Used correctly, the refrigerator will keep food safe from spoilage and bacteria.
Used, cleaned, or maintained incorrectly, however, your refrigerator could cause big tummy trouble in your family.
Essentially, no food benefits from storage. You want to eat everything as fresh as you can.
Since we can't all tromp out to the garden to harvest for each meal, here are some guidelines for making your fridge function at its correctly-used best.
Clean spills immediately.
Wipe up any spills in your fridge immediately to keep bacteria from growing. Wash first with warm, soapy water.
Disinfect with a solution of 1 teaspoon bleach in 1 quart water.
Clean out your fridge at least once a week. Wipe down shelves, check expiration dates of perishables, and toss out past-their-prime foods. Refrigerator water filters should also be changed based on the expiration date.
Some parts of your refrigerator are colder than others.
compartment at the bottom is designed to store meat - so put meat there.
Not only is this the coldest area, but if the package leaks, it won't contaminate other foods.
The door is the warmest part of the refrigerator. This is the best place for non-perishables (sodas), not perishables (eggs).
To keep food from spoiling in the fridge, the temperature needs to be between 34 and 40 degrees F.
You can't depend on the little gauge (1 -
5) inside, however.
Pick up a fridge thermometer so you'll know for sure without putting your family and friends into risky territory.
Ditto for the freezer, which should be kept at 0 to 5 degrees.
Don't put hot food in the fridge.
Always let it cool to room temperature first. Hot food can cause the temperature inside to drop dramatically, putting everything already inside the appliance at risk of premature spoilage.
Don't leave food out too long, either.
Put food into the fridge within two hours of cooking. It's a no-fail rule of thumb worth remembering.
Parties are a precarious food safety time because we have a tendency to put a lot of party stuff inside the fridge - and we're continually opening the door as we prepare and then entertain.
Turn the temperature
down during these occasions.
Cover foods tightly.
Keeping out air means keeping in that coveted freshness in our foods.
Leave meats in their original packaging.
Yes, I know it's tempting to want to ditch the store wrap, wash meats, chicken or fish, and repackage for our fridge or freezer.
urge; you'll be better able to avoid the risk of bacteria, common after
we open by such packaging.
Don't store bakery items inside your fridge.
Bread, cookies, and most cakes will quickly become stale if you store them in here. Bread box, anyone?
What to do if you lose power.
In case of a power outage, don't open the fridge doors anymore than absolutely necessary.
If the door is not opened, the interior will stay cool longer - and you can expect to keep foods fresh for up to eight hours in the fridge and up to 48 hours in the freezer.
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About the Author
Tara Aronson is a native Californian. Having grown up in San Diego, she studied journalism and Spanish to pursue a career in newspaper writing. Tara, whose three children - Chris, Lyndsay, and Payne - are the light of her life, now lives and writes in Los Angeles. She also regularly appears on television news programs throughout the U.S.