How to Store Snacks, Baked Goods, and Crackers

Pick up a box of crackers, and you’ll notice a trend: almost every cracker has holes in it. Those holes are often in an aesthetically pleasing pattern, but are they only there for appearance-based reasons?

Saltines, Ritz crackers, and even water crackers are full of holes. They’re delicious as-is, but is there a reason the bakers behind our favorite crackers keep poking holes in them? Is there a solid argument for this “holes in crackers” phenomenon, or would that premise be full of holes, too? It turns out, there’s a reason for the holes in all of those crackers, and it’s a pretty good — albeit surprising — one.

No, bakers aren’t trying to cheat you out of a few extra bites of your favorite crackers. It all has to do with an essential part of the cracker-manufacturing process. Although they look pretty, the holes serve a far more important purpose — they help the crackers bake properly.

Why do crackers have holes in them?

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Cracker dough is typically made in such a way that the liquid ingredients weigh more than the others. Due to the amount of liquid in the dough, cracker dough has a tendency to steam as it bakes. There’s just one problem: The steam needs to go somewhere instead of staying packed in the cracker. That’s why so many crackers have holes poked into them prior to baking.

Unlike many other baked goods, crackers shouldn’t rise, so that steam needs a “release valve” to keep the cracker flat. And those small holes are the perfect solution.

And the number of holes? That’s not random. The number of holes poked — or “docked” — into each cracker depends on the cracker’s size, with larger crackers needing more docking than smaller ones. It’s all part of the process of making the best-tasting crackers possible. Who would have thought?

Which crackers have the most holes?

You may not have examined all of the crackers you buy closely enough to look at how many holes they have. But now, you may feel tempted to. While some snack crackers, such as Cheez-Its, have just one hole, others can have significantly more. But which type of cracker has the most holes?

There’s no “typical” number of holes in a cracker because of how diverse crackers can be in size. Ritz crackers have a signature seven-hole pattern, but they’re far from being the cracker with the most holes. Town House crackers are slightly ahead of Ritz in the “docking game,” with 10 holes per cracker. Saltine crackers are even more complex — they traditionally have 13 holes, though some have been manufactured with 16 holes. Club crackers are near the top of the list, with 18 holes.

And graham crackers, if taken as a full sheet, are bigger than many of their cracker counterparts and can have high hole counts, too. Crackers have holes to prevent rising and stay crispy. The next time you eat a cracker, remember that without the holes, the crackers wouldn’t have the texture you love.

How to Store Snacks, Baked Goods, and Crackers

Wonder if that homemade piecrust in the back of the freezer is still good? Review our food storage guidelines and find out. (The answer is probably “No.”)

Photo: Jamie Chung

We consulted the USDA, food scientists, food manufacturers, and other experts to establish these storage guidelines. The first consideration was safety but, for optimum freshness, we chose a conservative storage time.

  • Refrigerate dairy-based cakes and pies (such as cheesecake and lemon cream pie) and cookies with uncooked dairy fillings (like whipped cream or cream cheese).
  • Keep bakery-style breads and baguettes in their original packaging (an airtight bag turns crusts soggy) and, if freezing, transfer to a resealable freezer bag.
  • Pantry – 2 days
  • Freezer – 3 months
  • Pantry – 1 day
  • Freezer – 3 weeks
  • Pantry – 2 weeks
  • Freezer – 6 months

Biscuit Dough, store-bought in a can

  • Refrigerator – Until use-by date.
  • Freezer – Do not freeze.

Bread, bakery loaf

  • Pantry – 2 days
  • Freezer – 3 weeks

Bread, sandwich loaf

  • Pantry – 4 days
  • Refrigerator – 2 weeks
  • Freezer – 3 months

Brownies – bakery, homemade, and supermarket

  • Pantry – 5 days (bakery and homemade) or 2 weeks (supermarket)
  • Refrigerator – 1 month
  • Freezer – 3 months

Cakes – bakery, homemade, and supermarket

  • Pantry – 2 days (bakery and homemade angel and sponge), 3 days (bakery and homemade pound, chocolate, and yellow), or 4 days (supermarket)
  • Refrigerator – 1 week
  • Freezer – 3 months (When possible, freeze cake unfrosted.)

