From boules to banana bread, everything you need to know to make your loaves last. 

Perfecting the art of homemade bread baking can be a challenge, but making sure your loaves stay fresh and edible beyond a few days is an entirely different hurdle. After all, homemade loaves of Italian bread or sandwich-ready white bread don’t contain the same preservatives as store-bought options, and will go bad quickly if not eaten with haste. Luckily, there’s one common kitchen appliance that can extend your bread’s lifespan by up to six months: the freezer.

Whether you’re looking to preserve your own flour-filled creations, bread from your local bakery, or a surplus of baked goods from the grocery store, your freezer has the ability to make your favorite carbs consumable for 3-6 months… if frozen correctly.

Becoming a pro at freezing bread will not only help you to reduce food waste, but also save you some serious kitchen time, as you can bake several loaves simultaneously and use only what you need at the moment. Holiday prep can also become a breeze by making your seasonal baked goods far in advance.

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Though some breads are less suited to freezing than others, particularly baguettes and other crunchy breads that have a larger crust surface area, most bread will perfectly maintain its original flavor and texture post-thaw, if the following rules and techniques are adhered to.

When freezing homemade loaves, ensure that the bread has completely cooled before bagging and stowing it, allowing for at least 3-4 hours of resting time. Excess heat will cause perspiration in the bag, which will lead to freezer burn.

Store-bought bread that is pre-wrapped can go straight into the freezer in its original packaging, as long as the plastic is airtight. In the case of homemade and bakery-purchased loaves, the wrapping method will differ depending on how long you hope to store your bread before consumption.

For short-term storage of a few weeks or less, the loaf can be wrapped in a layer of plastic wrap or foil. This storage method is particularly useful for breads that you’ll be reaching for frequently, like pre-sliced sandwich bread.

For long-term storage of a month or more, wrap the bread tightly in a few layers plastic wrap, and, as an extra precaution, seal the wrapped bread in a freezer-proof, zip-top bag to prevent from any harder edges tearing a hole in the plastic and causing freezer burn. Be sure to write the date the loaf was baked or purchased on the bag so that it is consumed within six months.

Breads or cakes that will be eaten in slices rather than as a whole should be sliced up prior to freezing, so that individual slices can be removed without thawing the entire loaf. Rolls, buns, and other single-serving goods can be stored in an airtight freezer bag.

Another option is to freeze your raw bread dough rather than a pre-baked loaf. Frozen raw dough can be put straight into the oven from the freezer, and given 5-15 minutes of extra baking time in addition to what the original recipe calls for.

When you’re ready to thaw and eat your frozen loaf, remove it from the freezer and allow it to thaw on the countertop within its packaging (allowing it to reabsorb and condensation trapped within the plastic) for about 3 hours until it reaches room temperature, or thaw in the fridge overnight. Then, remove the bread from the plastic and bake it for 10 minutes at 350 degrees, keeping a close eye on the loaf to make sure it doesn’t overcook.

If you’re running short on time and want to heat the bread directly out of the freezer, bake it for 20 minutes at 400 degrees F. Though you might lose some texture quality with this method, it will save you a few hours by eliminating the thawing process. There’s no need to thaw individual slices of sandwich bread if they’re headed to the toaster; simply slip them into the appliance and they’ll thaw and cook simultaneously.

Give these tips a try with your own homemade No-Knead Bread, Classic Banana Bread, Buttermilk Biscuits, or Pumpkin Spice Cornbread.