When it comes to knowing how to organize your fridge for optimum operating efficiency and content longevity, there are some rules of storing food to follow. You may think it’s just a case of throwing your food in and the fridge will do all the work when it’s more complicated than that – but not so complicated you can’t learn it quickly and follow the rules of storing food quite easily. Food storage rules are all about avoiding cross contamination of fresh v processed, raw v cooked and making best use of the varying temperatures of areas of the fridge.
I have never understood why manufacturers have designed fridges with the idea that we store milk in the door, because that is the area of the fridge that receives the greatest temperature fluctuations – i.e. every time it is opened. Many people also put milk on the top shelf where it is most accessible. One of the basic rules of storing food is that milk should be kept on the bottom shelf, at the back, where it is coldest. It will keep longer at the lowest temperatures and this will delay the growth of bacteria killed by the pasteurization process.
2. Dairy Products
For the same reasons as for milk, cream, yogurt and cottage cheese should also be kept on the bottom shelf. They should be stacked in date use order. The same doesn’t apply for hard cheese – that can pretty much be stored anywhere and some cheese experts also say it is best to remove hard cheeses from the fridge at least an hour before serving as they taste better at room temperature. The recommendation for storing soft cheeses and butter is the door shelves/compartments because they do not need to be super-cold.
3. Orange and Other Fruit Juices
Most fruit juices can be stored in the fridge door because they are pasteurized. However, any freshly-squeezed juice should be placed on the bottom shelf.
There are some schools of thought that say there is no need to refrigerate eggs. UK agencies say they should be refrigerated and kept on the middle shelf where the temperature is most consistent. Chefs though, including British Queen of Cooking, Delia Smith and French maestro Raymond Blanc, say to not keep them in the fridge. They recommend only buying small quantities so the issue of storage doesn’t come up. If you are concerned about the freshness of your eggs the dating on the box is a good indicator. Every box is stamped with 2 dates. One is the date in which it was packed (within a max of 3 days of it being laid) which is expressed as a 3 digit number corresponding to the day of the year with January 1 being 001 and December being 365. The other is the use by date. According to USDA, this must be a maximum of 30 days (in the UK DEFRA only allows 3 weeks max).
5. Raw Meat
The rules of storing food in your fridge do actually mean you could end up with an overly packed bottom shelf and empty spaces elsewhere , so if you want to follow the rules religiously you’ll have to think carefully about what you buy and how much of it has to go on the bottom shelf. This is because as well as milk, processed dairy and orange juice, raw meat should be allotted bottom shelf space. This prevents cross contamination between raw meat and processed foods and also prevents any drips falling onto other items.
6. Deli /Cooked Meats
If you have a shallow meat drawer, this is the ideal option for your deli meats. The meat drawer is slightly colder than the rest of the fridge. If your fridge has no specific meat drawer, store your deli meats on the bottom shelf but away from raw, fresh meat.
7. Vegetables and Salads
Vegetables prefer less humidity and not such extreme cold to stay fresh the longest. The moistest spot in the fridge is the vegetable/salad drawer. Isn’t it good how some manufacturers help us with how to organize the fridge by giving us lots of drawers and spaces and compartments?
Like vegetables, fruit thrives best in the low humidity drawer. It is best to keep them in their original packaging or in a loosely tied plastic bag. Do not wash fruit (or vegetables) before putting them in the fridge.
I have a small fridge so have to confess that one of the food storage rules I don’t follow is about keeping condiments in the fridge. Most condiments you buy have plenty of preservatives because they usually contain lots of salt, vinegar and sugar, so if you want to keep them in the fridge, they can happily be kept in the door – or anywhere you have space.
Time to 'fess up! How many of you know how to organize your fridge properly and how many of these food storage rules do you actually implement? Will you start following any of them now?