How often does this happen in the normal family home. The bread meant for tomorrow’s school lunches has been left out all day and is now hard. Someone secretly opened the packet of chips, hid them in the back of the pantry and now they’re all limp and lost their crunch.
Once upon a time you’d have thrown them straight in the bin. But now, thanks to the clever sciencey types who put together videos on the YouTube channel Reactions, you can breathe new life into what was once garbage bin filler.
And just to prove that these guys know what they’re talking about, Reactions is a series from the American Chemical Society whose noble quest is to “uncover the chemistry in everyday life”.
They say moisture is a key factor in the staling process, and it affects the starch molecules found in both bread and chips, The molecules are hydrophilic, meaning they absorb water, or want to absorb it. But the molecules work quite differently with both products.
With the bread, there is already some moisture there, making it soft and spongey. The moisture is kind of locked into the molecules but within the first day post baking, these start to break down and the moisture is released and evaporates and the bread starts to dry out.
With chips, the moisture has been fried or baked out, so these same molecules are “thirsty”, explains the video, so start sucking in moisture from the air, making them soggy.
So how to resuscitate our favourite starchy carbs?
For soggy chips: Simply put the chips in the microwave on high for 30 seconds to force the moisture out. This will leave them crispy and ‘seemingly new.’
For stale bread: Pop it in the oven on 60°C. According to the researchers, this will help it to suck up more moisture to restore its softness.
Here’s the video which is filled with lots of fabulous science-type words:
The people in white coats had some extra knowledge to pass on about how to prolong the life of your bread so you don't need to stick it in the oven.
If you plan to eat it over a could days, store in a bread box or paper bag - never in plastic because this traps the moisture in the bag and leads to a mould more quickly. Their research found that putting bread in the refrigerator, they found, makes the bread go stale six times faster than when it’s stored at room temperature.
To store bread for an extended period of time without it going stale, put it in the freezer.