Grocery stores have a lot of tricks up their sleeve to persuade you to part with your hard-earned cash. From the local farmers market look of the fruit baskets to the “wet look” of the lettuce, there’s a lot of psychology behind a supermarket’s decisions. But while making things look appetizing is the grocer’s goal, there is one product decision that has nothing to do with convincing you of freshness. It’s the bakery section bread, and it’s wrapped in brown paper bags for a reason.
You might have thought that the paper was to make it look like a fancy French bakery (or even to make it go stale faster if you’re a bit cynical), but believe it or not, the brown paper bags actually help keep the bread fresher longer.
The open paper bag allows room temperature air to circulate, keeping the bread crusty — in a good way — for about 2 – 3 days. This crust then helps keep the insides of the loaf moist.
If the bread were to be kept in the plastic bag — like the loaves in the basic bread aisle of the store — the moisture in the bread would work against the crust and the whole thing would turn soft. Plastic bags may give you an extra day or two to eat it, but you can say bye to that unique bakery-style crust you paid extra for.
Plastic bags are best for sandwich breads or softer style loaves. This is ideal since those loaves typically take longer to consume anyway. That crusty Italian loaf likely won’t make it past tomorrow’s pasta night anyway.
It’s best to eat fresh breads that have thicker crust within the first few days and keep the remainder stored in the brown bag when not serving. You don’t want to stick them in the fridge because, as it does with many foods, the fridge sucks out moisture.
If you scored a great deal on some bakery loaves, or simply have to extend the life of your loaf, there are a few tricks you can try. The best thing to do is freeze it. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and put in a freezer bag or plastic storage container before placing in freezer. You don’t have to take all of these steps, but if it will be in there longer than a day or two, it can help cut down on unwanted freeze burn, smells and flavors that can creep into your bread.
You could also consider a bread box — either ceramic or wood. These boxes work well because they allow a small amount of ventilation that prevents the bread from creating condensation inside the box — the recipe for mold — but not enough ventilation that the bread dries out.
And lastly, should you forget about your loaf and come home to hard bread, soak it in milk and eggs, grab the syrup and consider it a French toast kind of night.
Now read more about why those fruits and veggies are always up front in the store.
And try this incredible Caprese garlic bread loaf.