10 Surprising Foods You Should – and Shouldn’t – Refrigerate

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Having fresh food in the house is one of life’s great joys, and because you want it to last as long as possible, you might be inclined to refrigerate it all in the fridge. Keeping food cold is indeed the key to keeping some foods fresh and helping them last, thereby saving you money and time. Fridges are, as you know, one of the great inventions of the modern age!

Your fridge is always filled to overflowing, right? So packed, in fact, you might have trouble seeing everything in there. But some foods don’t actually belong in the fridge; even foods you might automatically assume must be kept cool. Of course, you should refrigerate anything fresh and/or organic (like lettuce) immediately, but there are some items you may be surprised to learn don’t need to be kept cold. In fact, some foods, and a few vegetables (like onions) and even several fruits (like avocados) taste terrible and spoil if you put them in the fridge. That’s true for cooking oils as well — keep them as far away from the fridge as possible!

Before you get upset and start imagining you’ve been storing food incorrectly all these years, check out our list here of what needs refrigeration and, just as importantly, what doesn’t.


1) Egg


Eggs should be stored at a temperature below 20 degrees C, say the experts at the British Egg Information Service (BEIS).

Your kitchen is probably more than 20 degrees C, particularly during the summer. That’s why the BEIS suggests that you store your eggs in the fridge, in the carton, pointy side down. Don’t put them on the door, even though many fridges have “egg slots” built into them. The temperature fluctuates wildly when you open and close the door, and for your eggs to stay fresh, they should stay at a consistent temperature. So you should refrigerate your eggs inside the fridge, preferably tucked away at the back, for optimal freshness.


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2) Cheese & Butter


Many fridges come with a “meat & cheese” drawer, so it’s a ‘no brainer’ — that’s where the cheese belongs! Keep it for approximately two weeks in that drawer; letting cheese hang around for much longer means it will get stale. Store cheese close to the bottom of the fridge, if possible, so it doesn’t dry out. Set the fridge’s temperature between 35 and 45 degrees F (2 to 7 degrees C), which is optimal for keeping cheeses fresh. And remember: before serving cheese to guests, take it out of the fridge for about 20 minutes to soften and warm up. That’s how you get the full flavors from every cheese on the market!

According to food specialist Harold McGee, keeping butter at room temperature in a cupboard or pantry won’t do any harm to the flavor. That’s because butter has little water, so it won’t spoil easily or quickly. However, in the summer, if your kitchen reaches or surpasses 70 degrees F for days on end, you should refrigerate the butter into the fridge. Otherwise, only store the remaining brick in the fridge, and keep a stick of it on hand so it’s soft and easy to spread on your morning toast.


3) Honey


This “gift from the bees” should be kept in an airtight jar or other containers, and it can last for weeks — even years or decades if it’s stored correctly. But never toss your honey into the fridge! Doing so causes it to crystallize, and all the wonderful nutrients may diminish, to say nothing of the flavor. It won’t taste good — it develops a sand-like consistency and tastes just awful!

Keeping honey at room temperature is the ideal way to keep this sweet treat soft and runny. Pour some into a sealed jar, store it in the pantry or in a cupboard — anywhere dark. But if someone does accidentally refrigerate it, all is not lost! Place the jar in a bowl of hot water, and poof! The crystals dissolve.


4) Coffee Beans


A sure-fire way to spoil your morning brew is by letting light, heat, moisture, and air get at the beans before you grind them. According to the National Coffee Association in America, storing beans in an airtight jar at room temperature is the best way to ensure the flavor lasts. For heaven’s sake don’t put them in the fridge or – even worse – the freezer! That’s a guaranteed way to ruin the robust flavor of fresh beans. Store them instead in the pantry, where it’s dark and cool.

There are circumstances under which you can refrigerate a bulk supply of beans, but not for more than two weeks, tops. The only store beans this way if you’ve bought in bulk and have no other option, but remember: 14 days only, or they will taste stale and dull. We suggest buying only enough beans for a few days or one week at a time, to be sure they taste their best.


