Lowering a food’s temperature can prolong freshness and stave off bacterial growth but, in some cases, it can also change the texture and flavor for the worse.
With the exception of salt and canning, nothing has changed the food preservation game quite like the refrigerator. Lowering a food’s temperature can prolong freshness and stave off bacterial growth—but in some cases, it can also change its texture and flavor for the worse.
Water, salt, acid and acid content all affect a food’s shelf life, but the cold can also affect texture, especially in high-starch produce. Here are some foods that don’t need refrigeration, some that don’t want refrigeration, and some for which it is entirely up to the eater (you).
Unless You are dealing with a leftover half or some slices that didn’t make it on to a burger, You will never put tomatoes in the fridge. When you put a tomato in the fridge, you stress it out and reduce the activity in its little tomato genes. chilled tomato doesn’t taste, smell, or feel like a tomato.
Potatoes do best in a cool, dry, dark environment, but the fridge is a bit too cold. Potatoes have a lot of starches that will turn to sugars in fridge-cold temperatures. Besides giving your mash a dark color and uncharacteristically sweet flavor, these sugars can react with amino acids to form acrylamide which has been linked to cancer in a few different studies.
Sliced or chopped onions will last a little over a week in the fridge, but storing whole, unpeeled onions in there can cause them to absorb moisture, rendering them mushy, and the cold converts their starches to sugar (which makes them even mushier).
Cold temps can slow an avocado’s ripening process, so keep them at room temperature until they’re fully ripe. Once they hit that perfectly green and creamy stage—and only then—should you toss them in the fridge to slow ‘em down, or submerge them in water to bring ripening to a halt.
Like onions, whole bulbs of garlic are adversely affected by hanging out in a refrigerator. The moisture in the air can encourage sprouting and change the texture, so keep your garlic whole and unpeeled until you’re ready to use it, then store any leftover peeled cloves, slices, or minced bits in the fridge for up to two days.
Hot sauce is so incredibly high in both acid and salt, most brands can hang out at room temperature for years without growing mold, even after opening. (Check the “best by” date of the bottle to be sure; some shelf lives are shorter than others.)
Uncut melons with a rough skin (like watermelon and cantaloupe) need to be left out in order to properly ripen. The one exception? Honeydew, which actually doesn’t continue to ripen after picking and does just fine in the fridge. However, once those melons are ripe, they should go straight into your fridge for optimum freshness.
Butter is one of those foods that should, according to strict food safety rules, be stored in the refrigerator, but keep a stick of it in ceramic butter keeper in room temperature at all times, because you need your butter to be soft and spreadable at a moment’s notice. but it is worth noting that a single stick never sticks around longer than a week.
We know you’re worried about bugs, but refrigerating that loaf of rye is not the answer. (It’ll dry out and get stale, thanks to the cold temperatures.) Instead, store bread in an airtight bread box (or better yet, your microwave) for up to a week, or freeze for up to three months.
Honey never goes bad. It has a low pH and low moisture content, which makes it pretty hard for anything to survive amongst the sticky sweetness. Honey does fine on the counter. Keep honey at room temperature, in a non-reactive vessel and out of direct sunlight, and it will last pretty much indefinitely.
Unlike other herbs, basil wilts in the cold temperatures and absorbs other food smells, leaving you with black, wilted leaves. Instead, place it on your counter in a cup of water like fresh flowers and it will last for seven to ten days.
Oil and lard
Pure fats are just that: Pure. Fat. Fat does not support microbial growth, so there’s no reason to chill your lard, canola oil, olive oil, or any other cooking fat, for that matter. Plus, it can pick up flavors and odors from other stuff in the fridge if it’s not stored in an airtight container.