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I have always frozen my bread with no noticeable difference. Some fridge freezers seem to impart a stale freezer burn flavor to lots of things, but I've never had that issue. I'm guessing it has to do with the freshness/cleanliness of the freezer, how things are packaged, how long they are frozen, etc.

I'm having suddenly having issues with the crust, sometimes just part of the crust, becoming extremely hard and tough on store-bought sliced bread that is usually frozen no more than 3 weeks.

The only variable that has changed is the style of deep freeze--we just received an upright, self-defrosting freezer, replacing our very old deep chest freezer that was not self-defrosting. Perhaps the newer one is removing more moisture from the air in the freezer, hence drying the bread. That makes sense, however, I used to freeze bread in my refrigerator freezer, which is also self-defrosting, with no issues.

I've tested lowering the temp of the freezer, and storing the bread on the shelf instead of in the door. Neither have made a difference. I'm planning to get a plastic tote with lid thinking that might help reduce drying air exposure.

Perhaps my question is more related to the functionality of this freezer, manufacturer's performance issue, or simply a variability in freezer styles. I just find it odd that after freezing food for 40 years with no issues, this has suddenly become a problem.

  • What sort of bag do you store the bread in before you put it in the freezer? – Daniel Chui Sep 21 '14 at 4:26
  • I have never double wrapped the bread, and never had a problem until now. That's why I'm thinking a tub with a lid so I can put multiple loaves in, not have to hassle with double wrapping, and not waste bags or wrapping material. – Tanya C Sep 21 '14 at 14:42
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    What you describe here is very clearly starch retrogradation and not freezer burn. Basically, it's the same process as the bread getting stale, but for some reason it is only parts of the crust. The retrogradation happens most quickly at temperatures just above freezing (that's why bread shouldn't be stored in the fridge), so it is probably something during the defrosting cycles. But I can't guess why this is happening in this freezer and not in the other defrosting one, and I don't know enough details about the process to tell you which detail is making it occur so badly. – rumtscho Sep 23 '14 at 19:46
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The likely culprit, so to speak, is not just the freezer but rather the mill of the bag within which the bread now comes. Any relatively thin sheet of plastic is actually porous at the microscopic level. That's why you can smell right through some of these bags and detect what's in them, or detect the poor or better condition that their contents are in. Who for example cannot identify raisin bread with nothing more than a whiff of the bag? So even the slightest reduction in the mill [of a plastic] can yield an exponential increase in its permeability.

Now it may be, yes, that you noticed this change at or around the time you replaced your freezer. This concomitance is probably not irrelevant. Nonetheless, the marketplace is always looking for ways to cut costs, especially in the United States. And when you think about the sheer number of plastic bags that are involved nationwide for annual bread sales, the slightest change in the mill of the bag equates to some very real dollars.

I noticed quite recently here a change in the packaging of my milk cartons, (half-and-half actually), obvious because of the dramatically different color. But the carton is now so thin you can feel it caving in as you pick it up. I also noticed that the screw-on lid was lighter in weight as well as thinner in its construction, (bendier and more translucent), and that the amount of turn required (and therefore allowed) was reduced. In short, it was a complete overhaul.

Okay, that synchronized cluster of changes didn't just happen for no reason. There are always motivations at play, especially when multiple changes have to be authorized by multiple layers of individuals at multiple levels of responsibility. What were those motivations? Was my grocer's provider (dairy) just feeling generous? Did they mistakenly ascertain that I as a consumer (speaking generally) would pick up this flimsier version of a container and respond in something of a positive manner?

Of course not. They didn't do it for me (us). They did it for themselves (profit). That's the pattern. That's the die that is cast. And that's more probably what accounts, at least in part, for the difference you've noted and shared. In my example, the carton supplier [to the dairy] could increase its profit margin over time and still manage to offer the dairy a slight reduction in cost for, say, every gross of cartons. Not complicated. Everybody wins but the consumer. Same deal for the mill of your plastic.

Certainly I don't mean to force this as an only explanans. The freezer too is bound to play an important role as follows. You did say it's a newer model frost-free, meaning newer than the frost-free you said you had before. On that note alone, here's what seems a likely scenario.

A frost-free works, obviously, by drawing not only the heat but the moisture out of the freezer. It does so nearly constantly, and on a very low level. That's all that's needed. So heat's being drawn out by the compressor (cold is just the absence of heat). And moisture's being drawn out by way of an evaporator and one or more fans.

The use of an outward drawing fan action creates a slight negative pressure. This pressure builds over time and then peaks, because the fans are only just so strong. By dint of this, note that the freezer door can at times be surprisingly difficult to open. A pressure differential has formed between the two sides. So anything in the freezer from which water can be drawn is going to be subject to these forces and will, of course, capitulate ...or as the Wikipedia article on the subject states,

water can evaporate out of containers that do not have a very tight seal,..

