10 Things You Don’t Have to Refrigerate
Have you ever opened your refrigerator and realized that you couldn't find what you were looking for because it was overflowing with miscellaneous items? If so, you're in good company. The majority of households pack items into the fridge that simply don't need to be there. Here's a list of 10 items you don't need to refrigerate, but are probably taking up room in your fridge right now.
Consider this: we build homes to keep us warm from the cold. Then, we add refrigerators—large boxes to keep our food cold in our warm homes. And inside our refrigerators are even smaller boxes to keep our butter slightly warmer than the cold box inside our warm home.
Many people assume that butter has to be refrigerated because it’s dairy-based. While it’s true that butter can go rancid if stored too close to a heat source (such as a too-hot oven) or in direct sunlight, if you store your butter in an opaque butter dish and place it somewhere cool, your butter might outlast the rest of us. In fact, a recent excavation in Ireland uncovered a cache of butter estimated to be almost 3,000 years old.
Butter is also a great compromise item. If you’re not 100% sold on leaving it out, just place one stick in the butter dish, and leave the rest in the fridge. That way you can see how fast you use it, and what the best storage solution is for you.
A delicious herb that enhances almost any dish, basil is often placed in the fridge by well-meaning home cooks. Unfortunately, one of the best aspects of basil—its tendency to blend the smells and tastes of the items around it—also means that keeping it refrigerated can cause it to pick up the properties of its shelf-mates.
Instead, keep fresh basil in a little bit of water as if it were a bouquet of freshly cut flowers. It will taste better, look great and may even help keep flies at bay.
Onions have the opposite problem from basil. Instead of absorbing the odors of other items on the shelf, they tend to lend their aroma to their surroundings, especially when kept in an enclosed area like a refrigerator. Whether you want to keep onions on hand for mixing into a stew or for an easy-to-assemble BBQ kebab, the best place to store them is in a dry area with good ventilation.
Honey is the only food product that never spoils. Instead of going rancid, this golden wonder of nature simply crystallizes into a “crunchier” form. In fact, honey is such an amazing product that not only does it stay edible indefinitely, the beeswax honeycomb from which it’s extracted can be used for chores as varied as furniture polish to candle making.
Storing your honey in the fridge not only isn’t needed, it actually accelerates the crystallization process. That doesn’t ruin it, but it does make for a different experience with your meal. So pull it out of your fridge and move it into the pantry for that classic, slow moving, mellow honey taste.
Hot Sauce, Soy Sauce, Fish Sauce
Because of their high acid levels, items such as hot sauce, soy sauce and fish sauce can stay fresh for years without getting refrigerated. The secret is in their common ingredient: Vinegar. While you may not be able to make your own household cleaner out of these sauces the way you can with straight vinegar, they do have enough bite in them to last outside the fridge.
Berries face a double whammy in the fridge. Refrigerators have a high moisture content, which can shorten their lifespan, and most fridges are set to just above freezing. Berries and fruit have a high water content and fragile structure, meaning that if they get positioned too close to the blower, they can freeze. This lessens their flavor and changes their texture.
After you wash your berries, move them to a bowl and use them as an attractive display piece when you’re not snacking on them. And don’t toss that original container in the recycling bin just yet. The slotted-edge of berry boxes makes them perfect for chores such as seed broadcasting.
Cakes don’t thrive in the fridge, but some of them do need to be chilled. So how do you know which is which? The answer lies in the frosting. Because of their ingredients, some cake frostings will spoil if left at room temperature. If a cake is unfrosted, or if it has a buttercream or ganache topping and you’re going to eat it within a few days, then it can sit out on the counter. However, if you’re not sure, err on the side of refrigeration. The refrigerator will dry out the cake, so if the frosting requires you to keep it there, make sure you cover it completely, eat it quickly or move it to the freezer.
An all-time classic patio plant, tomatoes are delicious, nutritious and not to be stored in the cold. A fruit that thrives in warm weather, tomatoes lose their flavor in the chill embrace of a refrigerator. Their texture is also changed, making them less pleasant to eat. If you’ve ever had a sandwich in a restaurant and found that the tomato slices seemed a little mushy on the inside and chewy on the outside, it’s probably because they were stored in the fridge.
Keep your tomatoes on the counter, but out of direct sunlight, and they’ll keep their texture and flavor long after they’ve been picked.
Just like hot sauces, ketchup and mustard have enough acid in them that they can live in a cabinet for months without degrading in quality.
You may notice that some ketchup and mustard manufacturers recommend that you store their product in the fridge. This is because over time the flavor of ketchup and mustard may weaken, but only if a single bottle lasts i your home for months and months. If storage in your fridge is a premium, move these two condiments to a cabinet. Or consider a lazy Susan condiment rack to help keep them close at hand.
At some point in time, it became common wisdom that coffee beans and grounds should be refrigerated. The problem with that plan is (once again) the high humidity of the refrigerator. That humidity can impact the grounds or beans, changing the flavor of your morning java.
Whether you’re brewing up a full pot or running an individual cup through a DIY coffee maker, your best bet is to keep your coffee beans or grounds in an airtight container, tucked away in a cool, dry, dark place. If you have more coffee than you’ll use any time soon, opt for storage in the freezer. Experts still suspect that the flavor will be altered, but it’s safer than the fridge.
Proceed with Caution: Eggs
Many people have heard that eggs don’t need to be refrigerated. And it’s true that if eggs are never cooled to begin with, then they don’t need to be kept in the cooler. But depending on how your eggs are processed, storing them out of the fridge may be a very bad idea.
Eggs can take damage in surprising ways, and can even be recovered after being frozen solid, but they’re very vulnerable to certain environments. In the U.S. and Canada, almost all eggs are refrigerated immediately after being washed and sanitized. And once they’re been chilled, storing them at room temperature actually increases the danger of diseases like salmonella.
So the somewhat complicated answer is: In North America, keep your eggs in the fridge. If you live pretty much anywhere else in the world, a pantry or countertop is fine.