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5) Spices


Nothing makes food taste better than fresh, delicious spices, right? Using spices takes most recipes from ordinary to yummy, and if you store them correctly they can last quite a while. Keeping them in a cool, dry cupboard is ideal, and extra amounts can be refrigerated or even frozen for as long as three years — if they are wrapped properly. If you only have a little on hand, let’s say sage, for example, don’t refrigerate it, where moisture can get at it. Using spices fairly quickly after you’ve bought them is the best way to ensure they’re fresh, so buy them in small batches, rather than bulk.


6) Olive Oil


People in the know, chefs and foodies and other experts, suggest keeping olive oil somewhere dark and cool. The fridge? Preferably not.

These folks say olive oil keeps best at 57 degrees F, a spot akin to the chill of a wine cellar. But how many of you have one? That’s what we thought — we don’t either! So, what to do? Keep it in your pantry if your kitchen is usually around 70 degrees F. If it’s a lot hotter than that some days, you can refrigerate it for a short while, but get it out as soon as the heat passes.

And again, it’s important that it not linger on your shelf for months on end, so buy it (bottles preferably, please) in small amounts and use it up fairly quickly. Finally — be sure that the cap is tight when you put it back!


7) Vinegar


Vinegar is acidic, so it takes care of its own preservation — no refrigeration required! According to the Vinegar Institute, you can store a bottle of vinegar on a shelf for a year or more, and the flavor won’t deteriorate.

However, if you want to be sure your vinegar doesn’t turn cloudy, take celebrity chef Rachel Ray’s advice: once it’s open, refrigerate it in the back of the fridge. You don’t have to, but you might want to, as it preserves the vinegar’s clarity. Ray also says the taste stays “crisp,” and who are we to argue?


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8) Condiments (Mustard, Jam, Ketchup, & More)


If you want these flavourful “add ons” to last, storing them correctly is vital. You may be surprised to learn that ketchup and mustard don’t need to be kept cold — they’ve already got preservatives in them, salt and sugar, that take care of that! But you should use them up within one month; otherwise, it’s the fridge for these goodies. If you prefer how they taste cold, by all means, refrigerate them right away, but it’s not absolutely necessary if you use them up fairly. The same goes for condiments like barbecue sauce and hoisin sauce.

So…in the pantry for a month if you’ll use these items up; if they might last eight months or even a year, line them up in the fridge and pull them out as you need them.


9) Onion & Garlic


If you’ve brought home a less-than-stellar batch of onions — let’s say they’re bruised or otherwise imperfect — set those apart so you use them first. Then store your onions and garlic separately in very dry, very clean woven fabric bags and place these in a dry, wooden box or pail or bin. The key here is not so much what you store them in, it’s that the containers are bone dry and clean.

Too many people toss their onions into the “produce crisper” drawer of their refrigerators — big mistake! Fridges have moisture, right? That gets into the onions and accelerates their rotting. It’s best to keep them somewhere cool and dark — a cupboard or pantry — which ensures they last for several months. The same goes for your garlic; keep it somewhere dark and cool, in a dry box or bin. It lasts for ages that way, and the taste stays fresh!


10) Bread


According to experts, putting bread in the fridge is a big no-no, because it has water in it that begins shifting once the bread gets cold. That changes the texture, and therefore the taste. Always keep freshly baked or bought bread on your counter, making sure it’s well wrapped in plastic. Eat it up within two or three days, tops, for maximum freshness and flavor. Under no circumstances should you put it in the fridge!

But, (you knew a ‘but’ was coming, right?) you can store bread in your freezer, under certain conditions. Let’s say there was a great sale on at your local bakery, and you couldn’t pass up the bargain on a dozen loaves. How to store it? As long as your freezer drops below -18 C, you can wrap those loaves tightly in plastic and they’ll keep for a month or so. Pull one out at a time, let it thaw on the counter, and enjoy fresh toast tomorrow morning!


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We hope these guidelines help you learn how to keep some of your favorite foods fresh and tasty. Food isn’t cheap these days, and we all want it to last as long as it possibly can, right? Following these tips will help it do just that, while also helping you stretch your budget and having what you need on hand when the family asks: “What’s for supper?!”

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