In this article, we will answer the question “What are the 50 foods that should never be put in the refrigerator?”
What are the 50 foods that should never be put in the refrigerator?
Storing food properly is essential to avoid food loss. According to studies, 40% of food in the United States today goes uneaten. That is more than 20 pounds of food per person every month. Not only does this mean that Americans are throwing out the equivalent of $165 billion each year, but also 25% of all freshwater and huge amounts of unnecessary chemicals, energy, and land (1).
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).
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 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).
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).
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).
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).
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).
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).
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 such as Butternut squash, acorn squash, spaghetti squash, and pumpkins can be stored on the counter for about a month or even longer (3).
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).
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 off kept on the counter. Studies show that the storage of bread at refrigerator temperatures accelerates firming (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).
The cold and dry environment of the fridge tends to make the herbs wilt faster. The best way to store fresh herbs and preserve their crispness is by placing them in a glass jar filled with water. However, if they are not going to be consumed on 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).
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 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).
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).
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).
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).
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).
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 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).
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.
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 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).
Donuts are best consumed when freshly baked. Refrigeration tends to make the donuts soggy and stale. Your best bet is to store the donuts at room temperature for no more than 2 days.
- Aged cheese
Unlike other types of cheese, hard cheese does not require refrigeration. When refrigerated, hard cheese turns too hard like a rock. Most aged cheeses containing <50% moisture and active lactic acid starter cultures, along with traditional levels of salt, pH, fat, etc., do not allow the growth of pathogens at temperatures between 4 and 30°C (20).
When bought from the refrigerated section of the grocery store, eggs should always be stored in the fridge. Free-range eggs or eggs bought at room temperature can be stored on the counter. The USDA recommends the cold storage of eggs. With the concern about Salmonella, eggs gathered from laying hens should be refrigerated as soon as possible.
Unlike cilantro and parsley, basil does best on the counter. Refrigeration tends to wilt the basil leaves. According to studies, the shelf life (defined by visual quality) of freshly harvested greenhouse-grown sweet basil was maintained for an average of about 12 days at 15°C. Chilling injury symptoms were severe at storage temperatures of 5°C and below. Shelf life was found to be only 1-3 days at 5°C (21).
If the eggplants are to be consumed within 2 days of their purchase, they can safely be stored on the counter (3).
- Olive oil
Refrigeration alters the flavor of olive oil due to the solidification and condensation that leads to a cloudy appearance. A cool and dark pantry or kitchen cupboard is the best storage site for olive oil. However, as mentioned before, the cold storage reduces oxidation and hydrolysis rates of fatty acids during long storage, while the storage at room temperature favors faster deterioration (16).
Vinegar does not go bad unless you help it because it has excellent self-preservation properties. Store the vinegar in a cool and dark place. However, other condiments, like vinaigrettes containing herbs, garlic, onion, or other add-ons, must always be refrigerated. According to the USDA, vinegar can be stored for 2 years out of the refrigerator.
The high acidity of the mustard makes it a self-preserving condiment that does not need refrigeration. Feel free to refrigerate if you like your mustard chilled. Similar to hot sauce, it is a stable condiment and may be kept at room temperature, according to the USDA. However, refrigeration ensures the product stays fresh for a longer period of time.
The thick consistency of the molasses only becomes thicker when refrigerated. To avoid the molasses from solidifying in the fridge, store it in a cool and dark place such as the pantry. However, studies show that the effects of storing sugar molasses at 40°C is more negative to the overall quality of the product than storing it at 20°C (22).
Unlike the convention, storing the chocolate in the fridge is not a good practice. A bar of chocolate stored in the icebox will undergo several irreversible changes in its texture and flavor. However, chocolate stored above 18°C for long periods can suffer fat bloom, which is the crystallization of the cocoa fat, where the polymorphic transformation continues, and the form V of cocoa butter transforms to form VI (23).
As long as the peppers are uncut, they can sit on the counter without losing their heat and crispy texture (3).
Dry rice or uncooked rice does not require refrigeration. Uncooked rice is best stored in a cool, dark, and dry place, away from direct sunlight. You can go the extra mile by keeping an oxygen-absorbing packet inside the dry rice package to keep the rice dry (24).
- Cookies and other baked goods
Cool air strips the cookies and brownies of their moisture. Most baked products including cakes are best stored in an air-tight container at room temperature. This does not apply if the cakes or cupcakes are frosted.
- Dry beans
Just like dry rice, dry beans should not be refrigerated, according to the USDA. Even the original plastic bags of the beans are not reliable in terms of long-term storage. Dry beans are best stored in an air-tight plastic container in a cool and dark place.
- Salad dressing
Unless the salad dressing contains a perishable ingredient, it can safely sit on the counter even after the bottle is opened. This applies to most oil-based dressings, such as most vinaigrettes. According to the USDA, refrigeration ensures that commercial sauces and condiments stay fresh for a longer period of time. Shelf-stable commercial salad dressing is 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.
Even after opening the jar, you do not need to refrigerate jam, but it is recommended to do so, according to the USDA. As long as the jam is stored in a cool, dark, and dry place such as the cupboard or the pantry, it won’t go bad. This is because of the high concentration of the sugar in jam (25).
- Tropical fruits
Tropical fruits grow in warm climates and do not do well when stored in the fridge. For optimal freshness, tropical fruits should be stored on the counter at around 50 degrees Fahrenheit (2,3).
Jerky is dried meat and it does not like the moist environment of the fridge. Refrigeration will make the jerky lumpy. Therefore, store your jerky at room temperature, away from mixture and sunlight. Commercially packaged jerky can be kept up to 12 months at room temperature. Properly home-made dried jerky can be stored 1 to 2 months at room temperature. Refrigeration or freezing can be used to prolong the quality of home-dried jerky (26).
The cold and dry air of the fridge strips the pears of their juiciness and damages their delicate skin. Pears may suffer chilling injury when stored in low temperatures (<45°F) (2)
Papaya is a tropical fruit and does not like the cold refrigerator environment. The fridge stops the ripening process of papaya. Moreover, papaya tends to pick up unwanted odors from the fridge (2,3).
In this article, we answered the question “What are the 50 foods that should never be put in the refrigerator?”
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