Crispy and Crunchy Again
How to Make Stale Cereal Crisp
Breakfast cereal, especially the cold cereal variety, can be difficult to store and keep fresh. According to the Purdue University Department of Foods and Nutrition, ready-to-eat cereal can stay fresh for 6 - 12 months unopened. If the package liner is refolded tightly after each use, the opened cereal can stay fresh for 2 - 3 months. If the liner is not properly refolded, the cereal will stay fresh and crunchy for less than a week.
Wouldn't it be nice if everyone in the family always carefully and tightly folded the package liner every time they got a bowl of cereal?
A few days ago, as I was rearranging boxes of cereal and crackers in a kitchen cabinet, I pulled out a box of cereal that had gotten hidden in the back of the shelf. It was a little less than half full. I thought it should still be good, since it was a moderately recent purchase. When I tasted a bit of it, though, I found that it had lost the new-box-of-cereal crispiness. Now that it was slightly stale, I knew that it would not get eaten. Yet I hated to throw it out.
While I could have used the cereal to bake cookies, I decided to see if I could make it crisp and fresh again. It was worth the experiment to see if I could save money on breakfast cereal. The process was simple, quick, and easy.
Since I was already heating up the oven for cooking, I used the oven method of refreshing and re-crisping stale cereal.
First, preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
After the oven reaches 425 degrees, spread the cereal in a single layer on a cookie pan. It is important to be sure that the cereal is spread thinly on the pan. If the cereal is too deep on the pan, the underlayer of cereal will not crispen properly. If you have a lot of cereal to re-crisp, you may need to use two or more cookie sheets or pans.
Put the cereal in the oven and set the timer for 5 minutes.
After about 2-3 minutes, open the oven and gently shake the cookie pan to slightly rearrange the cereal. If you are using a pan without edges, do not shake the pan.
At this time, also check to make sure that the cereal is not browning in any way.
Keep watch on the cereal, watching for any sign that the cereal is starting to overheat or is turning brown from overcooking. Be especially alert for the smell of overheating cereal.
At 5 minutes, remove the cereal from the oven and set it out, still in the pan, to cool. Remember that the pan is very hot, so do not set it directly on your counter, sink, or table.
(At this point, as soon as the cereal cooled a bit, I tasted a bit of the cereal and it was as crispy as new. If it had still been stale, I would have returned it to the oven for another 1 - 3 minutes, while closely monitoring it visually and by smell for signs of overheating.)
The cereal now needs to completely cool. Neither the pan nor the cereal should have any warmth to the touch when it is completely cool. This took less than 30 minutes for my cereal.
Once completely cool, the cereal should be transferred to a storage container. If possible, use a pancake turner or large spoon so that you do not touch the cereal with your hands.
Put the cereal in a container with a good seal. This could be a lidded container or zipper plastic bag. I used a Lock and Lock plastic storage container
The newly fresh cereal should remain crisp for weeks if kept tightly sealed after each use.
The cereal shown in the steps above was Post Fruity Pebbles. It was mildly stale and just a few weeks old when recrisped. Five (5) minutes at 425 degrees was perfect for recrisping.
I also tested the steps with General Mills Lucky Charms cereal.
The Lucky Charms, which was also mildly stale and had been open for just a few weeks, started to overbrown within about 3 minutes. Another sign that the cereal was beginning to overcook was that the cereal bits looked a little "sweaty" and had the scent of overcooking. I immediately took out the pan and let the cereal cool. To my delight, these turned out excellent, also. Even the marshmallow bits were crisp as new. This was a relief, since the marshmallows are my favorite part!
So, for Lucky Charms, start expecting the cereal to be done at about two and one half (2-1/2) minutes at 425 degrees. Note that I had fewer Lucky Charms cereal on the cookie sheet, which could also have contributed to the cereal taking only 3 minutes to crispen.
Cost to heat the oven to 425 for 5 minutes: Estimated at less than $ .10 to $.20 (ten to twenty cents). *
For maximum savings, try this when you are already preheating the oven for another dish. If you already have the oven heated, then this method will cost just pennies.
Average cost of a 15- 20 oz box of ready to eat cereal - $3.00 to $4.00, depending on size, brand and before any coupons or special sale prices. Recrisping one third of the box would save $1.00 to $1.33.
Net savings to recrisp 1/3 of a box of cereal: $.80 to $1.23, depending on the cost of energy. Not bad for such a quick and easy process. That's The Fat Dollar way!
*This assumes a 15 minute pre-heating and 5 minutes of heating. I've estimated this because the energy charts that I found are based on an average of 350 degrees and estimate the usage cost at $.07(gas) to $.16 (electric) per hour. (See Consumer Energy link below.)
Consumer Energy Center http://www.consumerenergycenter.org/home/appliances/ranges.html
Article by Patti Tokar Canton
© 2011-2017 All Rights Reserved. Do Not Duplicate Without Permission
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