We all need a little cooking help sometimes, and that includes how to properly store your food. Most of us play a game of Russian roulette by simply popping our groceries in the fridge or sticking them in the pantry without a second thought, when in fact, there’s a very precise science to be followed. To help you preserve your food longer, here are 10 Foods You’ve Been Storing All Wrong (Part 2).
How many times have you been told that there was “no use crying over spilled milk?” Well, what about spoiled milk? There’s nothing worse than sneaking a sip of your milk right from the cartoon only to be greeted with an overpowering sour taste – probably why our parents would yell at us to use glasses. In any case, milk is best fresh, and unless the expiration date is approaching, there should be no reason why it’s not. That is unless you don’t store it properly. Okay, obviously, milk goes in the fridge; that’s a given, but where exactly? No, not only “where it fits,” there is actually a very specific place milk and all kinds of dairy should be put; at the back of the fridge. You might be tempted to drop your carton in the fridge door for a quick and easy access, but that’s the biggest mistake you could ever make. By placing your milk in the door, you’re allowing it to spoil faster since every time you open the door; the milk is exposed to a warmer temperature. Instead, keep it safe and sound on the refrigerator shelves, preferably at the top or middle shelf, where it’s all nice and cold and doesn’t break the “cold chain. ” The nearest it is to the cooling vent, the longer it will stay fresh, and the more you’ll be to enjoy your milk, worry-free.
Whenever you want to make a hearty salad or a killer veggie plate, cucumbers are the vegetable of choice – well, technically, it’s a fruit, but oh, who cares! No matter if you get them at the grocery store or if you grow your own, if you know how to store them correctly, they’re guaranteed to always be as fresh as possible. So, how exactly do you store this delicious aliment? As it turns out, this bad boy would be fine almost anywhere, as long as it’s by itself. Let us explain: cucumbers are kind of like the lone wolves of the produce family. They need to be stored all by themselves to ensure longer shelf life. You see, cucumbers are very sensitive to ethylene gas, a ripening agent produced by other fruits like tomatoes, bananas, and melons that speeds up the spoiling process. In order to keep the cucumbers fresh, you need to keep them away from anything that produces this kind of gas, i.e., get them their own space to – figuratively – grow. The best place to store them, however, is the counter. They’re more suited to hang outside than in the fridge with all the other off-gassing fruits. But, if you can’t stand room temperature cucumbers, you can still put them in the fridge, but only for a few days, and provided they’re placed as far away as possible from those corrupted tomatoes.
8. Ketchup & Mustard
Ketchup and mustard are the ultimate inseparable condiments you can’t live without. For your burger, your corn dog, or really anything, it’s crucial to always have those two on hand at all times. There seems to be this kind of silent war going on between where you should keep your trusty ketchup and mustard. Some people say the pantry, and some people say the fridge, and while both of these are fine options, there is still one that prevails: the pantry. Sure, letting your condiments chill in your refrigerator door won’t cause them to spoil or anything like that, but it just takes up so much precious space! Why bother using valuable real estate in the fridge when you could just put them all in the pantry? Haven’t you ever noticed how restaurants safely store their bottle of ketchup out on the table? That’s because it’s the most logical place for it to be. An open bottle of ketchup can be stored in the pantry for up to one month; however, if you don’t plan on finishing it in that time, you can always store it neatly in the fridge for the remainder of its life. As for mustard, it’s a bit more tricky. While refrigerating your mustard will help maintain some of its flavors, keeping it at room temperature will do no harm as it doesn’t contain any ingredients that spoil. So, in conclusion, both options are valid, but really, the most reasonable place is in the pantry, along with your soy sauce and honey.
Okay, this one is kind of obvious, too: bananas are usually kept on the counter and not in the fridge. Bananas in the fridge for too long will most likely change texture, which is not necessarily what you want. So, how can you properly store your bananas on the counter without having them turning brown the minute you take them home? It’s easy, really. They’re just like cucumbers, sensitive to ethylene gas, so all you have to do is store them separately, yes from other fruits, but also from themselves. Meaning, if you want to avoid them all riping at the same time, break up the bunch. Yes, hanging your bananas on a hook might be aesthetically pleasing, or arranging them in a fruit bowl might look darling, but ultimately, it just contributes to the waste of so many good fruits. Instead, put some in a bowl and then rest in the fridge – for a brief period – and enjoy your bananas at your own pace. And, if ever this doesn’t do the trick and you still end up with an array of overly ripen, spotted bananas, just pop these babies in the freezer. You can use them later in many recipes like some delicious banana bread, smoothies, oatmeal, or banana ice cream. There’s always a way to turn things around; in this case, you turn it into morning delights.
6. Apples And Oranges
You know how we sometimes say: it’s like apple and oranges because they’re just so different? Well, as it turns out, this saying couldn’t be more accurate. These two just simply can’t get along – in the figurative and the literal way – which is why you should never store them together. You might be used to see apples and oranges peacefully cohabiting in fruit bowls in friendly paintings or photographs, but in reality, that’s the last place these should be. Just like our old friends, cucumbers and bananas, these fruits release ethylene gas which will lead to faster spoilage. By being stored next to each other, they’re basically killing the other and every other fruit around them. The best way to avoid such a massacre is to store your apples in the fridge, which will give them a longer shelf life, and keep your oranges in the fridge as well, only as far away from apples as possible. If you can, put the oranges in a mesh bag and avoid plastic bags at all costs. Mesh bags will allow air to circulate around them, while plastic will only make them moldy. You know what they say, keep your friends close and your enemies on the opposite side of the fridge!
