The Clever Toasting Trick To Rescue Stale Bagels

A fresh bagel is a beautiful thing: springy, soft, and chewy with just a hint of crust for added bite. The texture is what makes bagels so appealing — it's the perfect vehicle for spreads and toppings, with the heft to stand up to flavorful ingredients like cream cheese or lox. Therefore, losing that texture can prove to be a sad situation. Your bagel is made of starches, and letting it sit out means it is losing water to evaporation, which causes them to tighten up, and your bagel to get hard. However, saving your bagel is only a matter of reversing this process, aka using an oven. 

Heating stale bread essentially recreates the environment that makes your bread soft, which is why the same process also works for things like stale baguettes. An oven provides the right level of heat to penetrate all the way through your bagel, so the exterior and interior become nice and chewy again without the crust crisping up too much. Just preheat an oven to a lower temperature, around 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and put your bagel on the rack for a few minutes until it's heated through. 

Toasting stale bagels in the oven brings them back to life

When you first make a bagel, the process of adding water to the flour and cooking softens the starch, which makes it more tender and chewable. When bread sits out and loses that water through evaporation, the remaining moisture gets trapped in the starch as it recrystallizes and hardens. This means that if you can break down those crystals and release water back into your bagel, you can fix it. The heat from the oven does just that, which causes the starches in your bagel to relax and releases some of the trapped water back into the crumb.

This method is best used right before you plan to eat them as you want to take advantage of their chewy texture without worry they may re-stale quickly. So as long as you chow down before your bagel gets too cold, it will taste almost like new, which is a small miracle for anyone who missed out on a fresh one. And if your bagel was improperly stored and has gone beyond stale and really dried out, you can still use this method. Just wet the outside with some water before you reheat it, and the bagel will reabsorb some of the moisture as it warms.