It’s always a daunting task to clean your refrigerator, especially if you’ve been putting it off (we have all been there). Whether you stay on top of it at the end of every week, or if you wait until the tomatoes in your bottom drawer have virtually liquefied, it’s important to know how to properly store food in your refrigerator after cleaning out all of the expired items, disinfecting shelves and trays, and restocking your fridge. Besides, you shouldn’t even be putting tomatoes in the fridge in the first place, as you’ll see by the end of this two part series. Let the experts at Danby help!
While refrigerators maintain essentially the same temperature throughout the unit, not every kind of food item stays fresh in the same temperature or location. Factors including organic makeup, drawer placement, and temperature all affect how long a particular food item will stay fresh in your fridge.
Here are a handful of useful tips for the next time you go grocery shopping or rearrange your refrigerator.
Refrigerator Temperature—The Basics
Regardless of what kind of refrigerator you have, or how big it is, you should always keep its temperature at 40˚F (4˚C) or below. For freezers, the ideal temperature is 0˚F (-17.7˚C) or below.
It’s important to know where your cooling element is located when considering where to place your food. If certain foods are placed too close to this element—especially produce—the extreme cold will freeze your food and likely spoil it. Refer to the placement of your cooling element before you put foods in your fridge, and decide which foods need to be kept colder for longer.
Produce—Keep Your Fruits and Veggies Happy
Because of the sheer variety of different fruits and vegetables, properly storing them can be a hassle. However, it’s even more of a hassle to find that your lettuce has wilted just a few days after buying it. So, how can we fix this common problem?
The main thing to keep in mind when storing produce is which kinds emit ethylene gas. Fruits such as bananas, avocados, and tomatoes emit ethylene gas, which can cause many vegetables to spoil prematurely. It is best to keep these kinds of fruits out of the fridge altogether, putting them on your counter or in a pantry shelf instead.
To keep vegetables out of harm’s way, dedicate one fridge drawer for produce. These drawers, or “vegetable crispers,” can control how much air is circulating throughout the drawer itself without impacting the temperature of the rest of the fridge.
Also, for the sake of freshness, you should never store tomatoes, onions, potatoes, and squash in your refrigerator. Potatoes, onions, and especially squash all benefit most from a cold, dry place, away from light.
Meat—Stay Out of the “Danger Zone”
Of all food products, meats require the most handling care. All meats, especially chicken, are prone to spoiling very quickly if not cooked as soon as possible or put in the freezer. Cooking spoiled meat (or undercooking fresh meat) can cause serious illnesses like salmonella, and meat that is raw or spoiled can contaminate any container or surface the meat is stored in.
It is crucial to cook all meats within a short time of purchasing—if you do not plan on cooking a meat product within a few days, it must be properly frozen.
If raw meat is so dangerous, then where is the best place to store it? You should store meat in the lowest shelf of your refrigerator—this way, it is kept isolated from produce items so that any juices don’t cross-contaminate them. If possible, dedicate a whole crisper to meats, and do not place anything else in it (especially produce).
If you’ve already used all your drawers, it may be worthwhile to make your own with a small plastic bin. This may even be ideal if you use a lot of meat with cooking, because the bin can be easily removed to clean and sanitize, and you don’t need to worry about contaminating other surfaces. Do not cover the bin with a lid, though—this may speed up the meat’s spoiling.
The bottom line is that you will want to store meat in the most isolated way possible—this usually means storing it in the lowest possible spot of the refrigerator and sealing it tightly with plastic wrap.
Freezing foods is much easier than properly refrigerating foods because you can pack the freezer much tighter than the fridge, and everything freezes at the same temperature. When packing foods, use airtight plastic bags or plastic Tupperware containers so that the freezing air does not directly contact the food. “Freezer burn” is a common freezer problem that affects the overall quality of frozen foods—meat and produce especially.
The Refrigerator Door
The door of your refrigerator is the warmest area of the entire unit because it is opened and closed so often. For this reason, you should never store anything but condiments and other products that can tolerate temperature fluctuations, such as juice.
Many people store their milk, cheese, and eggs in the fridge door, but because of the shifting temperature this is not recommended. Keep in mind that while most condiments are preserved, they do have best before dates, so keep a close eye on expired condiments when cleaning and restocking your refrigerator.
Upper or Lower Shelves?
Generally speaking, the lower shelves are the colder spots of a fridge, so that is where you should place all produce and uncooked meats. Professional cooks often place foods that do not need to be cooked in the top shelves of fridges because this gives them easy access while isolating these items from uncooked meats and produce.
Leftover foods, precooked foods, drinks, sauces, dips, and soups can all be kept in the fridge’s top shelf without excessive stressing over contamination.
The Top of Your Fridge
Refrigerators also expel heat from the machinery that makes them work, even though they are designed for cooling. Your refrigerator’s motor releases warm air that rises to the top of the unit, so it is wise to avoid storing bread, wine, and fruits atop your fridge or you might end up with the unpleasant kind of surprise.
You shouldn’t keep any food products on top of your fridge, but you can opt to store cookbooks and kitchen equipment that you do not use very often in this location. There’s no space to waste in your kitchen, after all!
The Most Important Factor—A Good Refrigerator
Overall, keeping your food fresh starts with buying an energy-efficient and reliable refrigerator. Don’t let the name fool you—Danby’s apartment-sized refrigerators are a perfect fit for any home and kitchen. Danby’s refrigeration units can accommodate any living scenario, ranging from seven to 13 cubic feet. They are all powered by the energy-efficient R600A refrigerant if you are looking to cut down on your utility bills.
Let’s face it: groceries are expensive enough, and they aren’t going to get cheaper anytime soon. So, why throw out your delicious, nourishing food when you can keep it fresh for longer? Properly storing your food is the smart choice for your health, your wallet, and the environment!