Food storage is a game of tradeoffs. To do it right, it’s important to understand your own lifestyle and storage constraints, as well as your priorities in the kitchen. For most foods, limiting exposure to heat, light, and air circulation will extend their life. But, some foods begin to lose flavor or degrade when chilled. Here are some widely-accepted guidelines for where to store your produce and pantry staples:
IN THE FRIDGE
- The crisper drawer is your best bet for many fruits, including apples, pears, citrus, grapes, and all berries. Lemons are limes, however, may begin to adsorb odors from their fridge neighbors and can last a while on the counter.
- Lettuces and greens like spinach and collards are best stored in the fridge after being washed and wrapped in damp paper towels. Asparagus will do best with this process as well.
- Other vegetables that like to be chilled and do best when stored in individual bags include: beets, bell peppers, broccoli, Brussel’s sprouts, carrots, mushrooms, radishes, snap peas, and summer squash.
- Because they contain a higher level of natural oils, whole grains like brown rice and cracked wheat are best stored in the fridge. Same goes for whole grain flours.
- Eggs are a contested fridge item, but unless you have your own chickens, it’s best to store eggs in the refrigerator. In the United States, commercial eggs are washed before they’re sold, so they lose the natural protective layer that fresh eggs have.
ON THE KITCHEN COUNTER
- Pineapple should be kept at room temperature until ripe and fragrant. Once it's ready, eat right away.
- Optimal tomato storage is at room temperature, out of sunlight, stem-side down. Potatoes and winter squash also do best on the counter.
- Watermelons and eggplants both keep best at 50-60°F; when too cold, watermelons will lose their sweetness.
- Bananas will be fine at room temperature, though they can be refrigerated too to extend their life. Don’t worry if the peels turn dark; the fruit will still maintain its flavor.
- Bread gets stale quickly as the starch molecules begin to crystallize – it's best to store bread at room temperature for up to three days. If you haven’t finished the loaf at that point, wrap it tightly in foil or plastic, place in a plastic bag, and freeze.
IN A DARK PLACE
- Keep unripe peaches, nectarines, pears, and avocados in a paper bag until they’re soft to touch.
- High-quality extra virgin olive oil is a fruit juice! It will have some amount of olive particles suspended in the oil, and these will eventually turn the oil rancid. For a longer shelf life, store extra virgin olive oil in dark glass, away from heat and light. Once open, we recommend using up the oil within 1-2 months.
- Onions, garlic, and shallots appreciate a little darkness. Store them in a cabinet or pantry if you have room. Alliums will lose flavor and can become mealy in the refrigerator.
- Keep coffee in an airtight container in a dark and cool location. Don’t put it in the refrigerator or freezer! Moisture from condensation and temperature fluctuations will break it down and decrease its strength.
While some of these storage tips are important to maintain the safety of your consumables, feel free to experiment with others to find the best storage spots in your kitchen. Also, pay attention to how much food you have to toss each week, and maybe consider shopping for smaller quantities of certain foods more often.