Brain Food 101: The Best Way to Store Muffins

A few weeks ago, Kelly sent me an email asking,

“Why is it that when you put freshly baked muffins in an airtight container they get soft and almost mushy/sticky??”

As baked goods begin to stale, the moisture within them migrates to the surface. There’s really no way to keep this from happening, short of loading the muffins with preservatives. Which would defeat much of the purpose of baking from scratch.

If the migrating water has no place to evaporate or absorb, it will remain on the outer crust. Any coarse sugar on top will be dissolved, making the muffin even softer.

This is the main problem with simply placing the muffins in an airtight container. It traps the moisture in, making the muffin tops get soft and sticky.

But you don’t just want to know why it happens, do you? You want to know how to store your muffins so that they don’t dry out or get “mushy.”

I set up six storage systems with two mini muffins each, all from the same batch:

Muffin-Brain-Food-1.jpg
Muffin-Brain-Food-2.jpg

And observed the changes over the course of two days.

Conclusion:

If you’re only trying to hold the muffins until breakfast the next morning, simply cover the muffins on a cooling rack with a clean, dry dish towel. Your muffins will still be full of flavor and moisture (but not too much moisture) the next morning, and the raw sugar sprinkles will still be pretty and crystalline.

If you’re traveling or storing the muffins for any longer than one day, line the bottom of a plastic container with paper towels. Line up your muffins, then top with another layer of paper towels before sealing with the lid. The paper towels will absorb the extra moisture, and your muffins will retain most of their texture and flavor.

Comments

  1. says

    I think I’ve said it before, but these kinds of posts are my favorite! :D Do you think this holds true for moist breads as well, such as banana bread?

    • Julie @savvyeats says

      The same concepts apply! Not sure how the size would affect the rate of staling, but I’d think the same options would be best…

  2. (Savvy) Dan says

    Follow up experiment: What about configurations of small dish towels in sealed containers? (For those times when we don’t have paper towels around for weeks on end, of course.)

  3. says

    Since I’m a nerd, I love all your posts like this. I would have guessed the paper towel tupperware option would have been the best. I just made muffins and the sogginess ensued. I will try this!! See you soon, roomie!

  4. says

    wow that is a neat little science project! i actually make muffins often and freeze all but about two almost immediately. i think freezing and then defrosting overnight or for a short time at room temp makes them good as new.
    loving the new layout.

    • Corinne Fisher says

      Thanks for your info. On freezing the muffins. Never thought of that. Will do so in future. Julie’s ideas on storing are terrific. Thanks to all

  5. says

    I have been thinking about this post since it went up! Your graphics really stuck with me, and I put your method to the test already. But now, I’m wondering what the best way to store EVERYTHING is. Cookies, Cupcakes, etc etc etc!

  6. says

    I also just wanted to say that finding this was terrific! Thanks for doing this fieldwork for us all. The double paper towel trick is how I’ve been storing muffins and breads since I found this…

  7. Barbie says

    We go camping in Canada every year. I have one set of guys who want my banana loaf, while the others prefer muffins. I make ahead and freeze. The muffins always got soggy while the loaf fared better. I’ll try the paper towel trick and see how it goes. Thanks

  8. Jill says

    When you do the paper towels/plastic container method, do you store on the counter (room temp) or do you put the container (with the paper towels and muffins inside) in the refrigerator?

  9. says

    I have a bad habit of cooking very late at night so I have the problem of not wanting to wait until my muffins are completely cool in order to store.

    Your solution of putting them on a wire rack with a dish towel over them until morning is genius. Thank you!!

  10. says

    I just wanted to say thank you for the great tip on storing muffins, because I wanted to make some banana walnut muffins and was trying to figure out how to store them. I also wanted to know how would I go about freezing them should I wrap them individually and store them in the freezer? Or some other way I would much appreciate it if I was told about this thank you.

  11. Carrie Anne, The Salubrious Bunny says

    I heartily appreciate your experiment! As someone who does not purchase disposable items however, I think I’m going to experiment with adding dry rice to the bottom of the container to absorb the extra moisture. I usually make a batch of twelve, leaving eight out and freezing four, since I’m splitting this with my child. In mild weather, I’ve been able to get away with three days sitting out, but apparently since I was rushed to store my last batch of blueberry muffins before they finished cooling fully, the resulting moisture did them in on the last day. I’m about to make a batch of 48 muffins (2 or 4 varieties from the same homemade dry mix – debating still) and they’re definitely all going in the freezer so I have something to pop in the oven on the way out to door to school, and one to my child to last us a while.

  12. Thomas Shaw says

    I happened upon this today and noticed that your table with results is not displayed, at least in Firefox 26. All that’s displayed is [table id=1 /].

    In the meantime, good advice.

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