Whenever you buy a big, juicy piece of meat from the grocery store, you usually want to eat it right away – it just looks so darn good. But, if, for some reason, you need to keep this meaty goodness stored a little while longer, there are a few things you should know about where exactly you need to put the meat. First of all, raw meat should never be kept in the fridge for too long. Ground beef, pork, and chicken can only stay one or two days before it needs to be cooked or put in the freezer. As for bigger meats, like steaks and chops, three to five is the rule. Now, it’s important that no matter how many days these spend in the fridge, they’re placed at the right spot. Since raw meat usually spoils quickly, your first reflex would probably be to store it where you can easily see it, meaning the top shelf, but that’s about the worse spot you could possibly put it. Meat packages often leak, and if it’s on the first shelf, well, it will leak on everything else in your fridge, potentially contaminating all you have. To avoid this unfortunate occurrence, all you need to do is always store your meat on the lowest shelf of the fridge and on a plate. This will reduce the chance of cross-contamination and ensure that nothing spills all over your food. And don’t worry, if your steak really does look so yummy, you’ll remember it, even if it’s at the bottom of your fridge.
4. Carrots, Celery, And, Asparagus
There’s nothing like a limp, flabby celery stick to dip in your hummus: said no one ever. No, when you eat celery, you want it to be so crunchy, everybody in the house can hear you being healthy. The same goes for carrots; no one wants to devour a bag of droopy carrots – might as well switch to potato chips, in that case. But, if you’re determined to make celery and carrots your go-to snack, you need to learn how to store them the right way. First lesson: never store celery in a plastic bag – that’s the perfect recipe for disaster. The ethylene gas it produces will be stuck in the bag, and with nowhere else to go, it will turn the celery into a soft mess. Instead, wrap it tightly in foil. It will make the celery ten times fresher and let it breathe. Another practical way to store your celery with your carrots – you know, to save some space. Just cut them up and keep them in a water bath in an airtight container. Not only will they stay fresh, but they’ll already be ready to be enjoyed right away. As for asparagus, the best way to store them is to cut the woody ends of the stalks while keeping the rubber band on. Then, you put them all in a tall jar with water to cover the bottom of the spears, and voila! No more spoiled vegetables!
3. Fresh-Baked Cookies
As quarantine took a toll on our lives last year, baking became a common and frequent practice. Spending the day making all sorts of bread and cookies was very fun for a while – until all of it went stale because, let’s face it, we always made more than we could eat. Stuffing cookies in a plastic bag might be suitable for the generic, store-bought versions, but when you make them yourself? You’re not going to get off that easily. In order to make the greatness of freshly baked cookies last longer, you need a little bit more than just a mere Ziploc bag. First of, use a sealed air-tight container, then place parchment between the layers, and then, for the final step, use a piece of white bread. Yes, yes, a slice of bread, but not more than one though! And, how is this hack supposed to make your homemade cookies better, you ask? Well, the moisture in the bread will help keep the cookies soft. However, if you’re looking for long-term storage, your best bet is still to freeze the cookies. Either way, now you know how to keep them fresh longer, and the power sandwich bread can have on your precious cookies!
2. Squash And Pumpkins
In general, squash and pumpkins are known for their long shelf lives. Just think about Halloween – even after you’ve carved it up, your pumpkin still looks new and fresh – well, for a while. Big pumpkins and squash can last up to six months, while the smaller ones usually last for about three months. However, that “long shelf life” can only be achieved with certain criteria. Squash and pumpkins like to be stored at specific temperatures, so if it’s too hot or too cold, you’re dooming your colorful round buddies. The best storage temperature is between 50 and 55°F, which is cooler than room temperature but not as cold as the fridge. So, stop leaving them out on your counter because they look pretty! A cool and dark shelf or even a drawer in the kitchen, a closet, or even better yet, your garage on a piece of cardboard, upside down with the stalk on the bottom, is the place of choice for your seasonal fruit to be stored. And, under no circumstances should you store your squash with your apples and pears. According to Oregon State University Extension Service, it will cause the squash to turn yellow and go bad. Keep the spooky effect for the trick or treaters and store your pumpkins properly!
1. Hard Cheese
Charcuterie boards – even though they weren’t born yesterday – have been trending again recently on social media. Pairing all kinds of cured meats with nuts, fruits, crackers, and cheese has apparently never been more fun, and more and more people are hopping on the bandwagon. But, when you start a new hobby, it’s important to learn how to do it right, right away. So, here’s a little advice on how to store all those gourmet cheeses you’re going to buy to create your masterpieces. One mistake that almost everybody makes when buying hard cheeses is to leave them in the original store wrapping—a big no-no. What you want to do instead is cover them with parchment or wax paper, seal them with tape, and then store it in an airtight container in the fridge. This will keep cheeses like Parmesan and cheddar from becoming dry and stiff. To guarantee great results, after wrapping them in a breathable material, you can double-wrap with aluminum foil and forgo the container. That way, if you have any leftovers from your cheese platter night or charcuterie board, you’ll be able to save it and keep it fresh for next time.