A fridge isn’t just a box that keeps things cool. It’s a high-tech device that uses intelligent controls to ensure that the humidity levels, light, and temperature stay at an optimal level for storing food. By learning to store foods in the proper areas of the fridge, it’s possible to preserve the nutrients and ensure that foods don’t go bad. It’s also important to store foods properly to reduce the risk of contamination between leftovers. Odors are only part of the problem; there is also a risk that mold and mildew will spread if foods aren’t stored properly. Keeping foods at an optimal temperature of below 40 degrees Fahrenheit can inhibit the growth of bacteria and can help your food to stay safer for longer periods of time.
One of the biggest mistakes people make is stuffing the fridge too full. When foods block the flow of air, it makes the fridge work harder and leaves certain areas of the fridge warmer than others. By taking a proactive approach to placing foods in the fridge in an intelligent way, it’s possible to keep good airflow and maintain an even temperature. Don’t place foods against the back or sides of the fridge, and aim to keep all of the food separated by about half an inch. This ensures that air can flow between the spaces in the fridge, and foods will be less likely to become rancid.
The refrigerator should also be cleaned as it gets dirty, but a full cleaning of the sides of the fridge once every three months is recommended. To do this, take all of the trays out of the refrigerator and clean them with hot, soapy water. It’s also a good idea to use a solution of diluted bleach to adequately kill bacteria. A good ratio is about one tablespoon of bleach for every gallon of water. Because many shelves have double-walled glass, it’s important to avoid soaking shelves. If water gets in between the glass, it can cause a situation that allows mold and mildew to thrive.
Placing a food thermometer in the fridge can ensure the right temperature is maintained, while also acting as a check against any digital readout provided by the fridge itself. Place it on the second shelf from the top to ensure that the readout is accurate. Should the temperature start to rise, lower the temperature on the fridge or get the refrigerator checked by a technician.
Finally, keep the refrigerator smelling fresh with an open box of baking soda on the second or third shelf. Write the date on the box, and replace it every one to three months.
Main Compartment: The main compartment is where the bulk of the food is stored, and there are typically several shelves as well.There are several compartments in the typical refrigerator. Understanding how each compartment regulates temperature can make it easier to find the right place for each kind of food.
On the lower shelves, store raw meat, dairy, and eggs because the temperature tends to be coldest in this area of the fridge. If the fridge has a dedicated drawer for these items, it’s best to store them there. This is because these drawers help to maintain a consistent temperature.
Leftovers, prepared meals, and drinks can be placed on the top shelves. Herbs can also go on the top shelves as they are typically used more often than some other items. The upper shelves also tend to have the most consistent temperature. This is good for preventing those foods that spoil easily from going bad.
Doors: Some modern refrigerators have a door to access frequently retrieved foods in a pullout drawer that is available without opening the main door. This area is best for foods that are best enjoyed cold. Non-perishable items like drinks, some condiments, water, and other items that don’t easily spoil should be placed here. Don’t store perishable foods like milk here because the temperature is often unstable. This is also true of the shelving on the inside of the fridge doors. These shelves don’t maintain a consistent temperature and are often warmer than the rest of the fridge.
Sealed Drawers: In general, this is where all of the fruits and vegetables should get stored. Avoid mixing meat with your fruits and vegetables. Storing these foods together can create an increased risk of cross-contamination.
Top: People often store items on top of their fridge. Make sure you never place wine here, as it will ruin the wine. Also, don’t place bread on top of the fridge. The heat from the fridge can cause it to spoil more quickly. It’s perfectly fine to place appliances, cookbooks and non-food items on top. Don’t even put coffee here, as that will spoil the coffee. While on the subject of coffee, it’s important to point out that freezing or refrigerating coffee does not make it last longer. It only dries out the beans and destroys the oils that give coffee its fresh taste.
Cooking and Re-heating
Cook whole cuts of beef, pork, lamb, and veal to at least 145 degrees Fahrenheit.It bears mentioning that it’s not possible to make unsafe meat safe to eat. This means that it’s important to only reheat food once. Always place any uneaten portions in the refrigerator right away. When food is cooked to the right temperature it kills the bacteria and potential pathogens.
- Ground beef, pork, lamb, and veal should reach a temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
- All poultry should be cooked to at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
Meat, Fish and Poultry
Raw meat doesn’t keep forever. If meat isn’t used within a few days, it should be placed in a freezer bags with as much air removed from the bag as possible. Then, place the bags in the freezer for use at a later time. Provided the temperature of the refrigerator stays below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, the meat in the fridge should keep for a while. However, it won’t protect the food from contamination forever.Raw meat, fish, and poultry provide some of the greatest hazards to one’s health in the refrigerator. Place these items in sealable containers or place a plate underneath them to ensure that any juices don’t escape. Don’t unwrap food that has already been wrapped at the store until its ready to be used. Re-wrapping food that isn’t yet ready for cooking just exposes it to potential bacteria and can make it unsafe to eat when it does come time to be cooked. Place these foods near the bottom of the refrigerator since it’s the coolest and darkest portion of most units.
- Raw ground meats, all poultry, seafood, and other meats can keep for up to two days.
- Raw roasts, steaks, and chops can keep up to five days.
- Cooked meat, poultry, and seafood keep for up to four days.
Using a vacuum-sealed bag doesn’t prolong the life of the meat in the refrigerator. Bacteria already exists in meat, poultry and fish, and sealing the bacteria in does nothing to prevent it from growing. It can prevent the introduction of new bacteria, but it’s important to still follow the spoilage schedule to prevent an unsafe condition. Write the date that the food was acquired on the bag to ensure that it’s thrown away when too old.
To thaw a turkey or other meat product from a frozen state in the fridge, follow the guideline of letting it thaw for 24 hours for every four to five pounds. This means that a pound of meat should be thawed for about four hours before it’s ready to be cooked. Once the food thaws, it can be treated as fresh food and may be kept in the fridge using the schedule for raw meats.
Lauren Thomann expert