After a trip to the grocery store, many of us tend to stuff everything into the fridge and pantry without thinking about placement. However, this isn’t the best habit. Do you know the best place to keep raw meat? How about milk and eggs? Do all fruits need to go in the same place? Proper fridge organization not only helps you locate your food faster, but can also help keep the food fresh longer and stay safe from cross-contamination.
To keep harmful bacteria from growing on your food, there are optimal ranges of temperature for safe storage. For the best results, set your fridge between 32 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit (0 to 4 degrees Celsius). It’s also important to avoid placing very hot food in the fridge. Doing so will increase the internal temperature of the appliance, risking bacterial growth in the surrounding leftovers.
Refrigerators don’t stay an even temperature all throughout. In general, the bottom shelf tends to be the coldest area. The door shelves tend to be warmest. When you open the door, warm air enters and will affect the door and front areas the most. This and other factors affect how you should store your food.
General Food Storage
There are proper ways to store food in the fridge. Once opened, most condiments, including jams and jellies, should be moved to the fridge with their lids on. Check the packaging for details on which condiments need refrigeration. Cooked foods should be covered in safe storage containers. Raw meat and fish should be well sealed and covered, separate from other food.
Here is a guideline for each area of the fridge:
The highest shelves of the fridge should contain food that doesn’t need to be cooked. This includes items such as leftovers, dips and sauces, pizza, baby food, tortillas, etc. You can also keep other items that won’t spoil on the top shelves, like medication that needs to be kept cold. By placing cooked food above raw food, you prevent contamination of harmful bacteria from dripping down onto already-prepared meals.
Middle and Lower Shelves
The middle area of the fridge should be mostly dedicated to dairy products. Milks, cheese, cream, yoghurt, and eggs all need to rest in a cold area that stays relatively stable in temperature. Also keep in mind that it’s generally best to keep your eggs in the container in which they came. These are made to insulate the eggs, keeping them the right temperature.
The bottom shelf of your fridge is usually the coldest part, especially towards the back. Raw meat and fish should be kept here. Not only does this keep them very cold, but they also won’t have a chance to drip down onto other food and cause cross-contamination. Some fridges have a dedicated meat drawer, which also works well. Clean the meat area of the fridge often.
The drawers of the fridge should hold fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables keep longer in low-humidity areas, which “crisper” drawers create. On the other hand, if you want your fruit to ripen faster, try the top shelf instead. For most produce, it’s best to keep them in the original packaging, but some can spoil faster if tightly sealed. The drawers are also a great place to store herbs. Keep fresh produce away from the cold back of the fridge. Biting into a frozen piece of lettuce is not a pleasant experience.
There are a few types of produce that should not go in the fridge because they release gases that can cause other food to spoil more quickly. These include tomatoes, avocados, bananas, peaches, pears, and plums.
The door shelves are the warmest area in your fridge and the most susceptible to temperature changes. As a result, this is a great place to store foods that don’t need to be kept at constant temperature. This includes foods that contain preservatives such as salt, vinegar, or sugar. Condiments, jams, jellies, and juice can be safely stored in the door. Butter keeps better than other dairy products and can also be kept in the door. Place larger, heavier items on the bottom shelf. Make sure you clean out the condiment section of the fridge often, so your fridge isn’t full of expired sauces and juice!
It’s important to clean out your fridge regularly. Performing some simple preventative maintenance tasks can also help your fridge stay cold more efficiently and store your food more safely. Check out Complete Protection’s guide to refrigerator and freezer maintenance for more information.