We are used to putting most foods into the fridge to keep them fresh for as long as possible. But as it turns out, this is not really the right thing to do because not all foods should be stored at low temperatures. This is why many of the foods in our fridges just occupy space on our shelves and end up losing their taste and useful microelements.
- Potatoes. Potato starch turns into sugar in cold temperatures, this is why cold potatoes lose their taste and end up being a bit sweet. In cold temperatures, the water inside potatoes expands and forms crystals that destroy the structure of the fibers. This makes the vegetable soft and not good to eat.
- Garlic and onion rot when there is not enough air circulation and too much humidity.
- Carrots and beetroots start to wither when kept in the fridge and then they also rot.
- Tomatoes kept in the fridge lose all of their taste and become watery.
- Eggplants are very moody vegetables. Too cold — they get watery and lose all of their useful qualities, too warm — they get dry.
- Zucchini turns soft when kept in the fridge and they get covered with mold.
- Cucumbers become soft and porous at lower temperatures. Gardeners know that cucumbers love the warmth and the same goes for storing them. If they get covered with dark and slimy spots — this means that they are rotting.
How to do it right? Vegetables like dry places with good air circulation and they do better when they are far from light exposure. A wooden box is a great place for them. Potatoes, tomatoes, and peppers are better kept separately, also from one another, because they actively produce the ethylene gas that speeds up the ripening of the other fruits and vegetables around them. For onions and garlic, there are other proven methods — hang them in a net or in stockings just like our grandmothers used to do.
- Bananas. This fruit ripens at 59-68°F, so if you bought them when they were still green, don’t keep them in the fridge. Ripe bananas shouldn’t be kept in the fridge either because at lower temperatures, the skin turns dark.
- Peaches, kiwis, apricots, mangos, pomegranates, persimmons. If the fruits are solid, don’t put them in the cold because they won’t ripen there. The fruits themselves are more likely to go bad. And soft fruits, like persimmons will become watery.
- Citrus. All citrus fruits are best kept at a temperature above 32°F. The cold air in the fridge can damage them: the high humidity will make the fruits rot. Also, lemons and limes absorb smells very easily. You could put them in the fridge for a short time in order to slow down the ripening process.
How to do it right? Store them at room temperature. You can put fruit in paper bags: unripe fruit will ripen, and the ripened ones won’t go bad. The most important thing is to make sure there is good air circulation. Bananas, pears, apricots, kiwis, mangos, peaches, and plums produce ethylene, so they should be kept separately.
- Chocolate. The cold is just as bad for chocolate as the heat. At lower temperatures, chocolate gets covered with a white coating which is caused by condensation — some parts of the sugar become crystallized. Also, chocolate quickly absorbs smells, so there is a chance you could eat chocolate that smells like soup.
- Honey. Lower temperatures make it crystallize and become solid — there is no other side effect from cold temperatures. When kept correctly, honey can be stored almost forever.
- Peanut butter. The only thing you will achieve by keeping this in the fridge is that it will be hard to put on bread. By the way, you can read about the rules for storing and the shelf life on the packages.
How to do it right? Honey should be kept in a tightly shut glass jar, in a dark place, at room temperature. Peanut butter is perfect when it is kept in cupboards, unless the package says something else, chocolate should be kept in a cool dark place to prevent it from melting or getting bitter.
Sauces and dressings
- Spicy sauces. Spicy sauces contain more than enough vinegar so that they remain fresh outside the fridge.
- Ketchup. It doesn’t matter where it is kept — inside or outside the fridge. It only takes up room on the shelf. The high levels of vinegar and salt prevent the product from going bad.
- Soy sauces. Some kinds of say the sauces can be stored for 3 years. They contain so much salt that there is no need to keep them in the fridge after opening them.
- Salad dressing. Many dressings that are made of oil and vinegar can be kept without any cold temperatures. The same goes for salads made with olive oil and vinegar.
