‘You are what you eat’ we’ve all heard how important the food we consume is, but do we ever wonder if we are storing our food properly? In fact we’ve talked about kitchen-related topics quite a lot, from maximizing the kitchen space and kitchen essentials to the reusable food containers we can’t live without. However, when storing food comes to question, it’s out of extreme importance to keep the food safe so that it’s still safe to eat.
If you are not sure where to store your food, we have you covered with a short and practical guide to proper food storage. The most important part of treating ingredients properly is knowing the best places to store them and for how long. So let’s find out what goes where!
It’s no surprise that food goes bad because of the bacteria from ingredients that have been incorrectly stored, prepared or cooked. In worst cases, it may even lead to food poisoning. Sometimes, the food contaminated with food-poisoning bacteria may smell, look and even taste normal. So, if we don’t store food properly, the bacteria in it can multiply to threatening levels.
It’s important to know that this kind of bacteria grow and spread the fastest in the temperature ‘danger’ zone between 5 °C and 60 °C. So it’s crucial to keep some types of food out of this temperature range.
In or out of the fridge? On the inside of the door or on a shelf? Many people tend to leave the eggs out of the fridge, but this is not recommended. It’s not a good idea to put your eggs on the inside of the door of your fridge, either. So, even though some refrigerators come with a special place for eggs on the inside of their door, don’t give in. Eggs should be kept in their cartons on a shelf in the fridge. This is because they should keep a consistent and cool temperature.
Milk, cream, yogurt, cheese and other dairy products should be stored in the upper part of your refrigerator. That way they will last longer, as the temperature on the upper shelves is the most constant.
It’s important to point out that before you store cheese, you should do ‘a face clean’, i.e. scrape the surface to remove any excess oil that may be on it as a result of room temperature.
With the exception of bananas, melons and citrus, fruit should be kept in the fridge in a separate drawer from vegetables. If you want to extend its life, do not wash fruit until you are ready to eat it because the excess water causes faster decomposition.
Tip: You may know that whole lemons are best if they are left out on the kitchen counter. However, the lemons that have been only zested, and not juiced, should be stored in the refrigerator.
All vegetables, except a few types which we will talk about later, are best stored in your fridge’s crisper drawer. To make them last longer, keep them in perforated plastic bags separated from one another. If you want to make sure your vegetables don’t decompose fast, keep them away from fruits that produce ethylene, such as apples, stone fruits, pears, kiwis, mangoes and passion fruit.
Definitely best when stored in the cold bottom of the fridge. Be aware that you should try to use the refrigerated meat within 4 days of purchase. If you need more time, put it in the freezer and unfreeze the night before cooking.
Fish, on the other hand can last up to two days when kept in the bottom shelf. However, make sure you check its smell before you cook it, and if it smells too fishy or has a weird colour, throw it out.
Tip: Before storing, dry the fish completely and wrap it in waxed paper, plastic wrap or aluminium foil.
Pies which contain eggs should be stored in the refrigerator, usually on the middle shelves.
Leafy, water-based herbs like cilantro, parsley or basil should be put into a tall glass of water, and covered loosely with a plastic bag. This way they will stay fresh for at least a week. Thyme, rosemary and other oil-based herbs can be wrapped in a slightly wet paper towel and layered into silicone bags.
Mushrooms which are bought at a grocery store should be left in their original packaging. Once opened, it’s best if you wrap the entire package in plastic wrap. Wild mushrooms should be stored in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator, in a paper bag.
If hermetically sealed, tinned products can be kept at room temperature for a year or longer. However, once opened, the contents of the tin should be refrigerated. The length of time that an opened container lasts depends on the type of food. Always check the label of canned goods, as it often tells how long the contents will last after opening.
Ingredients such as ketchup, salsa, jam, pesto and many others are often fine at room temperature as long as they are unopened. Make sure you check the label to see if the product should be refrigerated after you open it.
Bread should be kept at room temperature instead of the refrigerator. Many kinds of soft bread can get mouldy after approximately a week, and some last longer. However, you can freeze it if you don’t eat a lot of it. Hard bread should be stored in a dry place, and you won’t have to worry about it since due to its low moisture content, it can have a long life. Depending on preference, you can opt to keep it in a bread box or a reusable bread bag.
Whole cakes can last for a week or so when kept in proper containers. Cut cakes, though, last shorter, around three or four days. You can keep fruit pies on the counter for up to two days, depending on the temperature, but after this it is advisable to move them to the refrigerator.
Only certain types of fruits and vegetables are room temperature-friendly and can be kept outside the fridge. Tomatoes, potatoes and winter squash, although it’s hard to believe, these should be kept in a cool dry place (not the fridge) and can make great decorations to your kitchen.
Garlic, shallots and onions can be kept in a cool, dry place for up to one and a half or two weeks. They will lose some of their flavor and will turn mealy if stored in the fridge.
Bananas, melons and citrus serve their best when being left on the counter. However, once you cut them, their place is in the fridge because otherwise they will quickly begin to dry out.
The pantry is the only place where spices and nuts should be stored, because the heat, air, light and humidity are their worst enemies. They can be stored in various types of containers, but airtight tins or small spice jars are the most practical type of storage for them.
Dry goods, like pasta, rice and flour or grains can be stored for more than six months. Once you open the package, it would be best if you moved the product into an air-tight container to make sure it keeps its freshness.
They can be frozen instead, separated of course. Put the food in airtight containers to keep it moist and make sure you label it with the date. Since no bacteria grow in the freezer, you can eat the food that has been in the freezer for a long time. These airtight silicone bags are great for the freezer and take minimal amount of space.
Tip: Keep in mind that the fattier the food, the shorter its duration. So even though veal, pork and poultry can last for more than a year, fatty sausage may spoil within two months or less.
Fruit can be frozen but it must be cut into small pieces before it goes in the freezer. If you want to freeze some vegetables, you should first boil some water, put them in the pot and then rinse them in cold water. Frozen fruits and vegetables can last for a year or more if kept in the freezer. However, they may lose their taste and consistency eventually, so try not to keep them frozen for too long.
Yes, that’s right, some argue that the freezer is the best place to store ground coffee beans. This way they will keep their fresh, roasted flavour.
The rule is simple: store food properly and it will last longer. Even though that might not be as easy as it sounds, this short and practical guide will make it easier if you have any doubts about where different kinds of food stay fresh the longest. ‘A healthy outside starts from the inside’ is what they say, so make sure your cooking ingredients are as well stored as they can be!