By Kathryn Sukalich on Feb 25, 2013

Fight Waste, Revive Stale Food with These Tricks

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stale cereal

Don’t throw away stale cereal. Bring it back to life with a simple solution using your oven. Photo: Kathryn Sukalich, Earth911

We’ve all experienced the misfortune of finding stale chips, cereal or bread in a cabinet or pantry and feeling depressed that we let food go to waste. Despite our best efforts to store food properly, every once in a while stale food creeps into our lives, and we find ourselves faced with bread that has dried out or chips with that plastic-like texture.

I live in Phoenix and in the desert food seems to go stale very rapidly. So I thought, why not find new uses for food that’s past its prime? I did a little research and discovered that not only are there recipes out there that incorporate stale food, there are also some unique tricks to revive stale foods. Some add moisture and some take it away, and there are plenty of ideas to choose from.

To find out which of these tricks are worth your time, I put a handful of them to the test to see which methods – oven, microwave, sealed containers and celery (no joke!) – actually work. So instead of saying goodbye to stale cookies, popcorn, cereal and other foods, keep reading to find out how to bring them back to life.

Tricks Using the Oven

Snack foods including cereal, chips, popcorn and crackers can be revived by simply putting them in the oven, according to Cozi, a website to help keep family life organized. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and put your stale snacks on a baking sheet. Bake them for three to five minutes.

My oven tends to cook things quickly, but I found leaving the snacks in for a full five minutes was best for most of them. Cheerios and tortilla chips both came out crunchy, and I couldn’t tell the difference between them and their non-stale counterparts. The oven also dramatically improved the texture of the stale crackers, though the taste was still a little bland.

Typically I make popcorn on the stove, but had a bag of leftover cheese popcorn from a Super Bowl party. I put a handful of it in the oven, and after five minutes the texture was crunchier, but some of the cheese powder burned. I would advise either removing flavored popcorn after three minutes or not using the oven for this particular snack.

You can also use your oven to revive stale baguettes (or other uncut loaves of bread). There are two methods for this. The first comes from Lifehacker, a website of tips, trick and other ideas for making your life easier. The website suggests rubbing an ice cube all over the crust of the bread and then baking it in the oven for 12 minutes at 370 degrees F. I tested this with half a French baguette and found it worked really well; the bread was crispy on the outside, but otherwise soft. I would advise checking on the bread every so often while it’s in the oven, though, because mine was ready after 10 minutes. Also, for this method, don’t make the mistake I did of testing it with sliced bread to see what will happen unless you want to end up with toast.

stale food, trick

To revive stale baguettes, rub the crust with an ice cube and bake in the oven for 12 minutes at 370 degrees F. Photo: Kathryn Sukalich, Earth911

The second method for reviving a baguette is to wrap it in foil and bake it in the oven for 5-10 minutes at 450 degrees F. This also worked well, and my bread was ready after five minutes.

Read: Global Campaign Targets Food Waste

Continue Reading: Tricks Using the Microwave

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