When the refrigerator was invented, it seemed like a godsend, a magical device that keeps your food fresh forever. Well, so we thought. There are many things that we impulsively stick in the fridge, but the truth is, sometimes it can be harmful. For certain foods, refrigeration is actually worse than keeping them on the counter or in the pantry. To optimize the flavor of foods and space in the fridge, here’s a quick list of which foods do not need refrigeration.
Keep Your Apples Sweet
You can keep your apples sweetest by leaving them out of the fridge. Put them in a basket in plain sight, and these colorful fruits will be devoured much faster than hidden in the fridge. So, unless you are hoarding them for yourself, leave apples on the counter.
Also, they look spectacular piled up in a bowl. Besides, storing apples in the fridge can turn them mushy inside. But, after a week or so on the counter, you might want to stick them in the fridge to get a longer shelf life out of them.
Spare Your Bread From the Cold, Dark Fridge!
Refrigerating bread speeds up the deterioration in texture. The cold air facilitates this process. Leave your bread on the counter or in the pantry. Store it in a cool, dry place, away from windows or heat. A bread box is best, but most people keep bread wrapped in plastic, which is fine.
After a few days, however, wrap it up and pop it in the freezer to keep it fresh. Bread is best the first day it is baked, but keeping it properly will optimize its quality.
Need Some Fridge Space?
That big old jar of pickles can sit out. But many people like to eat pickles when they are cold and crunchy straight out of the fridge. Some don’t.
At the deli counter, we see a large barrel of individually sold pickles sitting out, so why not at home?
Treat Eggplant With Care
Like cucumbers, eggplant is susceptible to chilling injury. Pitting, bruising, and brown seeds and flesh result from storing eggplant at or below 41 degrees for an extended period. Flavor and texture are both negatively impacted.
Also, eggplant can overripe if it is stored in close proximity to bananas, apples, melons and other fruits with high ethylene production. If you need to keep eggplant in the fridge, try to use it within three days.
Don’t Ruin a Good Watermelon
Watermelons are packed with antioxidants, beta-carotene, and a significant supply of other nutrients. Health benefits include preventing cancer and sun-related skin damage. But you might want to know, a 2006 study from the U.S. Department of Agriculture said that refrigerating watermelons saps those helpful nutrients away.
The bright red flesh of a watermelon also contains more lycopene than any other fruit or veggie. But those, too, diminish with refrigeration. It’s okay to chill before serving, that’s how watermelon tastes best, it is the prolonged refrigeration that deprives the fruit of its natural nutrients.
Leaving Salad Out Is Fine
A bowl of mixed greens sitting out on the counter is not a problem. After a couple of hours, you might want to refrigerate but mostly so that it retains its crispness. In general, lettuce and other vegetables are in their outside, growing environment when they sit out.
If it’s very warm, over 80 degrees, however, the salad greens will start to wilt.
Don’t Refrigerate Cantaloupe Until It Is Ripe
Some fruits ripen after they are picked. Cantaloupe is one of these types of fruits and should be left out on the counter until it is ready to eat. Refrigeration may deteriorate the flavor and nutritional content, but after it is already ripe, you might want to cut it up and store it in the fridge before it spoils.
These antioxidant-rich fruits hold more vitamins and nutrients while they are naturally fresh.
Citrus Tips 101
Citrus is at its juiciest plucked straight from the tree. Once picked, the fruit begins drying out on its way to decomposition. Placing oranges, lemons, limes, tangerines or grapefruits in the refrigerator can slow down the process.
Very simply, citrus tastes best when it is at room temp. It’s juicier and more flavorful.
Do Not Lock Your Tomatoes In a Cold, Dark Fridge.
One way to ruin a perfectly good tomato is to refrigerate it. All the sweet, juiciness of its tender flesh will be transformed into a mushy, mealy mess. Cold tomatoes? Yuck! Tomatoes taste best at room temperature, ideally just plucked from the tree.
Inside the refrigerator, chemicals inside break down flavor and aroma. A 2016 study out of the University of Florida confirmed the existence of flavor alterations due to chemical degradation of tomatoes kept in refrigeration for a week.
Papaya Comes From the Tropics Too
It comes from Hawaii, actually, the only place where it is commercially farmed. Keep papaya out of the fridge. Let it soften and ripen on the counter. If you want it to ripen sooner, pop the papaya into a paper bag. It will ripen in about three days sitting out, and even sooner inside the bag. Once it is soft to the touch, cut it open and slice it up.
