Food

How to keep food fresh in the fridge by storing it in the right place

There’s an ideal fridge position where specific foods should be stashed for maximum freshness. Before we dive in to that, here are a few things to keep in mind. Refrigerators should be kept at or below 40 degrees F. Resist the urge to pack the fridge too tightly, as the cold air needs to circulate. And while the below tips are general, remember fridges have different designs, so don’t ignore what you’ve observed about your own refrigerator.

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stocked fridge

The door

The warmest area of the fridge, room-temperature air gushes in every time the door is opened. Put your least perishable items on the door, with most of the space taken up by condiments. Even though some fridges have door compartments for butter and eggs, it’s best to keep them elsewhere. Some juices can be kept here, too; orange juice is pasteurized and the citric acid naturally prevents bacteria growth.

RELATED: 5 unexpected foods you can (and should) freeze for later

Upper shelves

The top shelves have the most consistent temperature in the fridge. Use them for dairy, drinks, ready-to-eat foods, and leftovers that you want to polish off. Speaking of leftovers, Ken Immer, chief culinary officer at Culinary Health Solutions, advises keeping all leftovers in the same spot in the fridge, preferably in the back of the shelves to remain as cold as possible. Later, if you try to cram more leftovers that don’t fit into the spot, it will prompt tossing the oldest leftovers out. “Use the fact that it won’t stay in the fridge as an opportunity to throw something away before it rots,” he says. He also recommends fresh leafy herbs like cilantro on the top shelf, dropped into a water-filled vase or mason jar with a plastic bag fitted like a balloon over it to keep herbs potentially lasting up to a week.

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Two chicken eggs on a shelf of the refrigerator door open closeup;

Bottom shelf

Don’t fall for the trap of storing eggs into the built-in egg-shaped container in the fridge if it’s on the door. Put eggs in their store-bought cartons on the bottom shelf. Cold air sinks, so this is often the coldest part of the fridge, particularly in the back. It's also a good place to store deli meat and fish.

Meat drawer

Have a drawer that sits on an angle in the fridge? That’s the best spot for meat, according to Immer, because the bottom of the drawer actually fits tightly up against a refrigerator coil, rendering it the coldest spot in the fridge. Perishable meats like raw chicken or steak should hang out in here. If you don’t have a meat drawer, to prevent cross-contamination, keep meat in its original packaging; consider buying a clear plastic bin and keep all raw meat in it on a lower shelf to prevent it from leaking on anything below.

Crisper

Most refrigerators have one or two crisper drawers that are designed to maintain moisture to help fruits and vegetables. If there’s an option, make sure the crisper/ vegetable drawer is on a moist setting because Immer says the dampness prevents produce from drying out. Add a damp paper towel into containers with leafy greens and kale to further keep them fresh. Immer is also a big fan of specialty containers for storage, like placing red peppers into a pepper saver. “It reminds you of what’s in the containers,” he says. “Then you’re more likely to actually use it and it keeps it fresh.”

There’s one problem if you throw all your produce in there together: many fruits, like apples and cantaloupes, release ethylene, which can cause other items to over-ripen. If you have two crisper drawers, separate the ethylene-producing fruits from the others (If you don’t want to memorize a list, keeping fruits in one drawer and vegetables in the other is a good shortcut).

Outside the fridge

Steve Lindner, chef and CEO of the healthy meal service company Zone Manhattan, said a few items people mistakenly put in the fridge that don’t need it include the following: avocados, bananas, bread, potatoes, tomatoes, and unripened stone fruits like peaches or cherries.

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