Spring Clean Your Refrigerator: Nine don’t miss tips

April 06, 2015

Time to make sure your refrigerator is working in tip top shape and you are using it to maximize food freshness.

It’s time to spring clean your refrigerator and make sure you have everything in the right place to ensure food safety.  The refrigerator is one of the most important appliances in your kitchen when it comes to food safety. Bacteria exist everywhere. If kept at the appropriate temperature, your refrigerator (and freezer!) slows the growth of bacteria. 

Here are some tips to make sure you are refrigerating foods properly.

Make sure the refrigerator temperature is 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below, and 0 degrees Fahrenheit or below in the freezer. Occasionally verify these temperatures using an appliance thermometer.

Refrigerate or freeze perishables, prepared foods and leftovers within two hours of cooking.

Never defrost or marinate food at room temperature. Use the refrigerator. You can also thaw foods that are in air tight packaging in cold water (change the water every 30 minutes, so the food continues to thaw). Or, thaw in the microwave if you’ll be cooking the food immediately.

For proper storage in the refrigerator, divide large amounts of leftovers into shallow containers. This allows for quick cooling in the refrigerator.

Don’t over-stuff the refrigerator. Cold air must circulate to keep food safe.

Don’t keep milk or eggs in the refrigerator doors, the temperature varies too much in this location and both items are kept better on the lower shelves of the main compartment. The doors are better suited for condiments, juices and water.

Use the crisper compartments for fruits and veggies, but keep them separate as they have varying respiration rates (the rate at which the food ripens), and can cause other produce to spoil faster.

Optional refrigerator items: oils, nut flours and whole grain flour, nut butter, nuts

Items not recommended to refrigerate: tomatoes, potatoes, onion and squash.

Time Limits for Food Storage*

Soups and Stews, vegetable or meat: refrigerator: 3-4 days
Ham fully cooked whole: refrigerator: 7 days
Ham fully cooked sliced: refrigerator: 3-4 days
Fresh uncooked meat: refrigerator: 3-5 days
Leftover meat: refrigerator: 3-4 days
Gravy and meat broth: refrigerator: 1-2 days
Fresh raw poultry: refrigerator: 1-2 days
Cooked poultry: refrigerator: 3-4 days
Cooked poultry with broth/gravy: refrigerator: 1-2 days

*Source: United States Department of Agriculture