What are the 30 foods that should not be refrigerated?

In this article, we will answer the question “What are the 30 foods that should not be refrigerated?”

What are the 30 foods that should not be refrigerated?

In 2010, estimates suggested that about 133 billion pounds of food (31% of the total available food) was wasted at retail and consumer level in the United States. Among different agricultural commodities, the studies estimated that on a weight basis, cereal crops, root crops, and fruit and vegetables account for about 19%, 20%, and 44% losses respectively (1).

Refrigerated storage of fruits and vegetables allows the preservation of their

quality after harvest, because low temperatures decrease the speed of cell metabolism and delay plant senescence in general and fruit ripening in particular. However, certain tropical and subtropical fruits and vegetables are not suitable for this type of storage, since it causes the appearance of physiological disorders that negatively affect their quality. The whole set of these alterations is known as chilling injury (CI). This physiological disorder is manifested at temperatures above 0°C, around 8°C for subtropical plant species and around 12°C for tropical ones (2).

Melons 

Whole melons like watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew are better off stored on the counter. Once cut, wrap the exposed flesh of the melon with cling film and refrigerate for up to 3 days (3). Melons may suffer chilling injury in cold storage (2).

Tomato 

To prevent the tomatoes from going mealy, store them on the counter in a well-ventilated environment for no more than 2 days. Tomato is a climacteric fruit and ripen at room temperatures (3).

Apples 

Apples can last for up to a week in a cool, and dry place, away from direct heat, without refrigeration. Apples may suffer chilling injury when stored in low temperatures (<45°F) (2).

Avocado 

Whole avocados should always be kept at room temperature to preserve their creamy texture. Once cut, wrap the exposed flesh with cling film and refrigerate. Avocados may suffer chilling injury when stored in low temperatures (<45°F) (2).

Bananas 

Store the bananas in a cool and well-ventilated place or on the counter for optimal freshness or freeze for extended shelf life. Bananas may suffer chilling injury and become brown when stored in low temperatures (<45°F) (2).

Oranges 

To preserve the juiciness and tangy flavor of oranges, store them on the counter in a well-ventilated space. Oranges may suffer chilling injury and become brown when stored in low temperatures (<45°F) (2).

Berries 

If the berries are not to be consumed within 12 hours of purchase, refrigerate or freeze them. Prolonged refrigeration makes the berries mushy and reduces their natural sweetness. These fruits are characterized by their acidic taste and can be consumed fresh or frozen. According to studies, The most extended methods to maintain quality during the postharvest period are prompt precooling and storage at low temperatures (4).

Peaches and apricots 

Room temperature storage allows the stone fruits to ripen naturally and become sweeter. When the ripening is completed, stone fruits can be refrigerated for up to 5 days to avoid rot. A study of peach storage in modified atmospheres indicated that the diminution of the activity of antioxidant enzymes was associated with the triggering and development of chilling injury caused by cold storage in this fruit (3).

Onions 

Store the onions are best stored in a cool, dark, dry, and well-ventilated place to preserve their crispy texture and prevent mold growth. Once cut, onions should be refrigerated for 7-10 days. The bulbs remain dormant at both low and high temperatures allowing high temperature storage in the tropics and refrigerated storage in temperate regions (5).

Garlic 

As long as the peels are intact, garlic cloves can sit on the counter for up to 10 days without going bad. Studies observed that the antioxidant potential of garlic decreases, with the increasing temperature (6). However, garlic can also be stored at refrigeration temperatures without damage (3).

Squashes 

Squashes such as Butternut squash, acorn squash, spaghetti squash, and pumpkins can be stored on the counter for about a month or even longer (3).

Potatoes 

Refrigeration tends to reduce the starch content of the potatoes due to which they lose their desirable texture and flavor. For optimal freshness, potatoes should be kept in a cool and dry place, away from sunlight and direct sources of heat (7).

Bread 

Bread is best stored on the counter. Refrigeration does prevent the bread from becoming moldy but it also speeds up the staling process. If the outside temperature is cool and the bread will be consumed within the best-by date printed on its package, it is better if kept on the counter (8).

Hot sauce 

Hot sauce contains a rich amount of vinegar that itself acts as a preservative. Even after opening the hot sauce bottle, it can be kept safely on the counter. Moreover, refrigeration tends to reduce the hotness of the hot sauce. However, a study showed that the chemical compounds of chili pepper Dihydrocapsaicin decreased 20.6% to 21.2% at refrigeration temperature (2°C to 5°C) and 28.8% to 29.9% at room temperature (5°C to 35°C), while capsaicin decreased 14.5% to 15.0% at refrigeration temperature and 20.9% to 21.9% at room temperature (9).

Herbs 

The cold and dry environment of the fridge tends to make the herbs wilt faster, however, if they are not going to be consumed in the same day, it is necessary to store them in the fridge. In a study minimally processed parsley sealed in polyethylene bags was stored at 4°C for 12 days and had a shelf life of up to 12 days of storage, with little modifications of sensory parameters (10). The best way to store fresh herbs and preserve their crispness is by placing them in a glass jar filled with water. 