Another way you can tell if it is ripe is by its yellow color. If you sniff it, it should smell slightly sweet. If you have extra papaya, you can cut it into cubes and freeze it for a convenient smoothie ingredient. Most fruit can be frozen and used in smoothies after it is cut.
Tips For Storing Garlic
Garlic is picked and then dried, so it’s best to keep it in a dry place. To optimize shelf life, store the bulbs in a well-ventilated, dry area. Specialized ceramic jars with air holes work best, but as long as they are kept in the pantry or other dry place, and not wrapped in plastic, the bulbs will maintain the best quality.
The refrigerator is a harsh environment for garlic. It can become moldy and cause the bulbs to deteriorate.
Have You Ever Thought of Storing Cereal In The Fridge?
Don’t. Cereal is great because it is dry and crunchy. Its crunchiness is the perfect counterpart to milk or yogurt. Put it in the refrigerator and it will turn limp and soggy.
Instead, store cereal in an airtight container in a cool, dry place such as a pantry.
Olive Oil Is Best On the Shelf
There is no reason to store olive oil in the refrigerator. The cold air makes it a congealed clumpy mess that is inconvenient to use. Cold air does not affect the quality of olive oil, but warmth, sunlight, and air can cause it to become rancid before its time.
So, store it in a cool, dark cupboard inside of an airtight bottle. Some recommend using containers that are not plastic to avoid chemicals seeping into the oil. And, if you keep it on the counter, an opaque bottle resilient to light, is best.
Avocados are picked when they are hard as a rock and eaten when they are as soft as room-temperature butter. Refrigerated, avocados will not ripen. Leaving them out on the counter, you can keep an eye on their ripening status so they can be consumed at peak flavor.
A refrigerator comes in handy once they have ripened. By storing them in the produce drawer, you can get a few more days out of them, or perhaps a nice bowl of guac, before their natural course starts to turn them black.
How To Keep Sweet Potatoes At Their Best
Do not keep sweet potatoes in the refrigerator. These root veggies prefer to be stored in a cool dry place. Make sure there is plenty of ventilation, and definitely do not wrap them in plastic, let them sit fully exposed to air. Keeping them in the fridge will ruin them.
Sweet potatoes “will produce a hard center and unpleasant taste,” according to the experts over at the North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission.
What About Eggs?
In the U.S., it is advised that eggs are refrigerated. Here, farms scrub the eggs clean before selling them, and refrigeration is the only way to protect against bacteria seeping in after the natural coating that repels bacteria on shells is removed. So, the answer is yes. In the U.S., you should definitely refrigerate eggs. In Europe, however, it's a little different...
In Europe, eggs are not washed at commercial farms and people do not store them in the refrigerator. Also, not washing the eggs causes a greater risk of bacteria contamination, but only if they are refrigerated. With the coating intact, eggs are protected against bacteria but only at room temp.
Refrigerated Air is Foreign to Tropical Fruits
Tropical fruits like mangos, papayas, and kiwis grow in warm climates and are averse to cold. In harsh environments, pitting of the skin and other declines in quality will develop. Tropical fruits also ripen best at room temperature.
Once the fruit is ripe, however, feel free to cut it up and store it in the refrigerator.
Don’t Store Flour In the Fridge
Flour should be stored in an airtight container or in a plastic bag. Keeping it in a plastic snap-top container makes it convenient to scoop into your recipes. Regular bleached or unbleached white flour will stay for up to two years.
When you’re dealing with whole grain flours, they can be stored the same way, but shelf life shrinks to just a few months. However, freezing will keep it fresh much longer.
Do Not Put Honey In the Refrigerator You Will Regret It
Once honey has been refrigerated, it will harden up and will not pour until it is heated. You can wait until it comes to room temp, but why not just leave it out? Honey is one of the most stable foods in nature and can last a very long time. Honey is produced by bees as a long-term food source. It has natural preservation properties.
High sugar levels and zero water content make honey a hypertonic substance. In this environment, any bacteria basically suffocate and die of dehydration. The good news is honey lasts forever. The honey in hives has the potential to last hundreds of years.
Best Practice Storage Tips For Coffee
First of all, coffee beans or ground coffee should be stored in an airtight container. Since air, light, and moisture ruin coffee, the container should be dark or at least impervious to light.
An airtight container will also protect the coffee from absorbing other flavors. It’s ideal to use it up in about two weeks. Freezing whole beans is one way to preserve your coffee.
