The storage of food in a refrigerator comes down to three points: space, temperature, and packaging. The right combination of the points ensures that the products will retain their properties. If you plan to store food in the freezer, the three factors mentioned above will be accompanied by the correct preparation of the product for fast freezing.
Keeping food like meat, fruit, and vegetables in the freezer can be both short and long term:
- Short-term storage starts from a few days to two or three weeks – storage in a conventional (37.4-44.6°F) or “zero” refrigerator compartment. Such storage conditions allow perishables to not lose their flavor and be ready without special preparation;
- Long-term storage may take up to several months – typically, it involves special food preparation and subsequent deep freezing in the freezer (23-5°F). Of course, when deep freezing products partially lose their properties, but if simple rules are followed, the negative impact is minimized.
Storage terms of food products in conventional compartments:
- Cooked food – up to 5 days;
- Meat/fish salads – up to 3 days;
- Greens are not washed. For better storage, they are wrapped in paper (preferably wet) or put in a polyethylene bag. That’s how they will last up to 4-5 days with no problems;
- Mushrooms – up to 5 days;
- Eggs can be stored for up to 3-4 weeks (though, typically, they shouldn’t be stored more than 1 week);
- Cheese. Here, it all depends on the type. Take a good look at the expiration date on the package, most often it’s 2-3 weeks. Hard cheeses are stored in plastic bags or wraps. Gorgonzola or Roquefort can be stored up to 2 weeks. Soft cheeses such as Brie or mozzarella retain their properties for no more than 2 weeks if wrapped tightly in the paper;
- Meat. Stewed meat can be stored no more than 1-2 days. Steaks, large chunks tightly wrapped with plastic food film can be stored up to 4 days;
- Fish and seafood can be stored no more than 2-3 days.
Freezer storage terms (10.4-0.4°F):
- Poultry – 6-9 months;
- Fish – up to 3 months;
- Fish dishes – up to 4 months;
- Seafood – up to 3 months;
- Mushrooms are best frozen immediately after collection. Storage life is up to 6 months;
- Fruits and vegetables – up to 1 year.
Product Storage Rules
The rules for keeping food in a refrigerator are as follows:
Correct food placement. Depending on the design of the fridge, the temperature regime of its compartments is different. This should be taken into account when placing food – dairy products are better stored on top shelves; lower shelves, the coldest ones, are for fish and meat products. There are also crispers (special drawers) for fruits and vegetables.
Consider the compatibility aspect when storing different products. Here are a few tips on what you should never store together:
- Fruits, vegetables, and smoked foods should not be stored next to cheeses and sausages;
- Root vegetables (beetroots, cabbage, potatoes) can’t be stored along with fruits;
- Bananas are not kept next to oranges and other citrus fruits;
- Fish should not be combined with bakery products and fruits.
Products emit odors which then get mixed in the closed space of the refrigerator compartment. The problem can be solved by wrapping the products. For this purpose, paper bags, plastic wraps, and airtight containers are used, including those with special lids for vacuum storage.
The following is recommended:
- Meat products can be kept in a plastic bag for not more than one month;
- Fish is kept in a plastic bag no longer than 2 weeks;
- Ready meals are better kept in enameled dishes with a lid or in special food containers. If there is no lid, the plate with food is wrapped in special plastic or foil;
- You can leave baked goods in a plate and cover them with a napkin;
- Groceries like butter, sausage, cheese, retain their qualities better in parchment paper or foil;
- Dairy products, like curd, are kept in glass or enameled dishes.
A fridge is cleaned at least once every two months. For this purpose, all products are removed; all the drawers/crispers, walls, and shelves are washed with soap and then dried. A special antibacterial mat can also be used for vegetable/fruit crispers.
Some fruits like apples, pears, bananas can be kept outside a fridge, especially in spring or fall, when the temperature is optimal. Potatoes can be kept in a paper bag (impermeable to the sun) on the balcony, otherwise, it will turn green and become harmful to eat. Make sure the potatoes are dry. If not, dry them before putting them in a bag.
Don’t fill your fridge with canned food. Cans are airtight and unpretentious to the temperature. Moreover, heavy cans take up a lot of space and create a load for the blowing system, which prevents normal air circulation. Storing mineral water in a fridge or in french door refrigerators under 2000, can negatively affects its healing properties.
To better preserve fresh vegetables, greens, fruits, minced meat, and other products, some fridges have a special compartment which maintains zero temperature as well as a constant humidity level. That’s where products retain their flavor qualities better. You can also switch to a standard mode for storing chilled or frozen food. There are two types of such zones:
The “humid freshness” zone is the temperature zone that ranges from 32°F to 33.8°F, with 95% humidity. It’s perfect for storing vegetables, fruits, and greens. Some types of fruits and vegetables can be stored for up to several months there.
