I grew up thinking pretty much everything (except for that pile of onions under our kitchen sink) should be refrigerated. Little did I know that there was a whole world of foods that actually are better off when left out of the fridge.
I tried to keep this list to things that are a little lesser-known. It seems the majority of people know not to refrigerate onions or garlic, for example, but not many know about a few of the items on the list that are best left out.
The thing is, most refrigerators are kept at 40° and below, and many foods (mostly fruits & veggies) simply prefer to be stored at higher temperatures than this (check out this wonderful food storage chart). This is why many people (especially those who have lots of vegetables around – aka farmers) have different forms of cold storage, such as root cellars. That’s another blog post for another, day, though ;) For now, let’s talk about . . .
10 Foods that Don’t Need to be Refrigerated:
The flavor of tomatoes tends to become compromised with refrigeration. They can also get a bit too mushy. Especially if you purchase farm-fresh tomatoes, they can be left out on the counter (as long as it’s not near a hot stove) for a week or so. The riper the tomatoes are at the time you acquire them, the shorter the period they’ll last out of the fridge.
I do end up refrigerating my tomatoes sometimes when it’s warmer out (since I don’t have a nice cool storage area or air conditioning!) or if I have a surplus and won’t get to use them for a while.
Though refrigerating bread is pretty common (likely because we know we can freeze bread to make it last longer and thus assume refrigeration is good for bread as well), can actually make it go stale faster! The ideal conditions for freshly-baked bread are a moist inside and a dry outer crust. When bread is refrigerated, the moisture becomes dispersed more uniformly around the bread, thus accelerating the staling process.
Many herbs (especially freshly harvested) do better left out of the fridge in a glass of water.
Basil is one that is especially susceptible to wilting and damage from the cold and thus doesn’t like refrigeration.
Try it with your next batch of herbs and see how they do! Some herbs do prefer the fridge, so try this method of storing them in a glass of water within the fridge and watch them flourish! I just had some cilantro I did this with (and stored in the fridge), and it lasted 2-3 weeks while within a few days of being in the fridge not stored in water, my cilantro would wilt horribly.
This is pretty much the same deal as tomatoes. Peppers tend to get pretty wrinkly and actually go bad faster in the fridge. The same can be said for leaving them out of the fridge for too long, like tomatoes. Test out different areas of your kitchen that are a little warmer than your refrigerator but not too warm to see what might be an ideal storage spot for these night shade veggies.
Winter squash does well in temperatures between 50-60 degrees. If you have a nook or cranny in your kitchen that is cool and dark, it could be a great place for these hefty beauties.
Apples can go a few weeks left unrefrigerated if it’s not too hot where you’re storing them. I prefer to keep my apples out of the fridge as I don’t like how cold they feel on my teeth when they’ve been refrigerated.
Being that butter is made of pasteurized milk, the chances of it going “bad” or accumulating bacteria are relatively low. Its low water content and (if there is) added salt both inhibit bacteria growth.
I can’t officially tell you how long to leave or not to leave your butter out. I leave mine out for several days at a time as it is fresh, salted butter. I much prefer softened butter that spreads smoothly and easily.
Berries don’t need to be refrigerated when they’re fresh, but they will keep longer if they are. I prefer my freshly-picked berries to be left out in my not-too-hot kitchen for a few days while I munch away.
A bigger issue with berries as mold. Once washed, they should be refrigerated to avoid mold – or be sure to dry them well. If you trust where your berries are from, though, or picked them yourself, there’s not really a need to wash them.
Whole melons like watermelon and cantaloupe do well left out of the fridge. Especially if they need a little extra ripening time, you can leave them out on your counter safely. One study by the USDA even found that the antioxidant content in melons may be better when left unrefrigerated.
Farm Fresh Eggs
This one’s a bit controversial, so I’m going to say first, to leave eggs out of the fridge at your own risk. This being said, all eggs contain a “cuticle” or “bloom,” which is a protective coating that covers the shell as the egg is laid and prevents dirt, manure, and air-borne bacteria from entering the egg via the pores in its shell. This coating also keeps bacteria out when the egg is left unrefrigerated.
Many a-farmer friend of mine have left their chickens eggs left out of the fridge with this protective coating still in tact (by not washing their eggs until just before they use them).
Do you have any other foods you’d add to this list?
Share in the comments below!