How to Store Food Properly in Your Fridge
Helping us keep our food and drink fresh and cool for over a century, fridges have become absolutely essential for storing fresh food, raw ingredients and leftovers — and no kitchen would be complete without one. The question is, do we really know how to use this important appliance properly?
Think about it - we're all guilty of throwing a week's worth of food shopping into our fridge without considering where certain items should be stored. Organising the fridge so different foodstuffs are kept separate is something few people put into practice, despite the fact that storing certain foods next to each other can spread germs and increase the risk of food poisoning.
To encourage everyone to start using their good old fridge to its fullest, here we offer some practical advice on how to store food properly in your fridge.
Basic Fridge Maintenance
To keep foods fresher for longer, your fridge should be kept at 5°C or below. Some fridges have digital thermometers giving you an accurate reading of the temperature, but we'd still recommend checking yours manually every now and then. Even if it's off by just a couple of degrees, food and drink won't stay fresh and you could end up having to throw certain items away.
Make sure you clean and inspect your fridge regularly to make sure it stays hygienic and in complete working order. Spillages can spread germs easily, and damage caused to the door seal, the casing or the drain pan could lead to food going off sooner than expected.
Need-to-Know Fridge Storage Advice
Every family has different ways and methods of storing food in their fridge, some more effective than others. However you like to keep your perishables fresh, here is some need-to-know help and advice to keep your food fresh and tasty in the fridge.
Understand 'use by' and 'best before' dates
If you want to make sure the food you feed your family is as fresh as can be, always observe 'use by' and 'best before' dates on perishable items. Most pre-packed food found in supermarkets features one of the above recommendations, and the two should be treated differently.
If an item has a 'use by' date, it's not safe to consume it after the date shown. Even if the food smells and looks normal, it may contain bugs and germs that could make you ill.
On the other hand, if an item has a 'best before' date, this doesn't mean you can't eat it after the date shown. It does mean, however, that its quality may be diminished. The likelihood that the product will make you ill is relatively small.
Let cooked foods cool before putting them in the fridge
If you're cooking a meal you plan to refrigerate, remember to let it cool down before storing it in the fridge. Place hot food in a cool fridge, and you'll get condensation, which could prevent the appliance from cooling properly. Instead wait one-two hours for the food to cool, before sealing it in an airtight container and placing in the fridge.
Tip: Don't leave perishable cooked food at room temperature for longer than two hours, or bacteria will start to grow.
Eat leftovers within two days
Storing your favourite leftovers is one of the great joys of owning a fridge. Pizza, pasta, or a full Sunday roast; many foods can be stored as leftovers in the fridge, and taste just as good the next day. Just remember to eat your leftovers within two days otherwise bacteria could start to grow, putting the overall safety and hygiene of your fridge at risk.
However, with the FoodSaver food storage system, your leftovers could last significantly longer when vacuum sealed and stored in the fridge. Cheese can last up to eight months, lettuce for a fortnight, and berries for between one and two weeks.
Check out our guide for storing different foods in the fridge, as well as the panty and freezer.
And remember, when warming your leftovers up, make sure it's piping hot before serving.
Don't refrigerate food in cans
Old wives' tales tell us not to store opened tins in the fridge, but why? If left in the fridge long enough, metal cans give food an unpleasant, metallic taste, and could even cause mild health complaints. So, before you store leftover chopped tomatoes and tuna in the fridge, make sure you empty them out into a sealable plastic container, and send their cans off for recycling.
Storing Different Foodstuffs
Now that we've covered some of the essential basics of refrigerating, it's time to look at how to store different foodstuffs in the fridge.
Fresh meat, fish and poultry:
- If you buy a lot of fresh meat and fish, give the products their own shelf at the bottom of your fridge, where it's usually coldest.
- Keeping fresh meat and fish products in the original packaging will help to prevent leaking and spillages. If the item didn't come on a Styrofoam tray, use a plate to collect any dripping.
- Once opened, keep fresh meat, fish and poultry separate in sealed containers.
- Keep raw meat and fish well away from cooked meat and other ready to eat items.
- Follow the storage instructions outlined on the original packaging, and never eat fresh meat or fish after the use by date.
- You don't need to refrigerate eggs, but it does help to keep them at a constant temperature, and therefore fresher for longer.
- Eggs should be stored in their original carton, and not in an egg tray (which some fridges have).
- Make sure that none of the eggs have cracked before storing in the fridge. If an egg leaks it could harbour germs, and be a real pain to clean up.
Bonus tip: Did you know eggs can be frozen? Crack your eggs into a plastic tub, beat and then pop in the freezer. This is perfect for making scrambled eggs or omelettes.
- Always store dairy products, such as milk, yoghurt, cheese and cream, in the containers they came in.
- Once opened, store hard cheese in foil, cling film or wax paper - anything that prevents air from getting at the product.
- Keep dairy products separate from other food and drink in the fridge. A great place to store milk, yoghurt and cheese is in the door compartments, which receive a good circulation of cold air.
- Always use dairy products within the use by or best before date, particularly milk, which can cause an upset stomach.
Fresh fruits and vegetables:
- As fresh fruits and vegetables normally have the shortest use by date of any food, it's important they're kept in the coldest part of the fridge, which is usually at the bottom, in the salad tray.
- Keep different fruits and vegetables together in separate bags or containers. Fresh fruits and vegetables produce gases, which can cause others to deteriorate more quickly.
- Fresh produce, which is susceptible to drying out, should be kept in unsealed bags or wraps, to retain moisture whilst allowing air to circulate.
- Don't wash fruits and vegetables before refrigerating, as the excess moisture can cause the produce to rot more quickly.
And, of course, many of these products will remain fresh for longer if vacuum sealed using a FoodSaver storage system first.
Other refrigerating tips and advice
If you're keen to keep your food fresh for as long as possible, these additional top tips will have you refrigerating like a pro in no time:
- When storing leftovers, divide individual meals into small, flat containers. This will help to keep every morsel of food fresh, even in the middle.
- If you've got a new fridge, it's probably OK to put hot food in the fridge as soon as you've finished cooking. The technology in modern fridges means they're much better at dealing with condensation.
- Assigning a shelf to different types of food will not only help to prevent the spread of germs, it'll keep your fridge organised and make it easier to find the ingredients you need — so no more rummaging around when you're in the middle of cooking dinner.
- Fridges rely on a good circulation of cool air to keep food at a safe temperature, so don't stuff yours too full. Space items out and avoid putting them too close to the back to ensure good airflow.
Want to get more value from your fridge? Invest in FoodSaver, and you can keep refrigerated food fresh x5 longer thanks to our innovative vacuum sealers. To find out more, visit the FoodSaver homepage.