What exactly is “The best thing since sliced bread”?

The idiom is rooted in an early 20th century advertising campaign by the Chillicothe Baking Company. In 1928, this northwestern Missouri bakery was the first to sell sliced bread. Uniform bread slices (about a half-inch thick at the time) made it easier to assemble sandwiches for packed lunches and uniformly toast bread for breakfast.

Eaters were leery at first, thinking sliced bread would go stale quickly in an age before food preservatives were regularly added to commercial loaves. But company marketeers, in a 1933 newspaper advertising campaign, pitched the convenience product as the “The greatest forward step in the baking industry since bread was wrapped.” As more commercial bakeries offered mechanically cut loaves, pitching it as progress, Americans began eating more and more sliced bread. When the federal government banned the sale of sliced bread to help the war effort in 1943, housewives rallied to reverse the measure within 60 days of it being enacted.

The catchphrase moved beyond bread in the early 1950s, when journalist Dorothy Kilgallen, writing in the New York Journal-American in 1951 about British film actor Stewart Granger, quoted her sister as saying the leading man was “the greatest thing since sliced bread!” Comedian Red Skelton further broadened the scope of the phrase when he said in an 1952 interview with the Salisbury Times: “Don’t worry about television. It’s the greatest thing since sliced bread.”

I am writing today to argue that frozen, sliced bread is definitely the greatest thing since sliced bread.

Yes, it certainly is convenient to be able to pull just the right number of slices from the freezer when you need them. Beyond that, freezing bread can also be a good bet for cutting down on your own personal food waste tally. Bread is the most wasted food in America. In fact, food waste experts estimate that 240 million slices are tossed into the bin annually here.


For the softest, squishiest sliced bread (my choice for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches), store it in a bread box at room temperature and eat it within 3 days. Storing it in the fridge dries it out, especially if you’ve purchased bread made locally sans preservatives. If you know you aren’t going to finish a loaf of sliced bread before it starts to go stale, it’s best to throw it all into the freezer when you bring it home from the market. If the loaf is already in a plastic bag, you don’t need to double wrap it. If it came home with you whole in a paper bag, slice the loaf, place the slices back into the paper bag and place the bag in an airtight container before putting it into the freezer. Sliced bread will keep for up to six months there, but it’s best to consume it within two months.

Toast or grill frozen slices of bread directly from the freezer as thawing them at room temperature will typically either dry them out or make them soggy, the latter if ice crystals have formed on the bread in the freezer. Heating the bread, from a chemistry point of view, re-gelatinizes the starches, making the texture springy, almost as if it were fresh. And if you’re using frozen sliced bread to make grilled cheese sandwiches, the crunch factor that results from the process will make you famous among your family members.

A Maine Mushroom Melt in progress: Top the grated cheese (from Fuzzy Udder in Whitefield) with the sautéed mushroom mixture before closing up the sandwich and flipping it. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Maine Mushroom Melt

This recipe makes enough garlicky mushroom mixture for four sandwiches. But just as you can easily freeze sliced bread, you can also freeze the filling –  in 1/2 cup portions – so that you a simple but spectacular meal is at your fingertips. If you’ve run out of frozen sliced bread, the mushrooms are also great on a pizza or in an omelet.

Makes 2 sandwiches (with leftover mushrooms)

1 ½ tablespoons olive oil
1 ½ tablespoons butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
12 ounces mixed Maine mushrooms, chopped
1 teaspoon white miso
1 teaspoon soy sauce
Pinch of red chili pepper flakes
1 cup chopped fresh spinach
2 tablespoons chopped parsley


1 tablespoon softened butter
4 slices frozen whole wheat bread
1/2 cup shredded alpine cheese

To make the mushrooms, add the olive oil and butter to a large skillet and place the pan over medium heat. Once the butter is melted, add the garlic, and cook for 30 seconds. Add the mushrooms, stir to coat them in the fat, and cook them undisturbed for 5 minutes. Stir and cook until the mushrooms have browned, about 5 minutes more. Add the miso, soy sauce and chili flakes. Stir well and cook for 1 minute more. Remove from the heat. Stir in the spinach and parsley and transfer the mixture to a bowl.

To make the melts, place the skillet back on the stove over medium heat. Slather 2 pieces of bread on one side with butter and place them, buttered side down, in the pan. Divide the shredded cheese between the 2 slices of bread. Place a generous 1/2 cup of the mushroom spinach mixture on top of the cheese on each slice. Slather the remaining 2 pieces of frozen bread with butter and place 1, buttered side up onto top of each sandwich.

Grill the sandwich until the bottom slices of bread are golden brown and crispy, 3-4 minutes. Use a spatula to flip the sandwiches over. Grill them until the second piece of bread is golden brown and crispy. Remove from heat, slice in half, and serve.

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