Donuts are amongst the most commonly enjoyed baked desserts in the West. Eaten at nearly all times of the day and crowned with a variety of toppings and flavors, it is important for businesses to keep donuts as shelf-stable as possible for long periods of time in order to maximize profit1.
Because donuts are often fried in oil and consist of glutinous dough, they are the perfect food source for cultures of fungi to subsist on. Knowing this, it is important to store donuts in the appropriate storage vessel and environment in order to keep them edible for as long as possible. If stored outside of the fridge or freezer, donuts will only last two days, though they will grow stale in a shorter time than this.
Does This Article Apply to All Donuts?
Donuts come in hundreds of shapes and flavors, and are often topped with all sorts of ingredients that may hasten the spoilage of this particular baked good. In order to simplify the information provided by this article, it is being written with the focus of the donut dough itself.
If your donut has other ingredients such as jelly or cream, it is likely that the information in this article will not apply as well as it should, as these extra ingredients have different shelf-lives of their own.
Ideally, the donut that this article is geared towards is the classic ring donut free of sugar glazing or any other additives.
How Long Do Donuts Last at Room Temperature?
As donuts act as the ideal food source for many different cultures of microorganisms, it is important to keep in mind that storing donuts at room temperature will not allow them to keep for a long time at all.
In order to store donuts at room temperature, it is important to discourage these cultures of bacteria and fungi by making the donuts’ storage environment as inhospitable to them as possible.
As warm temperatures and high relative moisture are extremely conductive to the propagation of microorganisms, it is best to store the donuts in a cool and dry corner of your pantry or cupboard. This is doubly as important if you live in a warm and humid climate.
Apart from the spoiling effects of microorganisms, donuts will also quickly lose their soft texture and part of their flavor if left exposed to moving air for too long a period as the sugars begin to oxidize. When storing your donuts, keep them tightly sealed and away from any sources of moving air, such as an electric fan or open window.
Simply wrap the donut in aluminum foil, taking care not to allow any excess air to become trapped within as this will cause the donut to grow stale more quickly.
Store the aluminum-wrapped donut in a resealable plastic pouch and push out any air that may be left within.
Donuts stored in this manner will last up to two days, though they may grow stale within one, depending on how much oxygen they have been exposed to prior to sealing.
Remember that this will only apply to the most basic kind of donuts, and any additives or fillings such as cream or fruit will cause the donuts to spoil even more quickly.
How Long Do Donuts Last in the Fridge?
Choosing to refrigerate your donuts is a far more advisable approach should you wish to keep them shelf-stable for any longer than a couple of days. In order to refrigerate your donuts, you will require much the same equipment that was used in the previous section; a resealable plastic pouch as well as aluminum foil or plastic cling wrap.
Simply wrap the donuts in the aluminum foil or plastic cling wrap in order to insulate it form any air-flow or rapidly changing temperatures. Note that if the donuts are still warm from being freshly baked, it is best to wait until they cool down to room temperature before wrapping them, as water may condensate within the wrapping and hasten the donuts’ spoilage.
After wrapping securely, place the donuts in your resealable plastic bag, pushing out any air that may be left within.
Put the bag of donuts in your fridge as far as possible from the bottom. Ensure that it is also kept far away from any sources of moving air, such as a fan or vent.
Refrigerated, your donuts should last for as long as an entire week with only a minor loss in texture quality.
Can Donuts be Frozen?
Yes, donuts can be frozen should you wish to keep them edible for a much longer period of time than the other methods are capable of offering.
In order to do so, simply allow the donuts to cool to room temperature before wrapping in aluminum foil or plastic cling wrap. Once completely sealed, place the donuts in a freezer bag large enough to contain the donuts.
Leave the freezer bag of donuts in the deepest part of your freezer, making certain that they are positioned in such a way that they will not be accidentally squashed beneath anything else being stored in the freezer.
If frozen shortly after baking, donuts should last up to three months, though re-freezing will significantly shorten this time due to condensation.
Signs of Spoilage in Donuts
As donuts are a bread product, if any yeast or alcohol-like smell begins to emanate from them, this indicates that certain forms of bacteria and fungi have begun to colonize the baked product and that it is no longer safe for consumption. If stored in batches, inspect the other donuts, as it is likely these microbe colonies have spread via spores.
Apart from an olfactory indicator, any off-color patches or fuzzy growths on the surface is also a clear sign that the donut is no longer safe to eat. Dispose of these donuts immediately.
Note that, if improperly stored, donuts will have an altered texture. This is entirely normal, and is simply the effect of oxygen and moisture on the donuts. While still edible, it may be unpleasant to eat them in this form, and it is best to reheat them in an oven or microwave.
1. Wilson, Dede (2012). “A baker’s field guide to doughnuts : more than 60 warm and fresh homemade treats.” Boston, Mass.: Harvard Common Press.