Cookie Dough – homemade and store-bought

  • Refrigerator – 5 days (homemade) or until use-by date (store-bought)
  • Freezer – 2 months (store-bought) or 3 months (homemade)

Cookies – bakery, homemade, and supermarket

  • Pantry – 1 week (bakery and homemade), 1 month (supermarket, opened), or 2 months (supermarket, unopened)
  • Refrigerator – 2 weeks (bakery and homemade)
  • Freezer – 3 months (bakery and homemade) or 6 months (supermarket)
  • Pantry – 5 days
  • Refrigerator – 2 weeks
  • Freezer – 3 months
  • Pantry – 3 days
  • Refrigerator – 1 week
  • Freezer – 2 months

Piecrusts – homemade and store-bought (refrigerated and frozen)

  • Refrigerator – 3 days (homemade) or until use-by date (store-bought)
  • Freezer – 2 months (store-bought) or 3 months (homemade)

Pies – fruit and dairy (such as Key lime pie, banana cream pie, or cheesecake)

  • Pantry – 2 days (fruit only).
  • Refrigerator – 4 days (dairy) or 1 week (fruit).
  • Freezer – Do not freeze.
  • Pantry – 5 days
  • Refrigerator – 1 week
  • Freezer – 3 months

Tortillas – refrigerated and shelf-stable

  • Pantry – 1 week (shelf-stable only)
  • Refrigerator – 1 week (refrigerated) or 2 weeks (shelf-stable)
  • Freezer – 3 months

Crackers and Snacks

Any crackers or snack foods that don’t disappear in a couple days will stay fresh longer in an airtight container or bag. Recommendations here are for pantry storage only.

  • Opened – 2 weeks
  • Unopened – 3 months
  • Opened – 1 week
  • Unopened – 3 months

There’s nothing worse than eyeing a delicious-looking muffin or cookie with a “just-baked” promise only to find out the sweet treat isn’t as fresh as you’d like it to be upon the first bite. Dried-out, crumbly pieces are no one’s favorite, and bakers often struggle with ways to keep their products fresh and tasty once they’ve whipped up the perfect treat.

Once an item is removed from the safety of its little oven cocoon, the baked good immediately enters a race against time. Starch molecules begin to stiffen and water molecules are released, a process called starch retrogradation (via Kitchn). Cookies, cakes, muffins, and sweet loaves contain ingredients like sugar and eggs that can help to maintain moisture and, in the case of fattier ingredients, even guard the starch molecules against retrogradation. As a result, these kinds of baked goods will take longer to go stale than unsweetened breads or crackers — but even those helpful ingredients can only preserve the treat for so long.

On the other hand, once you’ve decorated your goodies, or if you prefer cookies on the crispy side, Southern Living explains too much moisture in the environment can ruin your favorite dessert. Luckily, we’ve found a couple of unexpected solutions that might cure those baking blues and lead to the freshest, most enduring baked goods yet — however you prefer them.

Maintaining freshness with a food-safe tool

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It’s best to let your goods cool completely before you think about storage, which also gives you a chance to sample your goodies with a taste or two. Once they’ve fully cooled, Southern Living says storing baked goods in an air-tight container or sealed freezer bag is key if you want to hold in moisture and protect the treats from the air exposure that leads to dryness. However, if you’re a fan of crisp confections, such a container can actually trap moisture inside, ruining the texture you crave. While you can always leave your bag or container slightly open, this is also an easy way to attract bugs. Luckily, there is a fairly simple alternative if you plan ahead.

If you’ve whipped up a crunchy batch of cookies or crafted ornate decorations with stiff frosting, The Washington Post suggests storing your baked goods with a small packet of food-safe silica gel. These packets can be ordered online or, if you’re feeling resourceful, found in food items you might purchase anyway, like rice or beef jerky. The gel is really helpful in controlling moisture; just make sure you pick up the food-safe variety.

Try apple slices for added moisture

Sometimes you want to add or maintain moisture, not just control it, in order to keep your food soft and avoid a crumbling-to-pieces snack that makes you reach for a glass of water just to get it down. We’ve gotten to the “core” of the issue and found another unique way to combat the crumble. How, you ask?

“An apple a day.” Sure, we’ve all heard the age-old saying over and over again. An apple a day may in fact keep the doctor away, but did you know just half an apple might be the secret to keeping your fresh baked goods softer and fresher?

If you’re looking to really maintain moisture, an unexpected yet helpful tip is to slice your apple down the middle and include it in your air-tight container. The moisture from the apple will keep the baked goods hydrated as well, according to PureWow. This approach can help maintain that perfect, chewy texture for approximately two to three days. It’s also a great way to use up leftover apples that might have gone rotten otherwise. What’s not to love about a nifty baking tip that reduces food waste, too?

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