Anybody who cooks at home knows food safety is pretty important. If you aren’t careful about how you cook and store your food, you increase your chances that you or somebody else in your household will get sick. So we carefully refrigerate some foods and freeze others. And we heat (or reheat) hot foods to stave off bacterial growth. But did you know some of the foods you put in the refrigerator — even some really counterintuitive ones, such as butter — don’t actually have to stay there?
Check out some of the foods you can keep in your pantry or even on your counter instead of finding space for them in the fridge.
The Food Network reports though there are some foods you don’t have to refrigerate, there are others you shouldn’t refrigerate. At the top of that list? Melons, such as watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew. Your best bet is to keep these fruits on your counter to get the best flavor. Keeping them at room temperature might even maximize the amount of antioxidants they provide when you eat them. Once you cut open a melon, however, you should store it in the refrigerator.
It sounds like a good idea to keep avocados in the refrigerator. After all, it’s hard enough to tell when they’ve reached the perfect level of ripeness. But the Food Network reports that “the creamy goodness of this fruit is best enjoyed at room temp.” If you find you have a bunch of ripe avocados and can’t use them right away, you can place them in the refrigerator to extend their shelf life by a couple of days. But you’ll get the best flavor if you let them ripen at room temperature.
Rodale Wellness reports that bananas “hate the cold.” (If you’ve ever accidentally stuck a bunch in the refrigerator, you found that out firsthand.) Bananas don’t ripen in the fridge. And the cold temperature turns their skin brown prematurely. That makes it impossible to tell whether they’re ready to eat. To get bananas to ripen and to get the best flavor out of them, store them at room temperature on the kitchen counter.
Next: Tropical fruits
4. Tropical fruits
Rodale Wellness shares another useful rule for determining which fruits should stay away from the refrigerator. “Chances are good that if it grows in the tropics, it will store best at room temperature,” the publication explains. Did you buy a pineapple or a couple of papayas? Maybe a mango or a bag full of kiwis? Keep these and other tropical fruits on the counter, not in the fridge.
Want to keep your ground or whole bean coffee tasting great? Then, don’t stick it in the refrigerator. The Food Network reports the humidity in your refrigerator can cause a buildup of condensation in your coffee bag or canister. And that can have some pretty weird effects on the flavor of your favorite coffee. A better bet than the refrigerator when it comes to coffee storage? Try an airtight container in the pantry.
Did you know everybody’s favorite chocolate hazelnut spread not only doesn’t have to go in the refrigerator, but really shouldn’t be kept there? The Food Network explains Nutella not only stays more spreadable when it’s kept at room temperature, but its distinctive chocolatey flavor tastes more intense when the spread isn’t chilled. Move your Nutella from the fridge to the pantry, and see whether you can taste the difference.
Some people store their bread in the refrigerator to keep mold at bay. But storing bread in the fridge typically dries it out. (That might tempt you to use even more butter, mayo, or whatever you’re putting on your bread than you typically would.) To retain your loaf’s texture, keep bread at room temperature on the counter or in the pantry. If you bought more bread than you can use immediately, store the extra in the freezer, not the fridge.
If you stocked up on several boxes of butter, stick them in the fridge. But Food52 reports you can keep a few days’ supply of butter right on your kitchen counter. Butter is usually about 80% fat (which means a low water content) and often contains pasteurized milk. Together, those factors reduce the risk of bacterial growth. You can keep butter in an airtight container at room temperature (at least if room temperature is 70 degrees Fahrenheit or lower). But the trick really only works with salted butter, which can last for a couple of days outside the refrigerator. Unsalted butter, on the other hand, should stay in the fridge.
Do you stash your apples in the refrigerator out of habit? It turns out you don’t actually have to put them in the fridge — particularly not if you plan to use them pretty quickly. Food52 reports it’s a good idea to put your apples in the refrigerator right away if you need them to last for weeks. (They can last up to four months if stored between 30 and 35 degrees Fahrenheit in a humid environment.) But if you plan to use your apples within a week, you can just leave them on the counter.
Next: Stone fruit
10. Stone fruit
Another interesting rule about refrigerating fruit? You shouldn’t put stone fruit — think peaches, plums, nectarines, apricots, and cherries — in the refrigerator until they’ve ripened fully. According to Food52, the cold temperature of your refrigerator will halt the ripening process. That’s what makes them mealy. The publication advises ripening stone fruit at room temperature for two to three days before you stash them in the refrigerator to extend their shelf life.
