The Expert-Approved Method To Bring Stale Hot Dog Buns Back To Life

Generally speaking, there's no incorrect time to grill up some hot dogs. These are probably the easiest type of meat to cook on a grill, since they're essentially pre-made and there are plenty of open secrets out there for the perfect hot dog bite if you want to take these sausages from bland to bursting with flavor. However, at the end of a long grilling day, you may find yourself with too many hot dogs — or buns. Thankfully, there's no rush to eat all of the leftovers before the buns go stale, because we've learned a great way to bring these buns back to life.

MegaMenu talked to expert Nathan Myhrvold on the topic of stale bread, and he gave many insightful tips. Myhrvold is the founder of Modernist Cuisine, a team of passionate chefs and scientists who research all things food, and he's also the lead author of the "Modernist Cuisine" cookbook series, which includes "Modernist Bread at Home." This book dives deep into homemade bread and offers home bakers plenty of tips and recipes. To bring stale bread back to life — including, for example, your New England-style hot dog rolls – Myhrvold recommends toasting.

The science behind the de-staling process

You may be tempted to steam your hot dog buns to reintroduce moisture, but the expert says toasting them is the better method. According to Nathan Myhrvold, "Staling is mainly a matter of nucleation and crystallization." During nucleation — the first step of crystallization, aka the process of forming solids — starch clusters form. When bread enters the oven, heat and the release of water break down its starches, but over time, these starches recrystallize. This process is what makes bread go stale. Only the extremely low temperatures of a freezer — not the refrigerator — can delay staling, Myhrvold tells MegaMenu.

To give your hot dog buns a semblance of renewed freshness, Myhrvold suggests popping them into an oven heated to about 350 degrees Fahrenheit: "It won't take long for the heat to melt the starch crystals and cause the crumb to soften." He also recommends wrapping each individual bun in foil to prevent burning and suggests you insert a probe thermometer into the middle of a roll to ensure it reaches a core temperature of 177 degrees Fahrenheit. This should only take about 5 minutes. While you could repurpose your stale hot dog buns by making French toast, for example, Myhrvold's de-staling method allows you to reuse them for their intended purpose.

Tips for toasting hot dog buns

Not only can oven-toasting your hot dog buns reverse staling, but it can give them a nice, crispy edge, too. These buns can also be toasted on a pan or grill, but they're typically only reheated on the inner side of the buns to preserve their fluffiness that way. This likely won't be enough heat to fully reverse their starch crystallization, though, so they should still undergo a quick de-staling in the oven (wrapped in tin foil to prevent exterior burning) before hitting the pan or grill for textural toastiness.

Nathan Myhrvold notes that by refreshing the bread in the oven, "the crumb will become moist again," but it will be "less aromatic and nuanced than it was when it was fresh." With this in mind, toasting your hot dog buns on a pan is the perfect way to introduce a bit of butter. Butter not only adds moisture but also rich flavor to the bread.

Myhrvold also notes that in his kitchen tests, the buns retained their fresher qualities for only four hours after they came out of the oven, so reheated hot dog buns should be consumed promptly. The process of refreshing your hot dog buns may require extra effort, but the improved texture and taste are worth the time. Plus, while they're toasting, you have the perfect opportunity to prep your favorite hot dog condiments.