Our food waste guide uncovers the secrets of how to keep sourdough bread fresh, answering the pressing questions on every waste-loathing loaf-lover’s lips, including: how do you store sourdough bread? And what are the best ways to keep it crusty?
What is sourdough?
Slowly fermented using natural yeast, sourdough bread is made by baking methods so ancient they remember Gandalf pre-beard. A time when dinos and cavemen would queue outside the bakeries for their fresh sourdough sarnies. What a time to be alive.
The difference between sourdough bread and normal bread
Sourdough bread is one of the only foods that make bacteria and fermentation sexy.
Rising from a natural “starter” made from water and flour, it relies on natural yeast and lactobacillus (a fancy healthy bacteria) to grow. This takes longer than commercial yeast, and you need to feed it over several days with more flour and water to increase its volume.
Many claim this traditional, additive-free baking method makes sourdough more nutritious than other loaves, with the acids from the starter supplying an airy, tangy flavour and chewy crusty exterior.
How long does sourdough bread last?
Freshly baked sourdough joins new cars, mowed grass and fried bacon at the top of the best-smeller charts. But how long does that magnificent aroma last in your kitchen?
You’d think sourdough’s preservative-free au naturaleness would give it a shorter shelf life than commercial loaves. But you couldn’t be more wrong! Sourdough bread’s natural acids ward off degenerative bacteria and mould like a stubborn bouncer, keeping it lovely and edible for 4-5 days at room temperature.
And let’s be honest, if you’re disciplined enough to avoid the temptation of eating it all in one sitting, you deserve to chow down on as many sarnies and toasties as possible on that fifth day.
How to store sourdough bread
The best way to store sourdough bread is at room temperature in a plastic free bread bin. The longer it stays safe in your bread bin, the less likely it is to end up in your rubbish bin.
We recommend leaving your bread in its paper packaging or wrapped in a tea towel. This will give it the air it needs, without drying it out. Here’s a schedule to help keep your sourdough bread fresh and cosy:
- • Days 1 and 2: Keep it in the paper packaging, unless you’ve sliced into it, in which case, leave it cut-side down on a chopping board.
- • Day three: If you haven’t already, put it in your bread bin. This is when the crust will start to soften, but don’t worry, it’ll still be delicious, especially if you toast it.
- • Day four: Now we know what you’re thinking, but don’t panic. You’ve still got a day or two before your sourdough starts becoming inedible. This is no time to run down the street posting slices of bread through your neighbours’ letterboxes. Keep calm and carry on eating!
- • Day five: If you’ve got more than a few slices left, we recommend freezing your loaf at this point, to avoid food waste. And would you look at that, a nice segue to our next question…
Can you freeze sourdough bread?
If you’re hoarding loaves and have stocked up for some sort of post-apocalyptic, underground bunker world, you can store sourdough bread long-term by freezing it.
You can freeze sourdough for up to six months in a food bag, but keep in mind that it’ll slowly lose its tangtastic flavour the longer you leave it.
Useful tip: slice your loaf before freezing it. This will make it much easier to snack on as you toast or defrost bits for your sarnies.
How to keep sourdough bread fresh and crusty
Do not – we repeat DO NOT – store your sourdough bread in the fridge. This will dry it out, leaving it staler than the last season of Game of Thrones. Instead, use the above storage methods to preserve its flavour and follow these bonus tips to maintain maximum freshness and crustiness.
Can sourdough bread sit out overnight?
Unlike your moody teenager and needy dog, sourdough bread can be trusted to sit out overnight. That is, as long as you can trust your family not to sneak out of bed and snack on it while you’re sleeping.
We recommend storing sourdough in a bread bin after 48 hours, but you can leave it out uncovered in its first couple of days, providing you’ve not sliced into it.
Do cloth bread bags work?
Linen and cotton bread bags are an effective way to keep your sourdough loaf fresh and crusty for longer, especially if you’ve already cut off a slice.
They work very much in the same way as the rustic tea towel method, protecting your bread from the kitchen elements, but with enough air to let it breathe.
How to refresh sourdough bread
Is your loaf looking a little forlorn and dry? Fear not! You can refresh sourdough bread by splashing some water on it and tossing it in the oven for five to ten minutes at 200 degrees.
This will give it the moistness (gross word, sorry) it needs to come back to life. You can use this anti-food waste method on individual slices or your whole loaf.
How to avoid food waste with stale bread
If you’ve had enough of sourdough (if that’s even possible) and still have some leftover, here are a few ways you can avoid food waste without eating it right away.
- 1. Make sourdough breadcrumbs – Sourdough breadcrumbs are a fantastic addition to fried chicken, pasta bakes and casseroles. And they’re so easy to make! Just tear off pieces of bread, toss them in a blender, and store the crumbs in a reusable food bag or tupperware. These can even be frozen to maximise shelf life and minimise food waste.
- 2. Freeze your loaf – Follow the instructions above to preserve your sourdough bread for up to half a year.
- 3. Make sourdough croutons – Looking for a salad or soup that packs a crunch? Dice up your sourdough into little chunks, toss them in a bit of olive oil and seasoning, and bake for 15 minutes to create your croutons.