Freshly baked traditional bread on wooden table

How Long To Let Bread Cool

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Once your homemade bread is cooked and out of the oven, you might be more than excited to slice it and try it out, but leaving the bread to cool, no matter how hard this might be, is crucial to it turning out great!

How long should you let bread cool? How long you leave bread to cool depends on the type of bread, and how big the loaf of bread is. However, bread should be left to cool for around an hour before it is sliced. Leaving the bread to cool long enough is so important to the bread turning out right!

Read on to find out all you need to know about how long you need to leave bread to cool, why you should leave bread to cool before slicing it, and more important breadmaking information!

Why Does Bread Need To Cool?

It can be so hard waiting for bread to cool before slicing into it, but understanding why you need to leave bread to cool will definitely encourage you to wait it out!

Here are some of the main reasons why you should leave bread to cool before slicing it.

1. Better Flavor

So much of the flavor of bread actually develops once the bread has been baked, rather than during the actual baking process.

As the bread continues to cool down, the flavors develop more, and it gives the bread a better taste overall. This is especially true for stronger flavors of bread such as rye bread and sourdough.

2. Steam Release

If you cut into a warm loaf of bread, natural steam escapes, and this means that the bread will dry out rapidly.

By leaving the bread to cool for the correct amount of time, steam is released naturally and slowly — this helps to seal in freshness and moisture, which means the bread will have a better texture.

This also means that the bread will last for a few days longer before going dry and stale!

3. Gelatinizing Starch Molecules

This is more of a scientific reason as to why bread needs to be left to cool — but it is an important one!

At around 150°F, starch molecules absorb into the bread. Below 150°F, starch retrogradation happens, where moisture is released.

This process will happen while the bread cools, and it is essential to get the bread to the right texture. Slicing into the bread before it has cooled (and the process has finished) means that the bread might have a sticky or gummy texture!

How Long Does Bread Need To Cool?

There is no one set rule for how long bread needs to cool, as there are many different types of bread, and bread can be baked in all shapes and sizes.

It is ideal to allow your bread to cool for as long as possible, but here are some rough estimates for different types of bread that will allow the bread to be fully cooled (and fully ready) before slicing:

Small loaves/rolls20 minutes
Bread in a pan1 hour
Free-form bread1–3 hours
Sourdough6–8 hours
Rye loaf24 hours

These can seem a little long just to allow bread to cool, but they are rough estimates — as long as your bread has been left to reach room temperature, it should be fine to slice.

The Best Places To Leave Bread To Cool

Knowing how long to leave bread to cool for is really important, but it also helps to know where to leave bread to cool for the best results.

Whatever you do, do not leave your bread in the pan it was baked in to cool — this will cause your bread to develop a soggy crust, and it will take longer to cool as well.

The best place to cool your bread would be on a wire rack, which allows for even air circulation around the entire loaf of bread, for even cooling.

You can leave the bread on the countertop to cool down, but try to keep it out of sunlight and away from any heat sources or sources of moisture.

Should I Cover Bread As It Cools?

You might be tempted to cover the bread as it is cooling to keep it protected, but you should not do this.

As bread cools, it naturally releases steam, which is moisture. If the bread is covered, this moisture will become trapped and it will cause the crust of the bread to become soft and even soggy.

Leaving bread uncovered means that the crust will become crunchy and crisp, and the bread will be able to naturally steam slowly.

Once the bread has cooled fully, you can then cover it in a cloth wrap or kitchen towel to keep it crispy and soft and to prevent it from going stale.

Can You Leave Bread To Cool Overnight?

You can leave bread to cool on the countertop overnight if you baked it late in the evening.

Freshly baked bread in the evening should not turn stale by the morning, and it actually gives it a good period of time to cool down and develop its best flavor.

The firm crust formed on the outside of the bread will keep the interior moist and will keep the bread in the best condition.

While the bread can be left out overnight, it should be covered after this to prevent it from drying out too much and going stale.

How To Tell When Bread Has Cooled Enough

The easiest way to tell when bread has cooled enough is to feel the bread. The bread should be at room temperature before it is wrapped or sliced, and not any warmer.

Just keep in mind that the surface temperature of the bread might be cooler than the interior, so try to feel for any warmth coming from the inside of the bread before cooling.

An hour or so is long enough for a normal loaf of bread to cool, so try to feel the temperature after this.

Can I Cool Bread Without A Wire Rack?

If you have baked a loaf of bread and need to cool it, but you do not have a wire rack, do not leave it in the pan to cool.

Instead, you can balance the bread on its side and rest it against a stable object, such as the countertop wall in your kitchen. 

Balancing the bread on its side allows the air to circulate evenly around (and cool it quicker) without the bread becoming soggy on the outside.

How Long Can Homemade Bread Be Left Out?

Bread can be left out at room temperature for up to 4 days after baking, but this does not mean that it can just be left out on the countertop.

It should only be left out on the countertop to cool — once it has cooled, it should be placed into a brown paper bag, a bread box, or in an airtight container to keep it fresher for longer.

If bread is left out at room temperature for too long, it will become stale and it will not be as enjoyable to eat.

Can You Freeze Homemade Bread?

You can freeze homemade bread — freezing it is a great way to keep it fresher for longer, especially when you are not expecting to eat it all within 4 days. Just make sure to use the bread within 3 months!

To make the most out of frozen bread, we recommend that you slice it into smaller portions and freeze these separately — this way you do not have to defrost the whole loaf when you only want a couple pieces of bread.

To freeze the bread, whether whole or in slices, you should wrap it in plastic wrap, place it in a freezer container, or place it in a resealable freezer bag. This will help to lock in moisture and protect the bread from freezer burn.

Final Thoughts

It is essential to allow bread to cool to room temperature after baking. If you do not leave it to cool before slicing, it will lose moisture quickly, and the flavor and texture will not develop fully.

How long you need to leave bread to cool depends on the type of bread and how large the loaf is, but generally, bread should be left to cool for one hour or more.

As tempting as it might be to slice into freshly baked bread, avoid doing so — instead, allow it enough time to cool to its best quality.

Related Questions

Now that we’ve learned all about the factors that affect how long bread should cool, here are some additional questions that we thought you might have.

How long should I wait before taking bread out of the pan?

You should not allow bread to cool in the pan it was baked in, as it will turn soggy. However, you cannot remove it immediately once it has come out of the oven, as it might burn you.

Wait for between 5–10 minutes before removing bread from the pan, and make sure it is solid enough to remove without falling apart.

Why is my bread hard after cooling?

Your bread might be hard after cooling because it was left to bake for too long, or it was baked at too high of a temperature.

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