Fresh ingredients can mean the difference between a mediocre and a delicious meal. But it’s often the perishable items, like fruits, vegetables and cheese, that make a dish so flavorful.
Proper storage can help keep fruits, vegetables and other perishables fresher for longer.
We’ve seen some innovations in food storage, like Jihyun Ryou’s Save Food From the Fridge containers which hang on the wall. These containers use things like sand and water to humidify foods and preserve their freshness.
Still, food refrigeration is usually the best way to keep perishable ingredients fresher for longer.
Refrigeration Storage Tips
Modern reach-in refrigerators typically have uniform temperatures throughout, but if you have an older model, some areas may be cooler than others (e.g. the top shelves may be slightly colder than the bottom shelves).
A refrigerator thermometer can tell you whether some areas of your refrigerator are colder than others. It can also confirm whether your refrigerator is working properly.
Here are some other refrigeration tips:
• Keep refrigerator doors open for the shortest time possible.
• Place the refrigerator in an area with adequate air space.
• Wrap foods with strong odors, and avoid storing them near milk and cream which are vulnerable to tainting.
• Keep items that you want to store for a long time in the coldest part of the refrigerator.
• Cover uncooked foods, and store cooked foods on shelves above uncooked foods to minimize the risk of contamination.
• Avoid crowding stored food products. Allow for proper air circulation around each item.
Refrigeration can help keep foods fresher for longer, but it’s still important to understand the shelf life of foods when it comes to quality retention.
How to Keep Fruit Fresh
Delicious and sweet, fruits complement many dishes and desserts, but it can be a challenge to keep them fresh. Fruits like raspberries and strawberries are known to spoil very quickly and should ideally be consumed in just a few days.
Still, there are a few effective methods in preserving fruits.
Give Berries a Bath
If you’ve purchased a large batch of berries or you don’t plan on eating them all right away, you can reduce the risk of spoilage by giving them a hot bath.
The technique is called “thermotherapy,” and the process is simple:
• Immerse and swish berries (in their plastic basket) in a pot of hot water.
The hot water will kill mold spores on the berries and the plastic container it was stored in.
For blueberries, strawberries and raspberries, it’s best to bathe them in water that’s 125 degrees for 30 seconds.
Once you’ve given your berries a bath, lay them out on a towel to dry out and breathe before storing.
Put Ripened Bananas in the Refrigerator
It’s a myth that storing bananas in the refrigerator makes them spoil more quickly. The skin may turn black or brown in just a few hours, but the flesh of the fruit is still perfectly fine to eat.
The cold temperature triggers a reaction that blackens the fruit’s skin, but the cold temperature also prevents the bananas from ripening any further.
If the idea of peeling a blackened banana is unappetizing, you can try storing the bananas in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.
Use Perforated Bags to Prevent Sweating
Perforated plastic bags are ideal for storing many fruits, such as strawberries, pears, apples and stone fruits, because they reduce sweating.
If water is allowed to form inside of the bag, it will encourage spoiling.
Wrap Citrus Fruits and Passionfruit
If you’re storing citrus fruits and passionfruit in the refrigerator, try waxing or wrapping them in shrink-wrap. These foods lose water easily when stored in the refrigerator. Wrapping or waxing will help reduce water loss and keep your fruits fresher for longer.
Ripen Fruits at Room Temperature. Preserve in the Refrigerator
Fruits like nectarines, plums, peaches and pears are best preserved in the refrigerator. These fruits can be ripened at room temperature and then stored in the refrigerator to preserve them.
Pineapple, paw paw, rockmelon, mangoes, bananas, stone fruit and pears must be ripened at room temperature. Some can be refrigerated for a short period of time.
Different varieties of fruits have different shelf lives, depending on the storage temperature. Some apples, such as Granny Smith and Fuji, have more than three times the shelf life of other varieties when stored in the refrigerator.
As a general rule of thumb, you want to remove rotting fruit from containers if you plan to store large amounts of fruit. Infection can spread to other fruit, so it’s important to remove spoiled fruit as quickly as possible.
How to Keep Vegetables Fresh in the Fridge
Vegetables provide essential nutrients and add flavor to dishes. But they need to be stored properly to prevent spoiling and preserve nutrients.
Here’s how to preserve vegetables:
Wrap Leafy Greens
Leafy greens are rich in nutrients, but those nutrients start to degrade after just a few days of storage. If you plan to store greens, wrapping unwashed leaves in a paper towel will help extend their lives.
The towel will absorb excess moisture that would otherwise spoil the leaves. After wrapping the greens in a paper towel, place them in plastic bags and store them in the refrigerator.
Be sure to remove any rotten leaves before storing. Keep different varieties of greens in different bags.
Keep Tomatoes Out of the Refrigerator
Technically, tomatoes are fruits, but nutritionists classify them as vegetables. No matter how you classify this food, it’s important to keep it out of the refrigerator.
Storing tomatoes in cold temperatures degrades their flavor and transforms the texture of the skin.
Tomatoes are best stored away from heat sources and out of direct sunlight.
Storing Raw Meat, Poultry and Seafood
Meat, poultry and seafoods should be stored in the coldest part of the refrigerator.
Fresh, wrapped meat can typically be stored in the refrigerator for up to three days, and unwrapped meat may store for up to five days.
Storing at the appropriate meat storage temperature is crucial, ideally 32°F-37°F (0°C-3°C).
To preserve the freshness of meat, poultry and seafood, consider using vacuum bags and a sealer system. Vacuum-sealing systems remove air from the packaging and seal the bag to prevent air from returning. By removing air and sealing the bag, you prevent oxidation that deteriorates the taste and quality of the meat, poultry and seafood. You also help prevent mold and bacteria growth, both of which need oxygen to survive.
Storing Eggs and Dairy
Fresh milk and soft cheeses typically have a short shelf life, especially when exposed to warm temperatures.
Hard cheeses have a longer shelf life, but they may develop surface mold. If this happens, the mold and about 2cm of cheese around it should be removed.
Eggs should also be stored in the refrigerator to maintain quality and lengthen the shelf life.