How Long Should You Keep Bagels In The Freezer?

Who doesn't enjoy a nicely toasted bagel with a rich layer of cream cheese, or better yet, the perfect recipe for an NYC bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich? Regardless of how you prefer to eat this dense, chewy morning staple, based on the numbers, a lot of Americans are partial to bagels. According to Statista, in 2020, more than 200 million Americans admitted to eating bagels. But how did this breakfast food become so popular in America?

According to Maria Balinska, author of "The Bagel: The Surprising History of a Modest Bread," the first mention of bagels in written form was noted in Krakow, Poland at the beginning of the 17th century (via Smithsonian). Another Polish bread prepared in a similar fashion, obwarzanek, dates back to the late 1300s, and Balinska suggests that both the bagel and obwarzanek may have originated from the German pretzel (per The Wall Street Journal).

Surprisingly, The Nosher notes that bagels didn't make their way to the American public until 1960, when one Polish family decided to market their family product, Lender's bagels, to grocery stores on the East coast. But it's now common to find a bagel shop in any major town or city. And many of us can admit that when we can see and smell fresh bagels, we rarely buy just one. So, what is the appropriate protocol when storing extra bagels for the next week (or even the next month)?

For bagel storage, your freezer is the safest bet

You may not assume that bagels will dry out within a few days. But according to Does It Go Bad?, if left on your kitchen counter, fresh bagels only have a shelf life of 72 hours. If you want to keep your specially-baked goods for longer than a day or two, you may want to use your freezer. But how long can those par-boiled bread products last in frozen storage before they're no longer edible?

For fresh bagels, The Spruce Eats notes that these round, bready delights need to be frozen right away once baked or purchased upon consumption to keep their consistency nice and chewy for another day down the road. Does It Go Bad? adds that frozen bagels, if sealed in an airtight plastic bag or container, can last for at least three months. When you're ready to eat some of those stashed-away goods, Goldberg's Fine Foods suggests wetting bagels with a spritz of water and baking them in a 350-degree oven for 10 minutes. 

Now that you know you can keep fresh bagels in the freezer for months, there's another way of storing them that may also seem like a good idea but actually causes bagels to spoil faster.

The one place you shouldn't store bagels

You should never throw your latest stash of leftover bagels into your refrigerator. According to The Spruce Eats, pre-sliced bagels can last in the freezer for months. But if you place your bagels in the fridge, they become stale faster. Why is that?

Martha Stewart notes that a refrigerator is suitable for stopping bacterial growth and keeping foods in their current physical state. But the cold air that comes out of refrigeration vents has an extremely drying effect, which can reduce the quality of baked goods and remove all that moisture that makes your favorite floured foods moist and chewy. 

Maybe you're reading this a little too late and you threw the last of your three-ingredient bagels in the crisper drawer a few days ago. Don't fret — Pantry and Larder tested four different methods of reviving stale bagels and found the oven to be the most effective in assuring a nice textured exterior with soft insides. If too much time has passed, The Nosher has some ingenious ways of reusing stale bagels such as turning them into bread crumbs, bagel chips, and decadent bagel bread pudding. Either way, you have options before reducing them to your waste bin. Just make sure that the next time you buy or make extra bagels, you're storing them in your freezer.