The “dry fresh” zone ranges from 30.2°F to 32°F, with humidity not exceeding 50%. Such conditions do not allow crystallization of moisture in products and, as a result, destruction of cell structure. The surface of the product may even have a thin crust of ice, but inside, the freshness will remain. Fresh fish, steamed meat, seafood, poultry, cheese, and sausages should all be stored under such conditions. During a week, “dry freshness” conditions are able to keep steamed meat or fish fresh, without losing the initial flavor and nutritional qualities of the product.
Foods, especially fruits and vegetables, are most often frozen for winter. Before placed in a freezer for storage, they are properly prepared. Remember that in freezers, rapid shock-freezing is used at low temperatures. Before getting into details, let’s consider a few basic recommendations:
- Vegetables and fruits are cooked immediately after defrosting, thus washed before being placed in the freezer. Some vegetables are blanched before freezing (boiled in small amounts of water with a low boiling point);
- Meat is frozen without rinsing after cutting the fat. Depending on your intentions, it can be cut into small pieces or frozen in one. When stacking, small pieces of meat are better packed in a way that they do not freeze together;
- Poultry. The carcass should be gutted, the insides are packed separately. The carcasses should not get stuffed before freezing.
The speed of freezing depends not only on the set temperature but also on the size of the products. They can be frozen in small portions, assuming that they are cooked immediately afterward. In this case, the smaller the portion, the faster it will freeze deeper. Therefore, if you plan to cook broth from meat, the latter should be chopped into small pieces.
The products should be packed in cellophane bags, special food pouches, or containers. Plastic zipper bags are especially handy for freezing. Untight container lids should be sealed with a special tape that freezes to the package;
Any excess air should be removed from the bag before putting it in the freezer.
Freezing vegetables, fruits, greens, and mushrooms at home in the freezer should go as follows:
- Greens (onions, dill, basil, parsley). Rinse the greens in running water and dry them out. Cut finely and pack in small portions. Squeeze the air out of the bags.
- Cauliflower. Remove the top leaves, split the cabbage into florets,
- blanch the cabbage in a weak citric acid solution for about 3 minutes. Drain the water, cool the inflorescences, and dry them out. Put them in packets and in the freezer.
- Corn and green peas. Hatch peas or corn. Cook in boiling water for 3-5 minutes. Put them in a colander and rinse. Dry out and pack in a plastic bag. Then put them in the freezer.
- Sorrel. Rinse and cut the leaves. Put them in boiling water for 1 minute. Use a colander to cool down the leaves after draining the water. Put them in packets and freeze.
- Broccoli. Divide into inflorescences. Rinse and dry out. Put it in packets.
- Tomatoes. There are two ways to freeze these. The first one is to put them through a meat grinder, pass the mass through a sieve, separating the seeds, and then pour them into containers. The second way is to rinse and dry them out, cut into slices, put in bags, remove the air, and seal tight. Cherry tomatoes may not be sliced, but punctured in several places so they do not crack during freezing.
- Sweet pepper. Depending on your intentions, the cooking methods will vary. Thus, if you need the pepper for stuffing, remove the stem and all the seeds. Wash, dry out, pack, and freeze. Stuff the pepper immediately with boiled rice and carrots and place them in the freezer. The easiest way is to cut it into small pieces and freeze.
- Cucumbers. Wash, dice (or straw).
- Courgettes and zucchini. Remove the seeds, dice, and boil. Use a colander to let the water run and cool down the product. Put it in bags and remove the air.
- Berries. Rinse, throw them in a colander, dry out, and pack. Raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries are better stored in containers. You can rub the berries with sugar beforehand and pour them into plastic cups or containers.
- Mushrooms. Some types of mushrooms can be frozen raw (e.g. honey fungus, milk fungus, and meadow mushrooms. For other mushroom types, peeling, washing, cutting into pieces (large mushrooms), and frying in vegetable oil for 20 minutes (to allow excess moisture out) is recommended. Then you need to let them cool down, pack, and put in the freezer. Alternatively, you can roast mushrooms in the oven. To do this, place the mushrooms in a deep baking tray and shove it into the oven, stir until all the moisture is gone.
Make sure to mark all your product packages. If a large amount of food is stored for a long time, marking is essential to prevent product damage because of expiration. You can use special stickers, multicolored cards, or paper notes to mark the packets, i.e., indicate the content and date of freezing.