As my husband and I walked through the home that would soon be ours for its appraisal, we couldn’t contain our excitement and anticipation. It was going to be ours! Everything was perfect – well, that is, everything but the fridge. As we opened the door, we couldn’t help but raise our noses and slam it shut. It seriously stank, as some would say, “to high heaven.” As we ventured to look inside it once again, we realized it worked just fine. It wasn’t that the food was going bad due to lack of refrigeration. Instead, it had a foul odor because nothing was covered (and I mean nothing), and some things looked like they had been in there since before we were born. Although we were grateful the refrigerator came with the house, we were a little less excited about how the current homeowners had taken care of it and the food inside that looked like it carried some pretty serious diseases.
This incident got me thinking about proper food refrigeration. When it comes to refrigerating food, most people don’t spend hours researching the best way to do it. While sticking food in the fridge might seem pretty simple and straight-forward, it might surprise you that there is a bit more to it than opening the door and putting the food inside. In fact, some things you do may be harming your food, making it dangerous for you to eat. So the question is: Just how good are your refrigeration habits? Here are just a few tips that will help you increase the safety of your food.
- Tip 1: Cover your Food
Not surprisingly, the first tip is to cover all items that go inside your fridge. This practice serves several food safety purposes. This helps retain moisture in your food. In addition, it prevents smells from mixing. And the biggest food safety reason? It helps you avoid cross contamination. When you have foods that are uncovered, particularly raw foods such as meat you are thawing, you run the risk of juices dripping onto other foods. This is definitely a problem, as it can easily cause foodborne illness. In fact, it’s an even better idea to always keep your meats in sealed containers while they are in the fridge.
- Tip 2: Properly Place Your Food
Where you place your food is also important to food safety refrigeration. Speaking of raw meat, always place it towards the bottom of the fridge. Why? Doing this helps prevent those juices mentioned earlier from dripping on other foods. Also, keep fruits and veggies in the crisper, as it will help keep them at the correct humidity levels. When it comes to things you store in the fridge door, the rule is to not store perishable items there. Items such as meat and eggs should be on shelves where they can stay nice and cool. Foods in the door tend to experience more temperature fluctuation, which could make these perishable foods dangerous.
- Tip 3: Clean Your Fridge Out
While this one may seem pretty obvious, it’s likely that most people don’t do it nearly enough. If something spills (especially if it is raw meat juice or something like that), clean it up immediately with hot soapy water. Again, this helps avoid cross contamination or disgusting bacterial growth on your fridge’s surface. Also, clean out the items in your fridge once a week, or earlier if those food items require it. Basically, don’t leave food in your fridge to rot for days and days, like those who owned our fridge before we did. Ew. It just makes sense to have a clean storage area for your food, doesn’t it?
- Tip 4: Divide Your Food
And finally, divide your food. After you have made a big meal, it’s a great idea to store leftovers in a few different containers. By dividing the food, you are able to get it to a safe storing temperature more quickly than if you stick the entire thing in. Don’t allow your food to stay in the “temperature danger zone.”
So how did you do? Did you pass the refrigeration safety test? Well, if not, don’t panic. The great thing is that these habits are pretty easy to create. Following these four simple tips can really increase the safety and quality of your food, which can give you peace of mind, knowing that you and your family are healthy and “food safe.”