Once we finish bringing the groceries inside — in one single, strenuous trip, of course — most of us have something of a system in place when it comes to stocking the fridge. Fruits and veggies go inside the bottom crisper drawers, cheeses and deli meats go inside that random middle drawer, drinks and sauces go along the inside of the door and everything else goes where-the-heck-ever. And sure, that might work. But if you want to keep your food fresher for longer, consider the advice below next time you organize your fridge.
The Upper Shelves
In professional kitchens, the upper shelves are often reserved for foods that require no cooking, like leftovers and prepared foods (aka snacks) that should be easily accessible. Since these shelves are usually constant in temperature — the cooling fan is often located near the top — they also make a good home for dairy products, like milk and yogurt. Herbs, like cilantro and parsley, can also be stored toward the top of the fridge in glasses of water covered with loose plastic bags, which helps the herbs retain moisture and prevents too much oxygen from browning the leaves (basil, however, is unique in that it can just be kept in water on the kitchen counter).
The Lower Shelves (and The Meat Drawer)
Because cold air sinks, the lower shelves are often the coldest part of the fridge, particularly toward the back. That being the case, this is where wrapped raw meat and fish should be kept — placing raw foods toward the bottom also minimizes the risk of cross-contamination via dripping (similarly, if you have a meat drawer, which tends to be slightly colder and more isolated than the rest of the fridge, meats can be kept in there). This is also where eggs — stored in their original cartons — belong, despite some fridges having a separate compartments designated for them on the door (more on that in a moment). Likewise, any raw ingredients slated for cooking belong here.
The inside of the door tends to be the warmest part of the fridge and is most susceptible to temperature fluctuations. As such, foods high in preservatives, like condiments, sauces and even juices, should fare well here.
As I mentioned earlier, your fridge door might also have a designated compartment for eggs, however, they should really stay in the lower section of the fridge, where they can maintain a consistent and cool temperature. On the other hand, if you notice a covered dairy compartment on your fridge door, butter and soft cheeses, which need not be super cold — and in fact, might freeze if they become too cold — can hang out in there.
The Crisper Drawers
Some refrigerators advertise changeable humidity settings on the crisper drawers, and how well those actually work depends on the specific model. But these drawers generally hold at least some humidity, no matter what brand, which helps keep produce fresh for longer — fruits do best under lower humidity, and vegetables like higher humidity.
While it might be tempting to toss all your produce into these drawers without dividing them up, understand that some fruits, such as apples and cantaloupes, release ethylene, which can encourage other nearby items to over-ripen. That being the case, the general rule of thumb is separate fruits and vegetables into two different drawers.
On a final note, I should mention that refrigerators vary, and while these are good guidelines to follow, you might want to check out any unique features of your own particular model to get the most out of it.
So I hope you learned something today, and… uh, hey, mind if I borrow some milk?