This fact in combination with the risk of too thin a mill in plastic, (where too great a porosity is synonymous with a poor seal), would serve to perhaps best explain the results you've experienced. The solution as you've suggested is to contain the loaves of bread yet further, probably placing them in large freezer bags. Beyond this, no doubt there remains something to be said for the kind of refrigeration which does not worry itself over the matter of frost build-up. Anathema!, I know.

Another consideration is the possibility the bread is being quickly transitioned from a decidedly warm environment (such as the trunk of a hot car), straight into the freezer. This itself would cause slight condensation, (difficult to notice as it's absorbed by the bread), as here the permeability if the package works in reverse, initially drawing in water from the freezer. (There's always evaporated water in the air, air which can enter the freezer whenever the door is open, including for example water from our own respiration.) In short the noticeable brittleness of the bread crust would follow not only from having the moisture pulled out by the freezer, but from the fact that it was actually pre-moistened one step prior.

  • I appreciate the entertaining commentary, and agree, to everyone's frustration, there are constant tweaks to products resulting in lesser quality and better profits for the manufacturer. In one such case, I think the frozen bags of hash browns has decreased from 2 lb. to 1 lb. 10 oz. at one of my grocers, resulted in a rather soupy outcome in a recipe I recently made. I worked in a bar where they changed all the beer glass sizes down 2 oz. in order to increase their profits. – Tanya C Oct 30 '14 at 16:40
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i think it is that you are letting the bread touch the sides of the freezer. same thing happens if i let the bread touch the sides of the refrigerator. the whole loaf will be fresh except whatever side was touching the side of the refrigerator. so just store the bread in the middle, with other things on either side, and i bet it fixes the issues. i know this is late, but i was looking and goolging for WHY bread goes stale just because it touches the side of the refrigerator. and i still have not found the answer to that though. but it does.

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Just found out why!

The bread was frozen when it got to the supermarket. This is the bread company's way of having fresher bread loaves on the shelves!

So in the end we are freezing it for a second time. A hard crust is the result of the second freezing.

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the bag must have no air. also i would advise slicing it since then you could use some time in oven or toaster to make crisp but not impossibly hard to work

  • It is store-bought sliced bread for the most part. I have never had to take these steps before; must be the newer freezer. I think I'll try a plastic tote with a lid to help counteract damage from the air. Even though all air is not removed, perhaps it will provide enough protection to solve my issue; and if not, I have another storage tub for another use. – Tanya C Sep 23 '14 at 14:06
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You mentioned the freezer, the packaging, and the length of time. It has to do with all three, but primarily the packaging.

Some freezers are better than others at creating the conditions for freezer burn. Set the temperature to zero, and do use the flash-freeze shelf. That will help.

However, you must protect the bread. That is by far the most important thing. I assume your bread is in a plastic wrapper. Leave it in the plastic, and wrap the whole thing in foil, as tightly as you can without squishing the bread. Then, pop it into a resealable freezer bag, and try to squeeze out as much air as you can as you seal it.

Time is a factor regardless of the other circumstances, but wrapped in this manner, your bread should be good for several months.

  • This seems different than freezer burn. There are no ice crystals; no off flavor. The center of the bread is fine, just parts of the crust have become hard. This is store-bought bread. We go through at least 2 loaves a week. I'm not freezing for extended periods of time. The thermometer says 5 degrees, so I moved the dial to colder. I would never have the time or patience at this time in my life to double wrap a store-bought loaf of bread that I'll be using within a month, that is not realistic for me. I'm thinking the tub with a lid might be best, even though air will be enclosed with bread. – Tanya C Sep 23 '14 at 14:01
  • I do not believe my upright freezer has a flash freeze shelf; I googled but saw commercial freezers. Do you think a residential freezer would have one? – Tanya C Sep 23 '14 at 16:37
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I have put a piece of paper towel on top of bread loaf before freezing. It seems to help with the crust.

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Because some times it my get hard in a cabinet if the bag is open and you will half to put it in the freezer and let it get cold for like five or six minutes hang take it out and put it in the refrigerator

  • Can you try to clarify this? It almost sounds like you're suggesting that the problem is keeping the bread in a cabinet, but the OP is pretty clearly stating that's not the case. – logophobe Oct 18 '14 at 20:30
  • This is regarding freezing bread, not issues in cabinet storage or leaving wrapper open. Also, I have a really hard time understanding the rest of the meaning of this statement. – Tanya C Oct 30 '14 at 16:31
  • In addition, two things I would never store in the refrigerator are bread and tomatoes--it destroys the texture in both cases. – Tanya C Oct 30 '14 at 16:32

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