Hot Water Is The Secret To Bring Your Stale, Dry Bagel Back To Life

Have you ever had a bagel become so stale and rock-hard that it could be used as a dangerous projectile or blunt-force weapon? Maybe you ordered a massive New York-style bagel that you couldn't finish in one sitting, and that yeasty beauty lost some of its youthful glory during its tenure in the fridge? Sure, you could repurpose it into a breakfast frittata or savory casserole, but if you ordered that bagel because you wanted a bagel, there's a quick trick that can breathe a second wind into your dough.

Scientifically speaking, bagels dehydrate (aka lose moisture) at the same time as they go stale (the process by which the starch molecules crystallize, making the bread go rigid). The logical conclusion is that you can reverse the process by adding a little water back into the bagel, and it works like a charm.

Submerge your stale, dry bagel in a bowl of hot water, then toast as normal. Alternatively, you could also run the bagel under hot water for 30 seconds prior to toasting, just be careful not to burn your hands (tongs are your friend here). This method mimics the boiling process by which many bagels are made in the first place. As the bagel reheats, the water evaporates into steam and moistens the stale, dry bread, rehydrating the crystallized starch molecules and creating a pleasantly crispy exterior.

To slice or not to slice?

If you're unsure whether or not to slice your bagel, it's better to leave it intact for this method. That way, it'll retain the contrast between the crispy exterior and the soft interior. For even greater contrast, wrap your wet bagel in tin foil before reheating.

For best results, place the wet bagel directly on the wire rack of your oven or toaster oven and heat for 5 minutes at 350 F. A slotted toaster is faster but zaps some of the moisture you've added, making for a crispier, less soft bite. You could also reheat your moistened bagel in the microwave, but it's likely to end up on the chewier side (which could be a good thing depending on your preferences).

Admittedly, this method isn't without its drawbacks. Submerging your bagel can mess up the toppings, so if you're working with a sesame, poppyseed, or everything bagel, be wary. The way you store your bagel also makes a difference in its ability to be rescued. Refrigeration can make bread products go stale more quickly, so keep your fresh bagels at room temperature in a resealable plastic bag. If you're storing bagels long-term, a tight aluminum foil wrap in the freezer is the way to go. They'll last for about a month and can be rehydrated and toasted using the above method whenever you're ready to enjoy them.