Putting all your groceries away after a trip to the store is one of the more annoying parts of going grocery shopping. Although it’s simple enough to know that the dry ingredients go in the pantry and all the dairy should go in the fridge, what about all those other in-between items that could seemingly go anywhere? Although we all probably think we know what goes where, it pays to review what items we think would do better in the fridge than out of it. Fortunately, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide that will explain just that. With that in mind, here are 30 foods that you should definitely not put in the fridge.
Although it seems like common sense to put tomatoes in the fridge, the truth is that they would do better out on the counter! Although they don’t respond to extreme temperatures of any kind, the cold in the fridge is particularly bad for breaking the fruit down and slowing the ripening process. As it turns out, letting your tomatoes get more and more ripe is what ends up giving them all their flavor.
Although putting these guys in the fridge may also be tempting, potatoes are another thing that does better in the pantry. While it is best to keep them in a cool, dark place (preferably in a paper rather than a plastic bag), the more extreme cold in a refrigerator turns the starches in a potato into sugar more quickly. This will ruin their taste and texture, resulting in a bad experience all the way around.
Basil is a notoriously delicate herb which can add a ton of flavor to any sauces or pastas you may be planning on making. Still, keeping basil in the fridge won’t do this plant any favors—it will actually make the plant wilt even faster! Ideally, keeping it out on the counter in a cup of water like you would flowers is the best solution. If that’s not feasible, blanching and freezing the leaves for use at a later date can also work well.
Bananas are my personal favorite fruit and they work as a perfect on-the-go snack. Still, they’re yet another food item that does better when not subjected to cold temperatures (which makes sense, when you think about it). Cold temperatures slow down the ripening process of bananas and also break down all their natural nutrients. They should be left on the counter to ripen and eaten quickly. If you miss your window of opportunity, don’t worry: you can always freeze your mushy bananas for use later in banana bread!
Onions are a little bit trickier. On the one hand, unpeeled onions definitely do not respond to the extreme cold of the fridge. In fact, the cold temperature will turn them soft and moldy faster than they would otherwise. On the other hand, any cut or peeled onions should be kept in the fridge in a covered container to preserve them. When you get them from the store, feel free to throw them in the pantry with your potatoes.
This one goes out particularly to Californians and Millennials: do not keep your avocados in the fridge! Although it may be tempting, throwing any unripe avocados in the fridge will keep them harder for longer. While it may make sense to throw an already ripe avocado in the fridge to save it for a few days, keeping them out on the counter to age naturally is probably your best bet in most cases.
Just like onions, garlic does not respond all that well to being in the fridge (after all, onions and garlics are in the same family of alliums). If you store garlic in the fridge, the colder temperatures will encourage it to sprout—and as anyone who frequently cooks with garlic knows, sprouted garlic is no good for seasoning your meals. To keep it fresher for longer, keep it in a cool and dry place.
This one is one of the more shocking items on the list. After all, it seems natural that the cooler temperatures would stop your bread from decomposing more quickly, right? Although there may be some truth to that, the fridge will also dry your bread out more quickly, making it way less delicious than it should be. Unless you plan on using all of the bread in a few days, keep it out on the counter or in the freezer for longer-term storage.
How many of us keep our coffee in the freezer or in the door of the fridge? As it turns out, sometimes it’s better to keep it tightly sealed in the pantry to maintain its flavor and strength. While the freezer may be acceptable when it comes to keeping your coffee fresh long-term, keeping it out may be a better choice in some cases.
10. Olive Oil
Alright, so most of us who use olive oil a lot in our cooking know that it’s not best to keep our bottles in the fridge. For the rest of you, consider this a warning! Olive oil is a more delicate substance than many people may know, as it turns out. For ideal storage, keep it in a cool, dry and dark place. For bonus points, try to keep the actual liquid itself away from too much contact with sunlight, which will turn it rancid more quickly (dark glass bottles are always beneficial).
Similar to olive oil, the texture of honey makes it a bad candidate for the refrigerator. When stored in the cupboard or the pantry, honey will keep a nice, flowy texture that we all know in love. If it’s stored in the fridge, it will become thicker and almost dough-like, rendering it virtually useless. Finally, honey is a naturally self-preserving food—just make sure to keep it tightly sealed and you can use it almost forever.
This is one that almost everyone probably has in their fridge—after all, where else are you supposed to put them? While putting pickles in your fridge won’t actually hurt the food, it takes up extra space and is ultimately unnecessary. That’s because anything you pickle is already inherently self-preserving as a result of all the extra sodium and briny liquid that it’s stored in!
13. Soy Sauce
Again, this one isn’t really a big deal for the food itself but is once again unnecessary. Soy sauce is almost entirely sodium. As a result, its contents are self-preserving, much like the pickles we mentioned above. If the door of your fridge is packed full of sauces, consider taking your soy sauce out and putting it in the cupboard where it belongs.
Blueberries and strawberries are delicious and healthy additions to any meal. If I’m speaking for myself, I truly love to sprinkle a few them on top of a bowl of cereal in the morning. Still, keeping them in your fruit drawer is not the right move. As it turns out, the extreme cold of the fridge will make your berries grow mold and rot more quickly than if they were kept in a dry, clean place on your counter. Who knew?
Everyone loves a thick slice of watermelon in the summer time. Still, keeping entire melons in the fridge may be a no-no. As long as they aren’t already cut, keeping your melons at room temperature ensures that their antioxidant levels will stay the same and that their nutrients won’t get compromised at all. Once you’ve sliced them, however, you should keep them in the fridge in a sealed container.
