The Easy Way To Rescue Stale Cereal

If you're like a lot of folks, there's probably a good chance you have at least one box of cereal in your pantry as you read this. As of 2020, per the South Florida Reporter, U.S. consumers put away an average of 101 pounds (roughly 160 bowls) of cereal per person each year. But with so many delicious options to choose from, it can be difficult to decide on which type to enjoy. Food Manufacturing reports that the most popular types of cereal that were bought on Amazon in 2021 were Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Rice Crispies, and Frosted Flakes. 

It's nothing short of a Homerian tragedy, then, when you wake up in the morning — hungry and craving a lovin' spoonful — only to find that your favorite breakfast cereal has gone stale. Luckily, according to the USDA, non-perishable "shelf stable" pantry foods like rice, dry pasta, canned foods, spices, oils, and cereal, are safe to eat well past the printed expiration date. But, you might have some questions, like "Does unopened cereal ever go bad?" Or, "What am I supposed to do with this box of stale cereal?" Never fear. There's a simple solution for rescuing stale cereal. Here's how to do it.

Break out the baking sheet

Staleness is an unfortunate scientific inevitability in the food world. According to James BeMiller, emeritus professor of food science at Purdue University, grain-based foods begin "going stale" as soon as they leave the oven, per Scientific American. But, the most pivotal turning point moment in this process, says BeMiller, happens when the scratch molecules crystallize. Over time, as the starch gets the water molecules it needs to firm up, it gets that hard, unappetizing, "stale" mouthfeel so many foodies know and try to avoid. But, says BeMiller, this crystallization stale only sticks around when the molecules are at room temperature or colder. Therefore, it can be "reversed with the introduction of heat; stale bread can be freshened by warming it — as in toasting."

To make it work for your cereal, Instagram account @problemsolvedvids says to simply dump that stale cereal onto a baking sheet and bake at 300 degrees Fahrenheit for 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the staleness level. Or, if you'd rather repurpose that stale cereal for another kitchen use, Wonder How To suggests smashing it up and using it as bread crumbs, or sprinkling it into pie crusts for an added textural component.