No matter how big your fridge is, there are times – especially during the holidays or right before a big party – when it seems to be bursting at the hinges. You can shove odd items into the vegetable bins or toss out a few old jars of this and that but there’s an even simpler solution that will free up lots of space year round: stop refrigerating items that don’t need it.
Many foods, particularly certain varieties of produce, are actually harmed by refrigeration. They can lose nutrients, spoil faster and often lose the great flavor you bought them for. Other canned or jarred foods simply don’t need to be kept cold to preserve their taste and quality. Check out these tips and enjoy your new-found refrigerator space.
Fresh avocado, apples, bananas, citrus fruits, berries, peaches, apricots, and nectarines should never be refrigerated. Doing so depletes their texture and taste. You can chill them for a half hour right before eating for crispness. Keep space between citrus fruits on the counter to deter mold. Cut fruits are fine refrigerated.
Ketchup, mustard, soy sauce, pickles – basically any condiment preserved with or containing other shelf-stabilizing ingredients – can safely be stored in a cupboard. This applies to both opened and unopened containers. Conversely, any dairy based condiment such as mayonnaise or tartar sauce should be kept under refrigeration at all times after opening.
#13 Salad Dressings
Don’t put your oil and vinegar based dressings in the fridge. Not only do they not need it, keeping them at room temperature makes the taste of the herbs and spices in them more vibrant. Room temperature dressings are also thinner, so they pour more easily and you use less. Any cream, mayo or yogurt based dressings should be refrigerated once opened.
All varieties of potatoes fare best stored in a cool, dark, dry place. They should also be left unwashed until right before cooking. Cold temperatures make the potato starch turn into sugar, making them soft and more prone to spoiling. Potatoes also stay fresher longer in an open paper bag or well-ventilated cardboard box rather than a plastic bag.
Chilled onions with the skins on get moldy faster and lose their texture when refrigerated. Unpeeled onions thrive and last longest in a well-ventilated place like a mesh basket or colander. Once you’ve peeled and onion, store it in the refrigerator in a well-sealed container so the strong odors don’t invade other foods.
Refrigeration is a big enemy of garlic. First of all, the coldness makes it sprout. The chilly environment also encourages mold and makes the cloves chewy and rubbery, which you won’t discover until you slice it. Treat garlic like onions and store it in an airy atmosphere to keep it fresh and pungent.
Not only does chilled oil look cloudy, it takes up a lot of room in the fridge that you need for true perishables. Store oil in a cabinet away from heat generators like stoves, refrigerators, and dishwashers and away from sunlight, factors that promote rancidity. The only oils that need refrigeration after opening are nut-based ones such as peanut and walnut oils.
#8 Peanut Butter
It’s good to store most opened jars of jams and jellies to prevent mold but don’t stash your peanut butter in the fridge. The coldness dries out the peanut butter and makes it hard and hard to spread. Store it in a cupboard and it will always be fresh and creamy for your next sandwich.
Refrigeration can ruin a good loaf of bread overnight because it dries it out and makes it stale. It can be refrigerated up to 12 hours without harm if you make sandwiches with it and tightly wrap them. If your bread gets moldy at room temperature, keep out only a few slices in a plastic bag and freeze the rest, thawing it as needed in a plastic bag at room temperature.
#6 Winter Squashes
Butternut squash, acorn squash, spaghetti squash, and pumpkins are best when stored naked on a shelf or counter. Cold storage not only makes them go bad faster, it also makes them harder to peel and cut. Winter squash can last a month or longer if you avoid refrigeration. For best results, choose a well-ventilated, dry, cool, dark area for your squash storage.
#5 Canned Tuna
Canned tuna, packed in either water or oil, needs no refrigeration. In fact, it will keep for years in the cupboard without losing any qualities or going bad. Chilling it not only makes it difficult to stir into salads or hot dishes, it also masks the taste that makes it such a popular sandwich and salad ingredient. After opening, leftovers should be removed from the can and refrigerated in a closed container.
Whole coffee beans, as well as ground coffee, taste best when brewed if stored in a dark, dry cool place, never in the fridge. It’s also important to store coffee in an airtight container to retain its flavor and aroma. If you have a large amount of coffee you won’t use in a week or so, freeze it in well-sealed bags.
Refrigeration is the absolute worst thing you can do to a fresh tomato. Cold air kills the flavor and also halts the ripening process so important to its taste and texture. The delicate membranes inside tomatoes collapse under cold conditions. Keep tomatoes on the counter in a basket or bowl.
A properly and tightly sealed container of honey will keep almost indefinitely at room temperature because it contains natural preservatives. Refrigeration makes it crystallize into sugar making it grainy, unpourable, and hard to scoop. Room temperature honey flows smoothly and tastes better. Keep it away from heat sources for longest life.
#1 Fresh Herbs
Odd as it seems, putting fresh herbs in the fridge is the kiss of death. They wilt and the stems disintegrate in the cold air. Think of herbs as fresh-cut flowers. Snip off the bottoms of the stems and plunge fresh basil, parsley, thyme, tarragon, etc. into a jar or vase fresh water. Store on a table or counter, change the water daily, and your herbs will last longer.
The refrigerator is one of the most life-changing appliances ever invented and gives you the convenience of shopping once a week instead of every day. However, it’s not the best way to store everything. You’ll be amazed at how much fresher and more flavorful many foods taste at room temperature. Even if you choose to refrigerate cut fruit or condiments, let them sit at room temperature for 30 or 40 minutes before consumption to get the most bang per bite and make your taste buds sing. And use that extra space in your fridge for keeping your favorite beverages chilled to perfection.