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TIP OF THE DAY: How To Soften Stale Bread

Stale? Not for long! Photo of ciabatta loaf
by Vincent Talleu | Wikimedia.


Most people believe that when bread goes stale, it’s because the moisture evaporates. It’s more complex than that: Bread will go stale even in a moist, humid environment (details).

Refrigeration doesn’t help: According to, bread goes stale most rapidly at refrigerator temperatures—around 41°F/5°C. So keep bread at room temperature rather than in the fridge. (Refrigeration does delay the growth of mold.)

Toasting is a solution for slightly stale bread, pound cake and other non-iced baked goods. But if the product is more than a little stale, it’s time to bring out the “heavy artillery”:


  • If the bread is just slightly stale, slice and toss it into the microwave for 10-15 seconds.
  • If it’s very hard, wrap it in a damp paper towel. We place it right on the microwave turntable—no additional dish needed.
  • If it’s still hard, repeat for another 15 seconds.

    Warning, though: once the bread cools off, it will revert to being hard. So enjoy it while it’s warm.


    If you don’t have a microwave but do have an oven, use it to freshen bread, rolls and other baked goods:

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 450°F/250°C.

    2. WRAP the bread, muffins, pound cake, etc. in foil.

    3. HEAT for 5 to 10 minutes.

    4. SERVE immediately. Keep the bread wrapped in the foil until ready to eat.



    For millennia, cooks have repurposed stale bread, resulting in dishes that are quite wonderful. Popular recipes include:

  • Bread crumbs—just pulse stele bread in a food processor; add optional seasonings
  • Bread dumplings, a Middle European dish (recipe)
  • Bread pudding (recipe)
  • Bread sauce, a British specialty served with poultry (recipe)
  • Brotzupa/wodzionka, a Silesian soup made from stale bread, fat, water, bacon, lard and seasonings
  • Croutons (recipe)
  • Flummadiddle, an Early American baked pudding of stale bread, pork fat, molasses and spices
  • Fondue (recipes)
  • French toast (recipe)
  • Garlic bread (recipe)

    Turn baguettes or other crusty breads into garlic bread. Photo courtesy Floriole Cafe | Chicago..

  • Garbure, a French soup or stew of ham with cabbage, root vegetables, cheese and stale bread
  • Gazpacho (recipe)
  • Haslet, a British pork meat loaf
  • Skordalia, a Greek garlic dip (potatoes can be substituted for the stale bread)
    In medieval Europe, slices of stale bread, called trenchers, were used instead of plates.

    If you have a dish to add to our favorite uses for stale bread, let us know!


    Related Food Videos: For more food videos, check out The Nibble's Food Video Collection.

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