Where in Your Refrigerator Should You Store Fresh Ingredients for Maximum Freshness?
Consumer shopping and eating patterns are evolving. Today, households are shopping more frequently than ever before. People of all demographics are becoming more health conscious, which has, in turn, increased the demand for fresh, all-natural foods that are considered wholesome and unprocessed. Unfortunately, these foods are perishable and have to be kept under refrigeration at all times to keep them fresh for as long as possible.
Preparation for Refrigeration
Most store owners and restaurants receive fresh ingredients, such as poultry, fish, meat, and wholesome fruits and vegetables on a daily basis. Upon arrival, some can be put directly under refrigeration. But depending on the nature of the business, some of the ingredients are gently cooked in small batches as a way to maintain their natural nutritional content. They are then packed in modified atmosphere containers for fast cooling to maintain their freshness.
But different foods have different cooling requirements to maintain freshness. This means that any operation that provides food service must have clearly defined areas and procedures in order to:
- Enjoy good margins from purchasing large quantities of supplies.
- Store the supplies on premises to cut down the cost and time needed to make new orders and handle them following delivery.
- Facilitate menu planning since you’re well aware of the quantity, quality, and types of supplies available.
On the other hand, it doesn’t make economical sense to have large cold storage because it’s expensive in terms of cost per unit foot, improving security, and maintaining refrigeration equipment. As a result, many operators need to maintain good relations with suppliers to minimize lead times and ensure the availability of fresh ingredients with flexible quantities.
Where to Refrigerate What
That said, there still is a need to store many different types of fresh ingredients on the premise, including frozen foods, fresh meats, dairy products, dry foods, and produce. The storage for these items requires proper planning to efficiently handle each category of supplies.
While dry foods can be stored in a place that is clean, raised (over 15 cm or 6 in. from the floor), sufficiently cool, 10°C to 15°C (50°F to 59°F), and dry to prevent swelling of canned goods, spoilage, and attack by insects and rodents, most fresh foods require refrigeration.
The most basic rules of food refrigeration are:
- Raw products must be placed below (not above) ready-to-eat or cooked products.
- The minimum temperature for food storage is 4°C (39°F).
- All refrigerators must have a thermometer to facilitate daily temperature readings.
- Refrigerators must be well maintained by a professional repair company.
- Shelves must be well vented and shallow to facilitate regular refrigerator cleaning.
- The personnel should apply the FIFO (first in, first out) principle for refrigerated items.
- Never put hot items in the refrigerator unless you must.
- Always keep the refrigerator door closed.
- Make areas for specific items, and only keep those supplies in the allocated space.
- The doors are the warmest area of the fridge. Only store items that are resistant to spoiling, like juices, condiments, and other foods that can handle temperature fluctuations. Eggs, milk, and other produce should not be stored in the door.
The ideal refrigeration temperature for dairy products is 2°C to 4°C (36° to 39°F). Put them in protective covering and in their own area to prevent them from absorbing surrounding odours. That said, they should never be stored in a vegetable cooler. If need be, get a separate refrigerator. And always remember to rotate the products when fresh ones arrive at an appropriate interval to ensure they all fit.
Most refrigerated produce can also be safely stored at 2°C to 4°C (36° to 39°F). However, there are a few exceptions for different kinds of items:
- Bananas and potatoes should be stored at higher temperatures. This means they shouldn’t be refrigerated but stored in a cool and dry area.
- The length of time for storing soft fruits and vegetables varies widely. Soft fruits and delicate vegetables should be purchased fresh and used as soon as possible. Rotate them frequently in the vegetable cooler, and remove rotting fruit to keep it from affecting the others. Cabbages, carrots, and other hardy vegetables can last in the vegetable cooler for weeks. Softening makes them vulnerable to rot, so check your buying frequency to avoid wastage.
Cooked Poultry, Seafoods, and Meat
Although most foods should not be refrigerated when hot, it’s actually recommended that you refrigerate cooked meat, seafood, and poultry immediately after cooking, without waiting for them to cool first. This is to reduce the risk of germs and microbes from your hands or utensils from getting onto the food and contaminating it. This is particularly important for casserole-type dishes because food poisoning bacteria can withstand the cooking temperatures.
To avoid condensation, you should leave the hot metal pieces uncovered in the refrigerator until they’ve cooled enough, after which you can place a lid on the container or wrap the food tightly with cling wrap. Divide large amounts of food into smaller containers for faster cooling, and place them in the upper shelves, above any raw meat, seafood, or poultry to avoid cross-contamination. These upper shelves generally have a consistent temperature and are great for items that don’t need to be cooked, including drinks, leftovers, and ready-to-eat foods.
Corned beef, ham, Polish salami, and other luncheon meats should be kept in the refrigerator like fresh meat, but should not be on the same level or shelf. They should be placed on a higher shelf. Whole hams, bacon, and fermented salamis can stay in the fridge for 2–3 weeks, though sliced luncheon meats can only last for 4–5 days. So you should be careful when purchasing them to ensure that they’re fresh and free of any slime or excess moisture. Check the “best before” date for pre-packaged delicatessen items and follow the product storage items carefully.
The ideal temperature for frozen foods is –18°C (0°F) to maintain the quality and prevent discolouration and loss of vitamin content. Any items that are received frozen, including fruits, vegetables, fish, and meat, can keep for much longer in the freezer if properly wrapped. Failure to wrap items in the freezer properly makes them prone to freezer burn (loss of moisture). Frozen items should also be rotated to ensure proper implementation of the FIFO system.
Always check the “best before” date for pre-packaged foods and follow the right food storage practises to ensure that the quality of items remains intact for the duration of storage. For a refrigerator that has consistent temperatures, adequate space, and easy cleaning, consider getting a True brand refrigerator. For more information about top-of-the-line True refrigerators, call Ancaster Foods at (855) 888-9644 or contact us here.