Making Room Inside Your Fridge
The fuller your fridge, the more likely it is that things will rot and go to waste. For instance, all those yogurt containers that you shoved to the back of your fridge never had a chance. Out of sight, out of mind. But it doesn't have to be this way. Some of the items taking up space in your fridge don't really need to be in there at all. In fact, chilling even detracts from the quality and flavor of some produce. Be bold! Declutter your fridge by taking out some of the following items and stashing them in a cupboard or on the counter.
Some people are horrified by the thought of keeping butter out on the counter. It is, after all, a dairy product. But because butter is pasteurized and high in fat, bacteria can’t grow as easily as they would on other foodstuffs stored at room temperature. Salted butter is even less likely to go bad. If left long enough, however, butter can go rancid, but keeping it in a covered dish slows the process significantly.
In the United States, eggs are washed to remove contaminants, and then chilled. If these eggs were then left out on a counter, condensation might encourage bacterial growth, and the bacteria could get inside the egg itself through the porous exterior. For this reason, by law in the United States, commercially produced eggs must be refrigerated. That’s why supermarket eggs are stored in the refrigerator case.
But in Europe, eggs are typically left on counters. They can do this because farmers across the pond process eggs differently than we do here. With less reliance on factory farming, they can focus on keeping the eggs clean before collection, eliminating the need for any washing that might make them susceptible to bacterial infiltration. People who raise backyard chickens also tend not to wash their eggs, and as a result they are more likely to store them on the counter. But if you, like most of us, buy your eggs at a grocery store, it's safest to keep them in the fridge.
Most avid gardeners are aware of the perils of sticking fresh, ripe tomatoes in the fridge. Storing them in a cool environment is a death sentence for flavor, often resulting in tasteless, mealy tomatoes. Instead, keep vine-ripened tomatoes on your counter, out of direct sunlight, and be sure to wash them thoroughly before slicing. Put cut or sliced tomatoes in the fridge, and eat them within a few days.
It’s fine to leave whole berries out on the counter. They don’t need to go in the fridge, although the cool environment will slow down the spoilage process. That said, in most households berries tend to be wolfed down pretty quickly, so why not leave them within easy reach? In general, it's a good idea not to let berries sit too long. Most berries, strawberries included, won’t last more than a week before shriveling or rotting. Always remember to wash berries right before eating them.
Bread is one of those foods, like tomatoes, that degrades when popped into the fridge. Because the cold environment of the fridge speeds up the degradation process, the ideal spot for your loaf of bread is in a cool (not cold), dry place like a bread box, which keeps moisture levels in check and preserves freshness. If you have extra bread on your hands, stick it in the freezer while it's still fresh, and it will keep for a few months.
Did you know that not all cheese requires refrigeration? While soft cheeses like Brie must be kept in the fridge for safety reasons, hard cheeses like Parmesan don’t need to be tossed into the chilly depths of a cheese drawer. Hard cheeses will, however, keep longer in the refrigerator than they would sitting out on the counter.
Most super-salty, sugary, or acidic condiments don’t necessarily require refrigeration, but it’s not a hard-and-fast rule—those with reduced sugar or salt are an exception, for instance. Honey is best stored outside the fridge (when it’s cold, it becomes thick and unwieldy). Mustard and hot sauces also don’t require refrigeration because they’re highly acidic, although in many cases the fridge keeps these condiments fresher for longer.
A lot of people stick their cold-brew jars in the fridge because... well, the name says it all: It’s cold brew. Cold brewing means that there was no heat involved in the process (unlike in brewing regular hot coffee), but it doesn’t mean the process necessitates a cold environment. Counter brewing is faster, but the fridge will keep your caffeinated concoction fresher longer.
Oils should be stored in a relatively cool, dark place, but not in your fridge. These fatty liquids will congeal in a too-cold environment. Did you know you can reuse cooking oil? If you have a deep fryer, it’s not necessary to chuck that leftover oil after frying. Strain out food bits and save the remaining grease in an opaque, airtight container for up to three months. The container doesn’t need to take up space in your fridge—a spot in your pantry will suffice.
Leave Them In Or Out
Refrigeration is optional for more things that you think!
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