Let’s think about how often you rely on ready access to fresh food. In the mornings you add milk to your coffee; maybe you grab yogurt and blueberries or some eggs to fry. You pack leftover roast chicken for lunch. Come dinnertime, you’re back at the refrigerator, unwrapping that nutty wedge of Parmesan and slicing off a pat of butter for your pasta.
Since having fresh dairy, meats, seafood, and produce on hand is essential for a healthy diet–or, at least, one that’s not just snack food or fast food all day long–it makes sense to store fresh foods in a refrigerator that’ll keep them at their peak for longer. Could your current refrigerator be doing a better job?
Refrigerators used to be called “iceboxes” for good reason, but keeping food fresh involves more than just keeping it cold, and technology has come a long way since then. Three things impact food freshness: humidity, temperature, and airflow. The food in your refrigerator should be treated differently than the food in your freezer (and it’s ideal that the air is never shared between the two).
Take a look at this helpful infographic of a Sub-Zero refrigerator. This is no mere icebox: Equipped to constantly balance temperature, humidity, and air quality, each refrigerator is designed to keep your food fresher longer. (Yes, that means you end up throwing less food away, too.)
Even with the best refrigeration, foods don’t last forever. We’ve all had that sad experience of pulling a bag of browned herbs or petrified vegetables out of the refrigerator drawer, or wondering if the innocent-looking-but-somewhat-forgotten steak is still safe to enjoy. Minimize your paranoia and regret by following these five tips:
1) The coldest parts of your refrigerator (the lower drawers) are designed for produce, from peppers and kiwis to peas. But if you find yourself unable to cook often, choose produce like beets, carrots, onions, and apples: They’ll last anywhere from one month (apples) to five (carrots) when stored correctly in those cooler, higher humidity compartments.
2) Ethylene is a key ingredient in ripening–and over-ripening. Some fruits and vegetables produce ethylene, while others are ethylene-sensitive. Don’t place your ethylene-producing apples right next to your ethylene-sensitive bok choy, or your greens will turn before you have time to get out your wok.
3) Items like meat and fish last only a week, at best. If you know you’re not going to use them right away, store them in your freezer.
4) The door of the refrigerator is typically the warmest area, so be sure to store your least perishable items, like condiments, there.
5) Some items don’t belong in your refrigerator at all, including bananas, tomatoes, eggplants, garlic, ginger, jicama, and potatoes. Our advice? Just keep those out on the counter.