As people try to eat more economically, it only makes sense that more food ends up being saved for later. However, knowing how to best store food is essential to ensure proper food safety. While there is no shortage to guidelines on how to best preserve different foods, these seven tips provide a useful starting point to not only make sure that food is being stored safely but that the most efficient practices for food storage are being used.
1. Can It Be Saved?
While it might sound obvious, it should be worth ascertaining if food can, or should, be saved. Some foods are simply too difficult to save. For example, no one is likely to eat a bowl of half-eaten cereal that has been left in the fridge until it is all soggy. Of course, there is another angle at play here, too. Some foods simply cannot be saved safely for more than a few hours. Sushi, for example, may be delicious at a restaurant, but other than a few rolled pieces, will not likely be good more than a few hours after having it.
2. To Fridge or Not to Fridge
Second, it is worth considering whether or not refrigeration is the best option for saving food. In many cases, it is simply natural to put food into the fridge. However, some foods simply don’t belong there. Some people may be tempted to store bread in the refrigerator to slow it from going stale. However, the humidity of a fridge simply accelerates the process. In fact, it is better to freeze it. Even with pre-cooked food, there is only so long that food remains good. The Mayo Clinic advises that leftovers should be eaten within three or four days.
3. Combinations to Avoid
Many families are likely to store potatoes and onions in close proximity to one another, as both should be stored in a cool, dry, dark place. This can be a recipe for disaster, as the two vegetables will accelerate spoilage in each other. Something as simple as a paper bag still allows the vegetables to breath but provides sufficient separation to keep the two from contributing to spoilage.
4. Know Storage Dates
As was mentioned earlier, leftovers should be used within 3 or 4 days. However, for those looking to simply store food, the time can vary even more. Lunch meats should be eaten within a couple of days, while cheeses can remain fresh for significantly longer. Food can be frozen for much longer periods; depending on the food in question, food can be frozen from anywhere from a month to more than a year.
5. Don’t Refreeze
Speaking of freezing, it is worth repeating that it is ill-advised to refreeze food that has already been defrosted. The major reason for this is not so much a health concern, but instead one of food texture and quality. Freezing and thawing repeatedly causes cell membranes to burst, leaving relatively mushy food. As a result, while it will still be safe (assuming properly freezing and thawing practices were followed), refrozen food will not taste as good.
6. Getting to Temp
Making sure that food gets to the proper temperature quickly is also crucial. Simply because something is put into a fridge does not mean that it will be safe. The danger zone for bacterial growth is between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit, which is why a fridge usually keeps food at around 36 degrees. If someone puts a large, hot piece of food in a fridge, it will not only take a while to go below 40 degrees, but it could also raise the temperature of nearby foods. Also, consider the shape of the food being frozen. A soup kept in flat plastic bags will freeze much faster than a roasted turkey would drop to a refrigerated temperature.
The shape of food to be stored also impacts the container used. The more compact the container, the better the outcome with respect to food storage. Size is not everything, though. Making sure that the container in question controls air flow is also essential; something being refrigerated should be tightly sealed, while certain foods to be left out should just be lightly covered.