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10 foods you really shouldn't be keeping in the fridge (but probably are)

Some foods benefit from being left at room temperature. Are you guilty of any of these mistakes?

WHEN IT COMES to food storage, we tend to use our refrigerators as a safety net, storing produce we want to last longer, and trying to protect from potential spoiling using the magical powers of electric refrigeration.

But are we actually refrigerating items we shouldn’t be? Yes – and we’re often sacrificing the flavour and longevity of some of the yummiest foods by relegating them to the fridge.

I’m guilty of succumbing to the temptation to overuse the fridge — it seems so counterintuitive not to use it for keeping every possible item fresh! But in the interest of keeping groceries in top condition, we’ve recently shifted tomatoes to the counter and bell peppers to the pantry, making more room for the foods you definitely need to refrigerate.

In the case of some fruit and veg, the fridge can be helpful in slowing down the ripening process. For instance, if you happen to have a half dozen avocados about to ripen at the same time and have reached your limit on avocado toast or guacamole, you can put extras in the fridge to keep them from over-ripening. But in other cases, you’ll find the fridge actually damages flavour and quality. Tomatoes, berries and bell peppers will last longer and taste better if they’re kept at room temperature.

Now it’s time to open your fridge door and find out what veggies, fruits and other edibles are currently too chilly with this list of the things that definitely shouldn’t be stored in the fridge.

Garlic: Garlic is best kept in a cool, dark spot — and whole garlic heads can even last several months in a dry pantry spot. But storing garlic in the cool moisture of the fridge will cause it to sprout within days. You can still use sprouted garlic in a pinch, but it’s likely to taste more bitter.

I rarely need more than a few cloves of garlic, so once I crack it open, I slice it in half, drizzle with olive oil and roast it in the oven. Roasted garlic will keep in a sealed container in the fridge for up to a few weeks.

Bread: It’s tempting to think that keeping bread in the refrigerator will keep it from spoiling more quickly, but unfortunately, bread will go stale much faster in the fridge. It may not be mouldy, but it’s not going to be too appetising either.

I keep it in the cupboard for a few days, and then pop it directly into the freezer for optimal freshness.

Shutterstock / Man Iulian Shutterstock / Man Iulian / Man Iulian

Tomatoes: Truly good tomatoes, the ones with that flavour that instantly reminds you of summer holidays in Italy, can only retain their particular taste at room temperature.

The cooler temperature will actually cause a tomato’s genes to stop making the substance that contributes to their delicious flavour. Our tomatoes are stored on the counter in a wire basket so we can keep as much of that summery taste as possible.

Coffee: While you might have heard that coffee beans or ground coffee lasts longer in the fridge, it’s actually too moist a location for coffee storage. You do want to store your coffee in a cool spot, but leaving it in the fridge will dull its flavour. We leave ours in the pantry and the resident coffee snobs stay happy and caffeinated much longer.

Shutterstock / gurezende Shutterstock / gurezende / gurezende

Cake: If you find yourself with extra slices of cake on hand, there’s no need to put them in the fridge. Icing actually serves as a built-in cling film, keeping the cake moist and preserved for several days at room temperature. (In fact, if you have extra icing, slather it on the cut edges to keep those sections moist as well.)

Unless cake has fresh fruit or whipped cream icing, we always let it sit on the counter; I like to know it’s close at hand for a nibble at any time.

Honey: Most of us are in the habit of putting any opened jar immediately into the fridge, but honey will solidify and even crystalise in the fridge. Instead, keep it in a closed cupboard in an airtight container away from direct sunlight to keep it easy to manage next time you need it.

However, make sure not to store honey in a metal container; its acidic composition will cause metal to rust. Glass is the safest for helping honey last as long as possible.

Red, yellow and green peppers: Unless they’ve been cut, peppers don’t need to be refrigerated and will maintain their crisp outer skin longer outside the fridge. They should, however, be stored in a cool, dry spot — not in the fruit basket in the sunshine on the countertop. Our peppers always reside in a basket in the pantry, and once we chop into them they head to the fridge.

Cucumbers: As it turns out, cucumbers don’t like the fridge, either. They get pitted and watery if they’re stored in such a cool environment. And while we’re at it, they’re pretty fussy about their neighbours – they aren’t too fond of being stored with bananas, melons and tomatoes because they are especially sensitive to the ethylene those fruits produce, so our cucumbers are kept with peppers in the pantry.

Shutterstock / Besjunior Shutterstock / Besjunior / Besjunior

Berries: Berries spoil faster in moist conditions, and the fridge can be a culprit here. Anywhere cool and dry is a good alternative – we keep berries on the counter with tomatoes, but that does mean that they get eaten in a flash!

Try to refrain from washing them before putting them away as that will also contribute to them going bad quickly. They need to be rinsed directly before eating.

Hot sauce: Many fridges have a condiment section full of hot sauces, but most non-creamy condiments don’t have to be refrigerated. If I was the hot sauce type, I’d surely move it out of the fridge and into the pantry to make more room for salad dressing, jam and chutney options that do need to be kept refrigerated after opening.

More: 9 foods you should really be keeping in the fridge (including a few surprises)>

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