Food & Recipes

Do You Know Which Of These 11 Foods Do & Don’t Need Refrigeration?

How many foods do you store the correct way?

When I went to Eastern Europe to see relatives a couple years ago, I was surprised to learn what they do refrigerate (vodka) versus what they don’t (butter and eggs).

How do we know what to put in the fridge and what to not? If we buy something at the store that’s refrigerated at the time, that’s probably a telling sign, right? But what about other things?

My boyfriend and I have an ongoing thing with an onion, for instance. I think it should stay on the counter while he thinks it needs to go in the “crisper” section of the refrigerator (not just anywhere in the fridge).

As a result, the onion is constantly moving back and forth from the counter to the fridge, which cannot be good, either. Because of this onion debate, I started researching what should stay cold, and what doesn’t need to – and to see who was right, of course, me or my boyfriend.

Here’s some top foods that (surprise, surprise) do and do not need refrigeration. So next time you and your significant other discuss this, now you’ll know!

As we go through them, you can guess before reading the answer: counter or fridge?

1. Onions

Yes, I’m starting with the onions. And, guess what? My boyfriend was wrong!

Experts say… counter! Though onions can live longer if you put them in the fridge, they cause more harm than good. They’ll be less crispy and also make everything else in there smell like onions! So, experts suggest the counter.

onions photo
Photo by JeepersMedia

2. Garlic

If you thought onions smelled up your fridge, guess what else does? Yes, garlic. It can get a nearby apple to taste like garlic, for instance. Yuck!

Like coffee, keep it in a cool, dark place and it can last a while – up to five months.

garlic photo
Photo by issyeyre

3. Potatoes

Any guesses? Yep, the counter! A dark place is best (since they need humidity to stay firm), so experts suggest you put your potatoes inside a plastic bag, then put that into a paper bag.

The fridge, on the other hand, will make the potatoes too sweet (once the starches turn to sugar), which will no longer make them taste like a potato.

potatoes photo
Photo by 16:9clue

4. Tomatoes

Since I grew up with a garden and we always kept tomatoes on the counter, I thought this was a no-brainer.

But when my boyfriend kept putting tomatoes in the fridge, I started second-guessing myself.

Who is right? Me! Tomatoes get too mushy and mealy when cold, so they should be left on the counter, too, experts say.

tomatoes photo
Photo by Mr.TinDC

5. Apples

I like them room temperature, my boyfriend likes them cold. And the experts say… either! Sorry, this was a trick question! Although the refrigerator makes apples last longer, they last quite a while (about a week) out of the fridge.

apples photo
Photo by Kirinohana

6. Bananas

I never knew people put bananas in the refrigerator until I saw a friend do it. “They won’t ripen anymore then,” she said.

And it turns out she was right. The counter is just fine for the fruit, but if you want to stop them from ripening (and encourage them to turn an unpleasant shade of brown, instead), put them in the fridge!

Other people, like over at Rodale Wellness, say never put bananas in the fridge. I agree with them!

bananas photo
Photo by Steve Hopson

7. Honey

I keep mine in the cabinet by the sugar, but, once again, my boyfriend kept putting it in the fridge, “to preserve it.” And the experts say…cabinet!

They say the honey will get too thick in the cold fridge, so a room temperature climate is best.

honey photo
Photo by Jason Riedy

8. Coffee

I see more and more people with coffee in the freezer or fridge. I know—where does my boyfriend keep it?! On the counter! And, it turns out, he’s right!

Though it became a trend, of sorts, to store coffee in cold places, coffee connoisseurs say the beans can *lose* flavor there, so it’s best to keep them in air-tight containers in a cool (not cold) and dark spot.

ground coffee photo
Photo by suzettesuzette

9. Eggs, Cheese & Milk

You probably think this one is easy, right? Well, yes, the fridge would be the given answer, though some people believe organic eggs can be left out… for a few days! Alvin Schlangen, owner and manager of Schlangen Family Farm in Minnesota, said it’s on an egg-by-egg basis.

“If your source hens are pastured and on chemical-free feed, you’ll have no concerns about leaving cartoned eggs out at room temperature for a few days. If you plan to keep them longer than that, I’d chill them.”

And as far as my Eastern European relatives are concerned, it turns out that their eggs are processed differently than American ones, so they can leave theirs on the counter whereas ours (here in the States) can get salmonella.

10. Bread

Yes, yet *another* debate between me and my boyfriend. I *do* love soft, room-temperature bread. But, with the unending heat wave going across America, mold loves bread.

So, I say fridge. He says counter (and we’ll just buy more). And the experts say… your choice! They *do* warn, however, that refrigerating it dries it out, and that the freezer may be the best option – and simply toast when necessary.

bread photo
Photo by Stacy Spensley

11. Butter

Okay, so are my Eastern European relatives correct in not refrigerating their butter?!

Again, this one’s a tie- some people are big fridge advocates, while others insist on room temperature since it’s made from pasteurized milk (and, thus, not as likely to grow bacteria).

The USDA says to refrigerate butter, but only what you’ll eat in the next 1-2 days —and to to freeze any remaining uneaten butter. They also say leaving it out to soften for 10-15 minutes is fine.

butter photo
Photo by Joelk75

If you want to know more about this topic, check out an extended list by SparkPeople of fruits, vegetables and where to best store them.

Photo by pmsyyz