I Tried the Viral ‘Water Method’ for Reviving a Stale Loaf of Bread, and I Couldn’t Believe the Results

Photo: Stocksy/ Cameron Whitman
As soon as the weather drops below zero, we're not ashamed at all to admit that we’ll be hibernating in our pajamas, watching the latest viral television show until further notice. (But really, have you watched The Last of Us yet?)

Hibernation season naturally calls for a fully-stocked fridge and pantry—you need enough food to get through the entire winter, after all.

To that end, here's a helpful nugget of intel: When you haven’t gotten around to eating the entire loaf of bread sitting on the counter quickly enough and you devastatingly discover that it’s turned rock hard in just a couple of days, there’s no reason to give up on your PB&J sandwich-making plans for the night. Instead, we’ve discovered a brilliant trick for reviving a stale loaf of bread that calls for two easy steps that work like magic. Consider grilled cheese sandwiches back on the menu.

How to revive your stale loaf of bread in mere minutes

According to a recent TikTok video by @thebeccamurray, turning a rock-hard loaf of bread into a pillowy soft, fluffy one is not the work of witchcraft. Instead, it’s the product of a two-step hack that involves two common household items: water and an oven (plus a week-old, tooth-chipping boule of sourdough).

@thebeccamurray we do not waste sourdough in this house #breadtok #foodwaste #stalebreadhack ♬ Bring Me To Life - Evanescence

In the video, Murray starts by dousing the entire piece of sourdough bread under running water, then squeezes it to ensure it’s thoroughly wet (but not dripping) and moisture can seep into its pores. Next, she places the bread in the oven set to 200°F for five minutes.

Initially, Murray found that the sourdough bread was still soggy after just five minutes, so she added an additional 25 minutes—totaling about 30 minutes altogether. After about half an hour in the oven, she shows us that the bread is soft, flaky, and warm. Best of all, according to Murray, it tasted like freshly baked bread again. (It’s also worth noting that she uses the remaining half of a sourdough loaf—meaning it doesn’t matter if it’s already been sliced into and more than just the crust is exposed.)

I tried the hack for myself, and here’s what happened

A few days ago, I had been saving about half a baguette on my kitchen counter with the hopes that I could use it over the weekend to serve with a charcuterie board I had planned to enjoy as I embraced hibernation season. By the time Saturday rolled around, the bread had, of course, turned hard as a rock. Just my luck, I thought.

Fortunately, before I chucked the bread into the trash, Murray’s TikTok video popped into my mind, and I decided to give it a run for myself. I preheated the oven to 200°F and passed the bread under the water until it was sufficiently wet—but not to the point that it would disintegrate or turn into a pile of mush. Then, I baked it low and slow for about 15 minutes and found that it was still slightly hard and could benefit from a few more minutes in the oven. I let it sit for about five more minutes (20 total), and voilà, it was good as new.

Although the trick worked wonders for my leftover baguette, it’s important to consider a few factors, like the level of staleness and the type of bread I was using. This can affect how much water you need to rehydrate the dough and how long it’ll take to soften up in the oven. For example, if your bread is only slightly stale, but you want to mimic that fresh-from-the-bakery softness, a quick rinse using less water will do. I recommend wrapping the bread it in tinfoil for the first 10 minutes, too, to prevent over-drying, and then removing it for another 10 to help crisp up the outside.

As for regular sliced bread, I’d be cautious about drenching it with too much water—that can lead to it tearing or, even worse, disintegrating it in the oven. In my testing process, I found that wrapping sliced bread in a damp paper towel or clean kitchen towel, and microwaving it at 10-second intervals, helped achieve similar results. Of course, sturdier bread types like sourdough, baguette, focaccia, or ciabatta can definitely withstand being drenched under running water and re-baked in the oven—especially if they’re stale and basically look and feel like a giant boulder.

In the mood for more bread? Here's a paleo bread recipe that'll knock your socks off:

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