Spare the Peanut Butter
Any brand of processed peanut butter can stay in the pantry. Keeping it on the shelf makes it convenient to use and easy to spread. Putting it in the fridge will harden the nutty spread and make it prone to drying out. Natural peanut butter lacks hydrogenated oils and the preservatives that allow panty-storage, and that type of peanut butter will need to be refrigerated.
If you know it’s going to be months before you finish off a jar of processed peanut butter, you can stick it in the fridge to make it last longer.
It’s Not a Good Idea to Keep Onions In the Fridge
Some foods go bad when exposed to air, onions depend on a well-ventilated environment. Keeping whole onions in the refrigerator introduces moisture, and, as an absorptive vegetable, the added moisture causes the onion to get mushy inside and makes it more susceptible to spoiling.
To get the longest shelf life out of onions, store them in a cool, dark place like the pantry. After onions have been chopped or peeled and stored in an airtight container, on the other hand, they last at least two weeks in the fridge.
Put Pears On the Counter
Pears are unique because they ripen from the inside out. This means a pear will feel hard to the touch until it is completely ripe. At that point, you can tell it’s ready when the outer flesh of the skin starts to give. If pears are left in the fridge during the ripening process, they turn mushy and yucky inside. Pears should definitely be allowed to stay on the counter so the natural ripening process can occur.
Once ripe, however, sticking them in the fridge is a good way to keep them in their ripened state longer. Eat pears at room temp when they are sweetest and juiciest.
The Sweetest Thing
Strawberries are not only one of the sweetest fruits, but they have the fewest calories too. A strawberry is a beautiful, scrumptious, berry that deserves to be treated with care. They taste best at room temperature and should be devoured within days of purchase.
Stuck in the fridge, the berry is sapped of sweetness. On the other hand, once ripeness peaks, you can save them from rotting away by keeping them in the fridge. It’s best to wash and dry the fruit thoroughly before refrigerating. Wrapping a paper towel around them in the fridge also helps preserve the berries.
Leave Out The Jams
Don’t be afraid to leave jars of jam on the counter or in the pantry, even after they are opened. Lacking enough water content to support bacteria, fruit preservatives won’t spoil.
Jams also have a low pH level, which means it has a high acid solution which also prevents spoilage.
Pumpkins Are Way Too Big for the Fridge.
First of all, there is really no room to store pumpkin in your refrigerator. Not only will it hog up all the space, but it doesn’t like it in there. The cold, humid environment will wreak havoc upon the pumpkin, causing it to rot inside too soon. As a hard-shelled squash, pumpkins last a long time.
They can be stored on the counter or outside for up to 90 days. Washing the outer shell with mild soap and water will extend the life of the pumpkin. Keep it out of direct sunlight and warm temps.
Keep Your Carrots Their Crispest
Pulling fresh carrots from the garden or purchasing a freshly picked bunch at the farmer’s market is an experience in culinary joy. They’re sweet, crisp and full of beta-carotene. To keep them this way, one should avoid putting carrots in the refrigerator.
If you are not able to gobble them up before they wilt, you can best store them in the fridge by following these steps: Wash thoroughly, chop in large chunks, and cover with water. The carrots will stay crispy submerged in a container filled with water. Some claim they will last weeks stored this way.
Keeping Basil Fresh is Easy
Fresh basil is a gamechanger in many recipes, there’s nothing like it. But storing it in the refrigerator makes it limp and flavorless. To increase the shelf life of basil, place it in a jar or a pretty vase on the windowsill. It will last many times longer than in the fridge and may also begin to sprout. Then, you can plant baby basil plants and never run out of the sweet and supple herb.
If you have way too much, a good way of preserving basil is to make it into pesto sauce. It’s a simple recipe of pureed basil, garlic, olive oil and Romano and it lasts in the fridge for weeks.
No Need to ‘Refrigerate After Opening’
Most people store salsa in jars in the refrigerator. But, if your fridge is short on real estate, you can just leave it out, even after it is opened. Canned salsa is packed with preservative ingredients like vinegar, citrus acid, and salt.
Just make sure that dipping into the salsa is done with a spoon. Food remnants inside jarred salsa will cause it to go bad very soon.
Mustard Has a Long Shelf Life
Keep mustard in the pantry or on the table, if you’re an avid mustard fan. It is filled with natural preservatives and will not spoil sitting out. A jar of mustard lasts two to three years beyond its expiration date.
Preserved with vinegar, and with no sugar and no fat, it is a great condiment to have on hand. Storing it in the fridge does increase its shelf life.
