The refrigerator is one of the greatest inventions of all time. It provides a safe and convenient place to store food, and it puts ice cold beverages at your fingertips. You already know that your fridge is great for preserving leftovers and dairy products, but you might not know that some food items actually go bad when kept at cold temperatures. Keep reading to find out which things you should never put in your fridge.
Chilling whole melons—whether watermelon, cantaloupe or honeydew—takes up way too much room in the fridge. More importantly, keeping these mega fruits in the icebox halts the ripening process, meaning they won’t be as tasty as if they’d been kept at room temperature. Chilly temps also reduce the healthy antioxidants found in melons. Keep these fruits on the countertop until they're ready to eat. If you have leftovers, store them in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days.
Don’t dump that bag of spuds in the crisper drawer! Frigid temperatures alter the starchy complex carbohydrates found in raw potatoes, giving them a sweet taste and a gritty mouthfeel when cooked. For the best flavor and texture, store raw potatoes in a well-ventilated basket or drawer, out of direct sunlight.
Due to its high sugar content, honey, a natural preservative, needs no refrigeration. In fact, popping that honey bear in the fridge virtually guarantees you won’t be able to squeeze out the golden goodness. When refrigerated, honey hardens and crystalizes, so store it on a shelf in your pantry. If you already made the mistake of refrigerating it, don’t toss it out. Place the honey bottle in a pan of hot (not boiling) water until it returns to its liquid state.
If you want to savor your cup of aromatic coffee in the morning, don’t store the beans in the fridge. An open package of coffee is subject to condensation in the cold temps of the fridge, which zaps flavor. Additionally, fresh grounds will absorb the odors of other refrigerated foods, making your coffee taste off. For the best tasting cup of Joe, store your coffee in an airtight container at room temperature in a dark place, such as inside a cabinet.
Related: 11 Uses for Coffee Grounds
If you don’t want your fresh tomatoes to taste like cardboard, don’t put them in the fridge. Once harvested, tomatoes continue to ripen and develop flavor, but only when kept at room temperature. A big chill stops the ripening process and dulls the flavor. Store fresh tomatoes on the countertop, out of direct sunlight. If you grow your own tomatoes, snip off a bit of the vine when harvesting. The attached vine helps keep the tomato fresh longer and gives it better flavor.
The chilly temps and high humidity of the fridge wreak havoc on onions, breaking down their fibrous structure, and leaving them mushy and prone to mold growth. For the best flavor and texture, store onions in a well-ventilated, dark and cool (not cold) spot. An open-weave basket in the pantry is optimal.
Store your bread in a bread box or on a cabinet shelf, but not in the fridge. Refrigerating bread slows mold growth but makes the bread tough, chewy and stale-tasting. If you know you won’t use the whole loaf before it goes bad, wrap the excess in freezer paper and store it in the freezer for up to one month.
Many avocados available at the grocery are green and hard, and need a couple days to ripen before they're ready to eat. They'll only ripen, though, if you keep them out of the fridge. The only time you should refrigerate an avocado is when it’s completely ripe but you’re not ready to use it. Then, refrigeration will give you an additional day or two before it goes bad.
Refrigerating strawberries reduces their sweet flavor and gives them a mushy texture. For better taste, store fresh strawberries on the countertop, out of direct sunlight, and use them within a day or two of picking or purchasing. And don’t wash them until you’re ready to eat them; strawberries go bad more quickly after they’re washed.
Fresh Garlic Bulbs
Nothing adds flavor to Italian dishes quite like fresh garlic, but if you store the bulbs in the fridge, don’t be surprised if they sprout bitter green shoots. Another danger, garlic bulbs are prone to mold growth in the humid conditions of the fridge. For the best taste, store fresh garlic in a dark, well-ventilated spot. You can store leftover minced garlic in the fridge for a day or two, but the flavor can't compare to freshly minced cloves.
Open Food Cans
Once opened, don’t store a partially filled food can in the refrigerator. While the cold temps will keep the product from spoiling for a little while, the food can develop a metallic taste due to metal acids that leach into the food from the can itself. The best way to store unused canned food, is to transfer it to a separate airtight plastic food container and then refrigerate.
Like other fruits on this list, bananas will continue to ripen at room temperature—but when put in the fridge, the ripening process stops. Store unripe bananas on the countertop, out of direct sunlight. You can put a fully ripe banana in the fridge for a couple of days, but don’t be alarmed when it turns black. The blackening occurs due to the banana skin’s ethylene content, which undergoes a chemical change when subjected to cold temperatures.
Coconut oil is stable at room temperature for up to two years, so there’s no need to store it in the fridge where it becomes hard and virtually impossible to scoop out. Unlike some oils that remain liquid at cool temps, coconut oil contains a high percentage of saturated fats, which causes it to solidify in the refrigerator.
Putting butternut squash, acorn squash, pumpkins, or other types of winter squash in the fridge will dull their flavor and give them a mushy texture. You don't need a fridge to keep these vegetables fresh. When stored in a dark, cool (not cold) spot, such as an unheated basement, these autumn favorites will remain viable for two months, or longer. Leftover raw winter squash can be chopped into chunks and frozen for an additional two months.
Store fresh apples on the countertop for the best flavor. While apples will remain crisp longer in the fridge, the ethylene content in their skins (a ripening agent) can cause other nearby produce to spoil more quickly. If you really want to refrigerate apples, first place them in an airtight container to keep from spoiling the other foods in your fridge.
To keep your basil fresh, leave it on the counter with its stems submerged in a cup or vase of water as you would with cut flowers. If you were to stick basil in the fridge it would absorb the smells of the other foods, and its leaves would turn black.
Related: The 7 Easiest Ways to Grow Herbs
No one wants to see chocolate go to waste! Keeping the treat in the fridge doesn’t make it inedible, but it will absorb the odors of other foods and change consistency. Leave it on the counter or in the pantry for maximum deliciousness.
The saying might be “cool as a cucumber,” but cukes are actually quite sensitive to the cold. The crisp greens fare best when left at room temperature.
Let whole, uncut mangoes hang out on the counter to ripen. Once they’re ready to be cut and eaten, you can store them in an airtight container placed in the fridge.
Unripened peaches should be left on the counter until they are slightly soft and have a sweet fragrance. After that you can keep them in the refrigerator, but only for a day or two. Juicy peaches dehydrate when left in the fridge for an extended period.
Want a cleaner, tidier, more organized home? Sign up for the Clean Sweep newsletter to receive weekly tips, tools, and bright ideas that will help you maximize your next cleaning session.