How to do it right? If the pack doesn’t say otherwise, keep sauces in the cupboard — one that is far from the oven.
- Bread. If you are going to eat bread within several days, don’t put it in the fridge. Cold temperatures change the structure of bread, it loses its taste and the high humidity may cause it to get covered with mold pretty fast.
- Bakery. At low temperatures, condensation makes tasty bakery and pies taste “wet.”
How to do it right? Bakery items should be wrapped in paper bags and kept at room temperature. Pies should be covered with parchment paper and placed in a cool place. And bread should be kept in a bread box made of glass or stainless steel.
Jams and pickles
- Pickles. They are protected from going bad with the preservative used to make them. This works for all similar foods that contain marinade, salt, vinegar, and spices.
- Jam. Given that there was a standard recipe and the jam was correctly sealed in a sterilized jar, you can keep it outside the fridge for up to 2 years and the fridge is not the best place. Storing jam in the cold can stimulate the growth of mold. Every time you open the door of the fridge, the jar is at risk: warm air gets into a crack between the lid and the jar, and there is also condensation which creates the perfect conditions for bacteria.
How to do it right? Don’t keep open jars in the fridge — only keep the ones that have lids you can seal. Marinades and jams can be stored in a cool dark cupboard.
Berries, nuts, dried fruit
- Berries. They are more likely to remain fresh at room temperature. The moisture of the fridge will ruin them. Also, only wash them right before eating them.
- Nuts. On the one hand, low temperatures can help preserve the natural oils in the nuts, on the other — nuts have a tendency to absorb the tastes and flavors of other foods.
- Dried fruit. Storing dried fruit in the fridge will only make it moist, which is the opposite of what you want with them.
How to do it right? If you are planning to use the nuts in the next few days or weeks, it is better to store them in a sealed container inside a cupboard. However, if you want to store them for several months, place them in the freezer. The optimal temperature for dried fruit is from 32°F to 50°F but they should be regularly ventilated and checked for mold. And with berries, there are 2 options: either a dry cool place if you are going to eat them soon, or freezing them if you are not going to eat them until much later.
The fridge is empty. What else?
- Olive oil. The cold makes the oil produce some sediment which makes the oil cloudy. Keep it at room temperature, this way it will remain as it was before, but make sure the place you keep it is dark.
- Eggs. There are no special rules about eggs: they can be stored both inside the fridge and outside, and so can butter — in a dark cool place. The point is to make sure the temperature is stable and consistent. If you decide to put eggs in the fridge, don’t keep them on the side shelf but put them deeper in the fridge to protect them from temperature fluctuations.
- Butter. A high concentration of fat won’t let it go bad very fast. It is perfectly safe to store it in a closed dish in a cool place for a day or 2 — it will be easier to put it on bread that way.
- Salami. Again, this is your choice: you can put it in the fridge or not. Just make sure you wrap it tightly in parchment and put it in a cool place. It can be kept for a month. Of course, if the manufacturer’s package wasn’t already open.
- Watermelons and melons. Before you cut them, there is no need to put them in a cold place. Watermelons kept at room temperature contain way more antioxidants and other nutrients compared to those kept in the fridge.
- Coffee. Moisture is the worst enemy of coffee beans. If you place a jar in the cold refrigerator, condensation will appear, and when this happens the entire cell structure changes, which leads to losing the oil (the oil is responsible for that wonderful coffee smell) and all the coffee magic disappears. Every day that you take the jar out and put it back in, you harm it even more: temperature fluctuations make coffee lose its taste. Coffee should be stored in a sealed container, in a dark place, at room temperature.
The temperature inside the fridge is not equal everywhere. For example, the hottest area in the fridge is the shelves on the door. Some foods are best stored at very specific temperatures, so maybe you should take a look at the recommendations on storing foods in different areas.
Is your fridge also packed with foods that can be kept outside of it? Or do you have your own storage tips?