I did not have a bagel until I was 7 years old. My home state of Mississippi is more of a biscuit place, but bagels became part of my life when I moved to Los Angeles in 1993, as did Jewish delis. It was an exciting time.
Now I live in Portland, Ore., which is not a bagel town. There are many places that make bagels, but there are only two that are any good — and only one of them is good at any given moment, and I never know which one it is. (I’m not going to name them. I don’t want to fight, and I — selfishly — don’t want to increase the wait time at either establishment.)
When I do order bagels from one of the two passable bagel establishments, I order at least a dozen, because it is rare that I ever want to eat just one bagel. I remove the bagels I plan to eat over the next two days (which is the absolute longest a bagel is “good” for at room temperature and pressure), then slice the rest in half, toss them in freezer bag, and put them in the freezer. Then, if I want a good (toasted) bagel later, all I have to do is take one out of the freezer and toast it.
The bagel that comes out of the toaster is not as good as a fresh bagel from a legit bagel establishment, but it is a whole lot better than a grocery store bagel, or even a fresh bagel from most of the places that make and serve bagels in Portland, Ore. (If you live in a real bagel town, where you can get a good bagel every day without trouble, congratulations! This hack has nothing to do with you.)
You can reheat the bagel in a few different ways. I like to place a frozen bagel (or bagel half) in the basket of my air fryer, then set it to 400℉ and let the bagel heat with the tiny convection oven. By the time the air fryer reaches its target temperature, the bagel is lightly toasted. Give it another minute, and it turns golden brown.
If you don’t have an air fryer, you can use a toaster oven. Fellow Lifehacker writer and bagel freezer Sarah Showfety likes to give hers a head start in the microwave. “A higher setting [in the toaster] can leave them hard in two ways (from being frozen and kinda burnt),” she explained to me over Slack, “So I’d say softening them first in the microwave for like 10 seconds is probable best (quicker than toasting twice as long on a lower setting).”
Once they’re soft, pop ‘em in the toaster until they’re browned to your liking. Smear on the shmear, and layer on the lox or smoked fish. (Portland may not have the best true lox, but our smoked salmon game is pretty tight.)