Storing food in your refrigerator
Your refrigerator helps to extend the storage times of fresh perishable foods. The cold temperature slows down the major causes of food spoilage – namely, the growth of bacteria, moulds and yeasts, and chemical and physical reactions.
Fresh food care
The quality of food before it is placed in the refrigerator is critical to successful storage. For best results:
- Select foods that are very fresh and of good quality.
- Buy only the amount that you will use within the recommended storage time. If you buy extra, plan to freeze it.
- Ensure that food is well wrapped or covered before it is stored. This will prevent food from dehydrating, deteriorating in colour or losing taste and will help maintain freshness. It will also prevent odour transfer. Vegetables and fruit need not be wrapped provided they are stored in the vegetable bins of the refrigerator.
- Make sure that strong smelling foods are wrapped or covered and stored away from foods such as butter, milk and cream which can be tainted by strong odours.
- Refrigerate fresh, perishable foods as soon as possible after purchase. If left at room temperature for any length of time the rate of deterioration will be accelerated.
- Avoid placing food directly in front of air outlets, as it may freeze. Cold air needs to circulate to maintain safe food storage. Do not open the refrigerator door unnecessarily.
- Cool hot foods down before placing them in the refrigerator. This should be done quickly. It can be aided by placing the container of food in a bowl of ice and water; renew the ice as necessary. (Note: hot containers may damage shelves and walls of the refrigerator).
- Store raw and cooked food in separate containers or packaging to prevent cross contamination.
- Keep the refrigerator clean. Wipe the inside walls and shelves frequently (refer to Cleaning Care) and place only clean containers in the refrigerator.
- Keep a close check on the quality of food in your refrigerator. Discard any food that shows signs of spoilage. Pay particular attention to meat, fish and poultry, as these foods are highly perishable. Use food within the recommended storage times.
Dairy foods and eggs
- Most pre-packed dairy foods have a recommended ‘use by/best before/best by’ date stamped on them. Store them in the refrigerator and use within the recommended time.
- Butter can become tainted by strong smelling foods so it is best stored in a sealed container.
- Eggs should be stored in the refrigerator. For best results, especially when baking, remove the eggs from the refrigerator two hours before they are to be used.
- Place fresh red meat on a plate and loosely cover with waxed paper, plastic wrap or foil.
- Store cooked and raw meat on separate plates. This will prevent any juices lost from the raw meat from contaminating the cooked product.
- Delicatessen meats should be used within the recommended storage time.
- Fresh whole birds should be rinsed inside and out with cold running water, dried and placed on a plate. Cover loosely with plastic wrap or foil.
- Poultry pieces should also be stored this way. Whole poultry should never be stuffed until just before cooking, otherwise food poisoning may result.
- Cool and refrigerate cooked poultry quickly. Remove stuffing from poultry and store separately.
Fish and seafood
- Whole fish and fillets should be used on the day of purchase. Until required, refrigerate on a plate loosely covered with plastic wrap, waxed paper or foil.
- If storing overnight or longer, take particular care to select very fresh fish. Whole fish should be rinsed in cold water to remove loose scales and dirt and then patted dry with paper towels. Place whole fish or fillets in a sealed plastic bag.
- Keep shellfish chilled at all times. Use within 1 – 2 days.
Precooked foods and leftovers
- These should be stored in suitable covered containers so that the food will not dry out.
- Keep for only 1 – 2 days.
- Reheat leftovers only once and until steaming hot.
Fruit and vegetable bin(s)
- Although most fruit and vegetable varieties store best at low temperatures, take care not to store the following at temperatures of less than 7°C for long periods: Citrus fruit, melons, eggplant, pineapple, paw paw, courgettes, passionfruit, cucumber, peppers, tomatoes.
- Undesirable changes will occur at low temperatures such as softening of the flesh, browning and/or accelerated decaying.
- Do not refrigerate avocados (until they are ripe), bananas, mangoes or pepinos. If possible store fruit and vegetables separately, ie fruit in one bin and vegetables in the other.