Spices 

Spices are best stored in a cool and dry environment. Refrigeration is unnecessary for spices. Moreover, the humidity inside a refrigerator may lead to the lumping of spices.  Spices are also stored in a cool, dry place, away from exposure to bright light, heat or moisture (11).

Coffee 

Coffee is best stored in an air-tight container in the pantry. The humid environment of the fridge destroys the flavor of the coffee due to condensation. Oxygen, light, temperature, moisture, packaging and extraneous odors have the most significant influence on the quality of coffee during storage even those can cause stalling (12).

Honey 

Due to a rich amount of sugars, honey has a pretty long shelf-life. What mostly happens is that honey substantially loses its quality before ever going bad. 

The refrigeration environment promotes crystallization in honey and ruins its natural texture and flavor. For optimal freshness, store honey on the counter. Basically, microbes cannot replicate in honey and the existence of high numbers of vegetative bacteria might be due to recent contamination. Besides, honey contamination with spores of Clostridium has been documented in many countries (13).

Nuts 

Although nuts do not go rancid in the fridge, they lose their nutty flavor instead. Moreover, shelled nuts easily pick up undeniable odors during refrigeration. For optimal freshness, store the nuts in a cool, dark, and dry place such as the pantry or a kitchen cupboard. Storage of kernels with their skin (testa) on also reduces oxidative rancidity as the skin or testa acts as an oxygen barrier, minimizing lipid oxidation (14).

Nutella 

Refrigeration hardens the Nutella and reduces its spreadability factor. To make sure the Nutella remains silky and smooth, store it at room temperature. Lipid oxidation is initiated by compounds known as sensitizers which include heat, light and metal ions. Lipid oxidation produces undesirable flavors, aromas and compromises the nutritional quality of fats and oils leading to the production of toxic compounds (15).

Oil 

Store the oil in a dark cupboard or pantry, away from sunlight. Refrigeration solidifies the oil and frequent reheating and refrigerating destroys the oil texture. However, a study showed that cold storage conditions for extra virgin olive oil at 4.5 and -27°C was successful at retarding the oxidation and hydrolysis level during storage with no significant change in the extra virgin olive oil flavor aspect over 18-week storage, while changes were significant when the oil was stored at room temperature (16).

Pumpkin 

Moisture and extreme temperatures spoil pumpkin. Store the pumpkins at room temperature for optimal freshness (7).

Peanut butter 

Store the peanut butter in the pantry or a dark cupboard to preserve its creaminess and spreadability (15).

Flour 

Flour is best stored in an air-tight container inside a dark and cool cupboard. Flour needs to be at room temperature for correct baking. Flour millers stamp use-by dates of 3 to 9 months after milling on whole wheat flour packages, while regular wheat flour use-by dates range from 9 to 15 months after milling (17).

Ketchup 

The vinegar in the ketchup does not hold up well in the fridge. To prevent your ketchup from becoming runny or watery, store it in the pantry. However, according to the USDA, refrigeration ensures that commercial sauces and condiments stay fresh for a longer period of time. Shelf-stable commercial ketchup, cocktail sauce, and chili sauce are safe when stored at room temperature after opening. Quality, not safety, is the reason the labels on these products suggest that they be refrigerated after opening.

Soy sauce 

If the soy sauce is used up within 6 months of its opening, it can safely sit on the counter without going bad or losing its flavor. Shelf-stable commercial soy sauce and teriyaki sauce are safe when stored at room temperature after opening, however, it is suggested that they be refrigerated after opening, to maintain quality.

Canned tuna 

An unopened can of tuna is air-tight and does not need to be refrigerated. Store the unopened cans of tuna in your pantry for optimal freshness. According to the USDA, canned tuna can be stored for 3 years.

Cucumbers and pickles 

To preserve the crisp texture of the cucumbers, store them in a cool place instead of the fridge. Vacuum-sealed pickles do not need to be refrigerated. Refrigerating an opened jar of pickles does not impact its shelf-life significantly so it is unnecessary. According to the USDA, pickles can be stored for 1 year.

Butter 

To make sure the butter is spreadable, it needs to be stored in a cool pantry instead of the fridge. Butter lasts about 1-2 weeks on the counter. However, independent of where the butter is stored, it will have a limited shelf life, due to microbial spoilage or oxidation of lipids. Cold storage can extend the shelf life of butter, as well as the access to oxygen and light. The addition of salt prevents microbial growth, however, it increases the oxidation rate of some lipids and it does not eliminate the possibility of yeast contamination (18).

Cereal 

Cereal tends to absorb moisture and pick up unwanted odors from the fridge. Therefore, it is best kept on the counter. The shelf-life determination is highly dependent on the permeability characteristics of the packaging materials. In a study, the shelf-life for Granola cereal and under normal storage conditions (20°C and 75% RH) varied from 33 to 269 days for different biodegradable packaging materials (19).

Conclusion 

In this article, we answered the question “What are the 30 foods that should not be refrigerated?”

References 

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  3. Goldy, R. All fruit and vegetables are not created equal when it comes to proper storage conditions. 2019. Michigan State University.
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