rock-hard loaves to some extent.

Method 1
Heating in the Oven

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    Preheat your oven to a low temperature. Set your oven to 300ºF (150ºC). The heat will restore most stale bread, although the effect will only last a few hours.[1]
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    Add water only if the crust is hard. Even stale bread still contains plenty of water. It feels dry because the starch molecules have linked up and trapped the water. This means you don't need to add water to the crumb of the bread. If the bread has a hard outer crust, flick water onto it, or run it under the cold tap if extremely stale.[2]
    • If the bread turned dry from overheating, or if it was exposed to air, it has lost some of its water.[3] Wet the whole loaf to restore moisture.
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    Wrap the bread in foil. This prevents steam from escaping, keeping the moisture trapped in the bread instead.
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    Heat until soft. If you dampened the bread, wait until it no longer feels soggy. Depending on the size of the loaf and whether or not you added water, this could take 5–15 minutes.
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    Unwrap and heat for another five minutes if the crust is too soft. If the bread is soft but the once-hard crust is squishy, take off the foil. Keep heating for another five minutes, or until you've restored the crust to the right texture.[4]
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    Eat soon. Heat "melts" the starch molecule structure to release the trapped water, but also speeds up staling once the bread cools down.[5] The bread will only last a few hours at most before it turns stale again.[6][7]

Method 2

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    Bring water to a boil in the base of a steamer. Pour a shallow layer of water into the pan. Heat over high until the water reaches a rolling boil, then remove from heat.
    • If you don't have a steamer, you'll need a colander that sits on top of the pan, and a lid that can fit over the colander.
    • This methods adds less heat than the oven, but more moisture. The extra moisture is most helpful when the bread is very stale and hard, or if it was left out unwrapped.
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    Place the stale loaf in the steamer basket. Place the basket over the steaming pan and cover with a lid.
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    Leave covered until the bread is soft. Give the steam at least five minutes to soften the bread.

Method 3

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    Slice bread to eat right away. Microwaves do soften bread, but the results aren't perfect. Within a few minutes, the bread usually turns rubbery and even tougher than before.[8] This is the fastest method, but it's best to save it for an immediate snack.
    • This happens because the microwave boils away some of the water. The escaping steam pushes the starches into a denser structure, and leaves the bread dry. Slow heating in small increments can reduce this effect, but it's difficult to find a sweet spot that's still hot enough to soften the bread.
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    Wrap in a damp paper towel. Lightly dampen a plain, white paper towel. Wrap it around your bread.[9] This adds more moisture, and traps some of the steam in the bread to keep it soft.
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    Heat in ten second intervals. Depending on how strong your microwave is, the bread might already be soft after ten seconds. If not, try again, checking frequently.


  • Light breads stay fresh for longer than dense breads. Breads and cakes with fats, sugars, and other additional ingredients also tend to have a longer shelf life.[10]
  • To extend shelf-life, freeze the bread and thaw it in the oven when ready to use. If you'd rather not thaw it, wrap the bread in plastic or foil until airtight and store at room temperature to keep it edible for an extra day or two.[11]
  • You can make garlic bread while refreshing the bread. Follow the oven instructions with these extra steps before heating:
    • Slice the bread in advance, but leave the slices attached at the base.
    • Spread butter onto each slice.
    • Rub with crushed garlic, salt, and dried or fresh chopped herbs.


  • The refrigerator may prevent mold from growing on your bread, but it won't keep it fresh. Starch retrogradation (the process that makes bread go stale) happens much faster at cold temperatures (above freezing).[12]
  • Overheating the bread will boil away moisture and make it tough and dry. This is easy to do in the microwave, due to uneven heating.

Article Info

Categories: Food Preservation Techniques