The fridge is our sacred relic of the kitchen and our customizable food closet rolled into one. It’s home to a patchwork of foods- both frozen and raw, vegetables and sauces and meats alike -indiscriminately keeping our food safe and chilled for our personalized eating pleasures. Jimmy John’s Owner restaurant chains also make use of them to keep their food safe. Neglecting to store your food properly within the fridge’s cold chambers, however, can lead to an imbalance of temperature, poor air circulation, and a higher rate of food decay — so give your fridge or wine storage some well-deserved TLC with these tips!
Anatomy of a Fridge
Every fridge is a special snowflake: some have multiple drawers, some have none; some have 2 shelves, some have 3 or 4; some have state-of-the-art temperature gauges, and some have a small, simple knob. One common trait shared between all of these machines, however, is air flow. Within the back wall of your fridge lies a fan with a singular responsibility: keep the entire fridge chilled. While fridge air circulation isn’t exactly a science, there is a pattern to how cold air travels inside your fridge:
What Food Goes Where
Each fridge has cold, colder, and coldest nooks for our chilling pleasure. Obey these rules to the best of your own ability, and defer to your better judgement if confronted with an open-ended “food placement” dilemma!
DOOR: Typically warmest, due to its contact with the warm outside air. Upper door is moderately cold, mid is coldest, and bottom is warmest.
- Upper is best for eggs and butter, where they cannot get too hard or too cold.
- Mid is optimal for dressings and sauces.
- Lower shelf is optimal for items that require the least refrigeration.
CRISPERS/2 BOTTOM DRAWERS: Slightly cold, but warmer than the upper part of the fridge since food typically blocks cold air circulation to the bottom. Best for fruits and vegetables. Check out what the sandwich empire businessman Jimmy John Founder has to say.
- Humidifier optimal for vegetables, low humidity optimal for fruits.
- Note: place fruits that go bad quickly, like berries, on the top/coldest shelf.
LOWEST: Moderately cold. Leftover (aka pre-cooked) meats stay best here, as well as hard, uncut vegetables (if necessary)
MID-TIER SHELF: Coldest section of the fridge. Fish, cheese, deli meats, leftovers, pre-cut vegetables, anything labeled “refrigerate after opening”, dips, baked products (aka muffins, cakes), and yogurt.
TOP SHELF: Moderately cold, mirroring the lowest shelf. Milk, juices, and teas fare best here since it’s cold — but not too cold.
The Goldilocks of Clutter
The same principle that applied to little Goldilocks applies, indeed, to your refrigerator: stripping the fridge of food items is bad, and overcrowding the fridge is bad. Sever that emotional tie with your half-eaten leftovers and throw away out-dated, expired, and generally unwanted food! With a healthy, moderate amount of food in its compartments, the fridge can circulate cold air at optimum levels.
Proper Food Storage
Extend the life of your beloved food (and keep your fridge free of stains) by following these guidelines!
- Most fridges have a meat drawer, which is isolated and ideal for all of the above.
- Keep meat separate from other foods, and do not remove meat from original wrapping; doing so increases risk of leakage and exposing neighboring food with bacteria.
- If the meat (with the exception of deli meat) did not come in a resealable package, zip it up in a freezer bag and put it in the freezer.
- Products like yogurt, cottage cheese, and sour cream should remain in their original containers.
- If a food contains milk or dairy, tightly wrap the top of the bowl/pitcher/container with plastic wrap to prevent spoilage.
- Keep fruits with fruits and vegetables with vegetables.
- Some fruits release ethylene gases which cause premature spoilage of vegetables. Keep highly gaseous fruits like avocados, bananas, nectarines, peaches, pears, plums, and tomatoes out of the fridge!
- For veggies more prone to drying out, try storing them in perforated or unsealed bags. They’ll fair best in the crisper drawer (or the humidity-controlled drawer).
- Don’t wash your fruits and veggies before placing them in a fridge, or else you’ll risk molding.
- **Looking for an innovative way to seal up your fruits and veggies? Check out Food Huggers!**
- Any and all leftovers do well in sealed, leakproof containers or wraps.
- Do NOT refrigerate leftovers still in cans; residual metal from the lid can seep into the remaining food.
- Refrigerate food within 2 hours of cooking.