How To Revive Even The Dryest, Stalest Bagel

Nobody enjoys a rock-hard bagel over a soft and chewy one, which forgoes the pleasure of toasty crispness for sandy crumbs in your mouth. Sadly, those ideal soft and chewy bagels aren't readily available unless eaten straight from the oven. But hey, it's nothing to fret over, because a quick dip in hot water and some heat can restore your bagel's fresh texture.

Bagels are notorious for quickly becoming dry and stale, and this is due to a couple of factors. Firstly, the moisture within the bagel migrates to the surface and evaporates, sapping the softness and leaving dryness. At the same time, the starch molecules inside begin to harden, turning a once pliable bagel tough and stale. Even if you store bagels in bags to prevent moisture loss, it won't necessarily halt the starch from hardening and aging the bread. Often, these processes occur together, making the bagel both dry and stale swiftly after baking — potentially making it nearly inedible within a day or two. Dipping the bagel in water before reheating it can counteract both drying out and staling, giving new life to your day-old bagel.

Why dipping dry and stale bagels in water works

The typical method to refresh a dry and stale bagel is to heat it in an oven or toaster, hoping for the best, but this skips a crucial step. A bit of water can salvage stale bread. Soaking a bagel in hot water or running it under the tap rehydrates it. When heated, the moisture turns to steam, softening the inside and restoring some crispness to the exterior. That said, water-dipped bagels might not achieve the peak crispness of a fresh one.

After soaking the bagel in hot water, the next move is to warm it up in an oven, toaster, or microwave. For a simple fix, heat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and bake the moistened bagel for around five minutes. But for a moister interior with some crispness, consider wrapping the bagel in aluminum foil post-soaking before baking. To save yourself some time, you could also use the microwave. Either wrap the bagel in a damp paper towel and microwave for 15 seconds, or sprinkle water on the plate beneath the bagel and microwave for 30 seconds.

Store bagels properly to prevent them from drying out

Hot water and heat can help to refresh stale bagels, but proper storage also extends their lifespan. Generally, bagels start losing moisture and their starch begins to harden within six to 12 hours after baking. However, you can preserve their freshness for varying lengths of time depending on your approach.

If you're planning to eat the bagels within a day or two, a paper bag should do the trick. It limits airflow enough to keep the bagels from completely drying out while allowing enough moisture to escape, maintaining a crispy crust. For longer storage, freeze the bagels as soon as possible. Wrap each bagel individually and place them in airtight ziplock bags; this can preserve them for practically an indefinite period of time.

Regardless of your chosen storage method, avoid refrigerating bagels — it hastens drying and staling rather than preserving freshness. Another tip: keep the bagels whole. Slicing only accelerates moisture loss, and dries your bagels out faster!