Foods that you should keep in the fridge – and some you definitely shouldn’t

Jo Romero
Jo Romero
17 April 2012

You go shopping, stuff all the 'fresh' foods in the fridge and relax. But some fresh foods will actually spoil and deteriorate faster if they're refrigerated. And others that are usually kept in the cupboard will benefit from chilly spell in the fridge. Check these out.

[Related feature: 5 foods you should never freeze]

Tomatoes


Tempting as it is to slide a pack of tomatoes into the fridge's salad drawer, chilling them actually causes a lot of damage, breaking down their cell structure and giving them a grainy texture. Another thing you'll miss with chilled tomatoes is their flavour. Take a bite of a refrigerated tomato and another of a tomato at room temperature and you'll notice a huge difference in taste. For best results, leave tomatoes out of the fridge and keep them away from sources of moisture and heat, such as the kettle, microwave or oven.

Onions

You'd normally stash onions in a cupboard — but there's a huge benefit of keeping them in the fridge: the crying. Onions contain enzymes and acids, normally kept separate by cells. When you cut the onion, you break these cells and they're mixed together to create an eye-watering gas. Alex, from the food science blog Procrastibaking suggests keeping onions in the fridge. "The smartest way to stop this occurring is to stop the enzyme from being able to function," he says. "This can be achieved by chilling the onion before you cut it as the low temperature will render the enzyme inactive."

Citrus fruits


We all know that bananas turn black when you keep them in the fridge, but did you know that it's best not to refrigerate citrus fruits? Keeping lemons, limes and oranges in the fridge can dry them out inside. It's best to keep them in a bowl on the kitchen worktop where they will stay juicier for longer.

Eggs


When eggs are sold in supermarkets, they're not refrigerated, so why keep them in the fridge at home? Well, many people don't, but the general advice is that after purchase, they should be popped into the fridge to ensure they stay at their freshest. And the best place for them isn't in the dedicated egg compartment in the door, but on one of the shelves inside. Before baking with eggs though, they should be at room temperature so make sure you take them out of the fridge for an hour or so before you start.

Peanut butter, jams, chutneys and ketchup
Before fridges existed, people made 'preserves' to store until needed. This included jam, marmalade and chutney. Chutney, ketchup and things like chilli jelly usually have high levels of vinegar, while jam has a lot of sugar — both natural preservatives. Left at room temperature, these foods will go off quicker if tainted by butter or toast crumbs from the knife you're spreading with, so just use a clean teaspoon to scoop it out. Peanut butter will turn very stiff when chilled, and it's best off in the cupboard. But do read the labels. Although most preserves and sauces will be fine for a couple of months in a cupboard, the producers are the experts when it comes to their products. So if the label tells you to refrigerate after opening, do stick it in the fridge.

Bread


Bread and other baked goods will turn stale a lot quicker if they're kept in the fridge. This is because chilling bread results in the movement of starch molecules, causing tiny crystals to develop. This will dry out the bread and give it a stale texture. But you can freeze bread. The freezing process happens much more quickly so your bread will retain the same texture as it had before it went in the deep freeze.

Basil


You can store most herbs in the fridge — in tied bunches, individual packets or stalks down, in a small glass of water. But if you keep a packet of basil in the fridge, when you come to use it, it will have turned a dark, purplish black. The leaves also lose their flavour and turn floppy in the low temperatures. If you need basil to last a long time, your best bet is to buy a plant and keep it on your windowsill.

Were any of these fridge or non-fridge foods a surprise? Do you keep any cupboard foods in your fridge?

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