The Food Network reports berries taste best at room temperature. So why mess with a good thing if you plan to use your strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, or blueberries within a few days? If you need to keep them longer than that, you can stick them in the refrigerator. But if you want to prevent them from getting soggy or moldy, wait to rinse them off until just before you eat them.
Similarly, tomatoes can lose their flavor and take on a mealy texture if you store them in the refrigerator. The Food Network advises storing them on the kitchen counter instead. In fact, underripe tomatoes can even sit on the windowsill to ripen. Even if they get too ripe, the Food Network doesn’t advise sticking them in the fridge. Instead, that means “it’s time to make tomato jam or roasted-tomato sauce.” Tomato-related produce — such as tomatillos and ground cherries — should also stay at room temperature in a well-ventilated spot, according to Rodale Wellness.
Another food you shouldn’t refrigerate? Potatoes. It turns out cold temperatures, such as the ones in your refrigerator, will break down the starches in a potato. That has the effect of making the potato “unpleasantly sweet and gritty,” according to the Food Network. If you bought a lot of potatoes and don’t know how to store them, keep in mind that someplace cool, dry, and dark will work best. Rodale Wellness adds that sweet potatoes and yams should also stay out of the refrigerator, where they’ll develop discolored patches.
14. Soy sauce, fish sauce, and hot sauce
Tired of having these condiments clutter up your refrigerator door? Food52 reports you can actually keep these popular sauces at room temperature. They won’t spoil if you store them in the pantry or on the counter. Just be aware their flavor and quality will last longer if you stick them in the fridge. Fish sauce, for instance, might continue to ferment and change in flavor if you keep it at room temperature. Even so, it can last for two to three years unrefrigerated.
15. Fresh basil
Food52 reports that as a rule, you should refrigerate fresh herbs. But all rules have exceptions. Case in point: basil. Hard herbs — those with woody stems, such as rosemary, oregano, marjoram, and thyme — should be wrapped in a damp paper towel and then in plastic wrap before going in the fridge. But soft herbs with tender stems, such as basil, parsley, cilantro, and tarragon, “like being treated as bouquets.” Food52 advises you “snip the bases of the stems and put them into a glass of fresh water, changing out the water every day or two if it starts to cloud.” Basil should stay at room temperature. But other soft herbs should get covered with a plastic bag and placed in the fridge.
The Food Network reports that onions, too, should get left out of the refrigerator. The humidity in the refrigerator can make them moldy. And it can also cause them to take on a mushy, unappetizing texture. Instead of sticking them in the fridge, you should find a place for them in the pantry out of direct sunlight. And only once they’re cut open should you put them in a resealable bag in the vegetable drawer.
On a similar note, remember not to put garlic in the refrigerator. The best way to maximize its flavor is to keep it in a dry, cool, but ventilated container. (No airtight canisters here.) Once you break open a head of garlic, don’t stick it in the fridge, either. Just aim to use the rest of the cloves within the next 10 days for the best flavor and freshness.
According to the Food Network, honey should never go in the fridge. The cold temperatures can make it “seize up” and crystallize. So if you want your honey to retain an edible texture, keep it at room temperature in the pantry, in your kitchen cabinets, or on the counter. (If honey does crystallize, you can get it to liquefy again by gently heating it in the microwave.)
When it comes to refrigeration, nuts seem to be the subject of some controversy. The oil in nuts can make them go rancid quickly. And they typically only last one to four months at room temperature. Food52 advises storing them in the refrigerator, where they can last up to a year. But the Food Network notes that nuts stored in the fridge can “stifle the nutty flavor.” And shelled nuts might absorb other odors in your fridge. The Food Network advises storing nuts in an airtight container in the pantry. Or, if you really want to put them in the fridge, toast them in a dry pan before using.
Rodale Wellness reports that peppers — whether you prefer bell peppers or hot peppers — should always stay at room temperature. Peppers stop ripening when you put them in the refrigerator. That means you won’t get the best flavor and freshness out of refrigerated peppers. Your best bet is to leave them on the counter, or find another dry, well-ventilated spot in the kitchen to store them until you’re ready to use them.
Most people don’t know what to do with an eggplant when they buy one. That goes for how to cook with it and also how to store it. But according to Rodale Wellness, you should never put an eggplant in the vegetable drawer in your refrigerator. The publication explains, “These heat-loving fruits store well at room temperature.”
Next: Squash and pumpkins
22. Winter squash and pumpkins
According to Rodale Wellness, squash and pumpkins last the longest in a dry, cool, and well-ventilated place. They don’t need to go in the refrigerator. Even if you don’t plan to use them right away, they’ll keep just fine on your kitchen counter.