16. Peaches, Plums and Apricots
There are few things that taste better than a juicy peach or plum when they’re perfectly ripe. While many of us may think that the fridge is the safest place for these beauties, the truth is that the cold temperature can actually damage these delicate fruits. Their thin skins and membranes mean that the cold can slow their ripening process and sap their nutrients. Instead, keep them in a cool, dry place for best results.
17. Mangoes and Kiwis
Mangoes and kiwis are both tropical fruits that are used to much warmer climates. Despite knowing this, our instinct tends to be to throw them in the fridge with all the other fruits and veggies that may be in there. Like the above, mangoes and kiwis are relatively delicate and can be damaged by the extreme cold. Once again, skip the fridge and keep them in a cool and dry place instead.
18. Peanut Butter
This is another one where it doesn’t necessarily harm the peanut butter to put it in the fridge, but it’s also not a particularly good idea. Because of it’s overall composition, peanut butter does a pretty good job at preserving itself when it’s kept in a cool and dry place with a tightly sealed container. In the fridge, it takes up extra room and gets thicker and harder to spread. Over time, the fridge may even dry out your peanut butter, making it unusable—so it’s best to avoid it altogether.
This is one of the more controversial items on this list. Although it seems common knowledge to keep your eggs in the fridge, it may depend more on where you are. While Americans often keep eggs in the fridge to prevent salmonella from spreading, the constant changes of temperature can sometimes make eggs spoil more quickly. Europeans, on the other hand, store eggs at room temperature because they vaccinate their hens against salmonella in the first place. At the very least, if you keep your eggs in the fridge, make sure they’re in the way back.
20. Canned Tuna
Although some people like to store their unopened canned tuna in the fridge, studies show that this is ultimately not necessary. Keeping canned tuna stored at room temperature is more than sufficient to keep it from going bad. On top of it all, these cans often come with some of their own preservatives as well to give them a longer shelf life. Keep that in mind when you’re trying to free up extra space in the fridge!
21. Oranges, Limes and Lemons
Seems like a good idea to keep these kinds of fruits in the fridge, right? As it turns out, cold is not the best environment for citrus fruits. Because they need a natural temperature for ripening, keeping them in the fridge slows and prevents this process—and the chill can even damage the inside of the fruit as well. To best preserve these fruits and their flavors, keep them in a bowl somewhere at room temperature.
Just like their pickled counterparts, cucumbers actually don’t do so well in the fridge! As it turns out, cucumbers have a fairly fine skin layer which makes them susceptible to extreme temperatures and to bruising. Keeping cucumbers in the fridge can speed up the process of softening and damaging them. Instead, try to find a cool and dry place to store them where they won’t get bumped around too much.
This is another one that may surprise you. Although it seems like a no-brainer to put your carrots in the fridge, the cold temperatures and moisture of the fridge can turn your carrots soggy in just about no time at all. Although they do need to be kept out of the sunlight, you can store your carrots much like you would store any other root vegetable. A cool, dark place in the pantry would do fine—maybe even next to your potatoes.
Are you one of those people that keeps your chocolate bars in the fridge? Although it seems harmless, most of the time this is completely unnecessary. While any chocolate ingredients you have that are prone to melt at room temperature may need to be stored somewhere cold, most of them do fine at room temperature. As a matter of fact, too much time in the fridge or freezer could even change the taste of your chocolate—so watch out for that as well.
Although this one seems like another one that would do well with cold temperatures, it may be unnecessary. Like some of the other vegetables we’ve listed here, keeping peppers in the fridge can actually dull their color, damage their nutrients and affect their taste overall. Instead of doing all that, just be sure to keep them in a cool and dry place and you should be good to go.
26. Jelly and Jam
Although this one seems like it could be ripe for spoilage, jelly and jam is actually mostly self-preserving. After all, people have been preserving their own jellies for a long time! Put them in the pantry to save room in your fridge, but make sure you’re being careful with the jam once it’s out! Be sure never to double dip in the jam to avoid adding germs to it. If you accidentally contaminate your jelly or jam, it’ll go bad whether it’s in the fridge or not!
27. Salad Dressings
Although some of the dairy-based dressings may need to stay in the fridge, many of the more common vinaigrettes don’t need to be kept there. In general,. the main ingredients of these kinds of dressings tend to be vinegar and oil—both of which have a perfectly preservable shelf life all their own without the cold. If you’re looking to free up some space in the fridge, move a few of these bottles to the pantry and you’ll be good to go.
Apples are another common one that people tend to fill the fridge with. Fortunately, these All-American fruits do not need to be kept there at all. Although they may last a little longer in the fridge than at room temperature, they should still be fine for up to two weeks without being refrigerated. Just make sure you’re eating your fruit in a timely manner and you should be good to go.
Just like apples, pears do not need to be kept in the fridge to be preserved. As it turns out, pears actually do not fully ripen on the tree. As such, they need time and the right environment to slowly ripen and blossom into their full flavor. If you have unripe pears, putting them in the fridge will slow that process down dramatically. Still, once your pears are sufficiently ripe, putting them in the fridge can give them a little extra shelf life.
Last but not least, eggplant is another vegetable that prefers to be kept out of the fridge. Although it should definitely be stored in a cool, dark place and out of sunlight, the extreme cold of the refrigerator can damage the soft flesh of the eggplant, hurting both its flavor and texture. As an added tip, do your best to keep eggplant away from other sensitive fruits and veggies as well. As they ripen, they tend to let off a gas that can have an effect on the other produce around them.
As you can see, it’s surprising just how many different things actually do better outside of the fridge. Although we all have only the best intentions in mind when we put our groceries away, many of us are probably doing it at least a little bit wrong. Hopefully with these instructions, we can all keep our produce fresher for longer, all while freeing up a little extra space in the old ice box.
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