Keep Your Dried Spices Dry
Storing dried herbs and spices in the refrigerator is not a good idea. The cold, damp air of the fridge is going to cause mold to grow. Taking the spices in and out of the fridge for use shortens the shelf life by putting extra stress on the leaves.
Light, moisture, and air are natural enemies of dry spices. However, seeds like poppy or sesame can be stored in the fridge and may prefer it. Red powder spices like cayenne and paprika also do better in the fridge, holding onto their vibrant colors.
Should You Refrigerate Potatoes?
If you want your potatoes to last a long time, you can store them in the fridge. However, it should be known that you are selling the soul of your spud by doing so. The cold air inside the fridge creates a chemical reaction inside of the potato that proves detrimental to taste.
Starch turns to sugar, and spots, premature sprouting, and a bitter taste result. If you keep them in your pantry, a cool, dark place above 50 degrees is best.
Vinaigrette Salad Dressings Can Sit Out
There is no reason to refrigerate vinaigrette salad dressing. Refrigeration causes it to congeal, making it inconvenient to use. If you don’t remember to take it out of the fridge by dinnertime, it’s a blob of unusable gel. Besides that, dressing tastes better at room temp.
Vinegar is a great preservative, however, one thing to consider is that the shelf life of vinaigrette is shortened significantly by ingredients like garlic and lemon juice. It gives your dressing a tangy zip, but it will only last a few days, whether refrigerated or left out.
Treat Your Chocolate With Love
Chocolate should also be stored in a cool, dry place. The optimal storage temperature is 65 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Chocolate should be sealed inside a container. But, most importantly, chocolate should not be refrigerated. The cold air can cause the sugars to rise to the top and discolor it.
This does not affect the flavor, however, chocolate is absorptive, and storing chocolate in the refrigerator will contaminate the candy with other flavors in the fridge. Leftover salmon or garlic chicken will not pair well with your gourmet chocolate.
Cans of Tuna Stay in The Pantry
It probably goes without saying, but there is absolutely no need to store cans of tuna in the refrigerator. Not only will they take up space, but they will stay past their expiration date in the pantry just as long.
Tuna fish was canned in order to preserve it without the need for refrigeration in the first place.
Soy Sauce is Preserved by Fermentation
Don’t worry about storing soy sauce in the fridge, it can last a year just sitting out on your table or in the pantry.
The fermentation process preserves the condiment naturally, and an opened jar will keep its flavor for up to a year and a half.
Do Not Injure Your Cucumbers!
Take everything you ever knew about cucumbers and throw it away. According to the Postharvest Technology Center at UC Davis, cucumbers are best enjoyed at room temperature.
Cucumbers should last up to 14 days, with decomposition setting in thereafter. Refrigeration is not recommended. The folks at UC Davis say refrigerating causes a “chilling injury.” Pitting, accelerated decay, and sogginess results. Chilling injuring generally sets in after 2-3 days of refrigeration.
Don’t Chill Your Red-Hot Chilies
Chili peppers do best sitting out at room temperature. Storing them in the refrigerator will extend their shelf life, but it will sap their flavor.
To keep your chilies as spicy and flavorful as they were when they were first picked, keep them on the counter in a bowl where everyone can appreciate their fierce and fine colors.
Pineapple Is a Tropical Fruit
Pineapple is ill-suited for the refrigerator. Especially during its vital ripening stage. If you want to serve your pineapple at its sweetest, let it stay out on the counter to ripen. Once it gets to the perfect ripeness, a stage that you can detect by the sweet aroma emanating from the base of the fruit, cut it open.
Eat it right away or store the pieces in an airtight container in the fridge. There is nothing like a perfect, sweet and juicy pineapple!
Ketchup or Catsup? However You Spell It, It Won’t Spoil
Ketchup is a condiment made of tomatoes, vinegar, and sugar. Vinegar and sugar are natural preservatives. Its natural acidity means an unopened bottle can still be used up to two years after its sell-by date. If you have ketchup with most meals, feel free to leave it on the table, especially if you prefer it at room temp.
That’s what they do at restaurants, after all. Ketchup can sit out for well over a month. In the fridge, it lasts forever.
Refrigerators and Bananas Don’t Mix
If you want to ruin a perfect banana, stick it in the fridge or the freezer. It will turn black as death and develop a texture like mush. Native to the tropics, bananas are made to sit out and slowly ripen. They get sweeter with ripeness, like many fruits, and should be eaten at your desired ripeness.
Once they have turned that corner and start to blacken, you can peel and wrap the flesh in plastic and freeze it to make smoothies or banana bread in the future. The darker, the sweeter, making overripe bananas great in many recipes.