What goes in the fridge and what doesn't?
August 6, 2004 10:52 AM   Subscribe

In your house, what food does, or does not, need to be refrigerated?

I say "in your house" because my mom and I were just discussing how some of these decisions seem to be purely based on one's upbringing rather than science. I'm willing to bet there's a good bit of regional/familial variation. Mom noticed my wife and I had ketchup in the fridge, which back when I was growing up I thought ludicrous, but my wife's family kept it there, so we just fell into it. What's the principle by which you definitively determine whether a food needs to be refrigerated after opening? (Stuff like dairy - other than butter - and berries is obvious, right? I'm talking about the borderline stuff.)
posted by soyjoy to Food & Drink (40 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Yes: Butter, Ketchup, Bread
No: Steak sauce, peanut butter
Why: Because that's what my parent's did
posted by Capn at 10:57 AM on August 6, 2004

Ketchup goes in, peanut butter out.

My roommate's girlfriend just started putting our balsamic vinegar in the fridge... that was a new one for me.
posted by rkent at 11:08 AM on August 6, 2004

But bananas like the climate
Of very very tropical equator
So you should never put banaaaaanaaaaaaas
In the refrigerator!
No no no no!

-- The Chiquita Banana Song
posted by Asparagirl at 11:10 AM on August 6, 2004

Response by poster: My roommate's girlfriend just started putting our balsamic vinegar in the fridge

But see, that's the thing... vinegar doesn't need refrigerated, right, so what about mustard? Does anybody here not keep mustard in the fridge? But why would mustard need refrigerated?
posted by soyjoy at 11:29 AM on August 6, 2004

Never never refrigerate tomatoes or basil. The tomatoes lose their flavor, and the basil turns black. I always used to refrigerate them, because that was what my mom did, until a foodie friend of mine set me straight.
posted by ook at 11:31 AM on August 6, 2004

I recently learned, thanks to this eminently useful (though somewhat obsessive-compulsive and even intimidating) book why I could never keep bread or tomatoes more than a couple of days: because I'd been sticking them in the fridge for years! Apparently, bread stays fresher longer at room temp or if you freeze it, but refrigeration makes it stale within a few days. And tomatoes at room temp don't get all mealy in a day or two like I always assumed was "normal."

Of course, I (like ook) had been following my mom's example on these two items, which should have clued me in -- bless her, but she's a mediocre cook at best.

My question is: has anyone ever used one of those "bells" to keep butter fresh at room temp? I love spreadable butter, but it goes rancid if I just leave the butter dish out on the counter. (Come to think of it, it goes a little rancid in the fridge fairly quickly too.)
posted by scody at 11:38 AM on August 6, 2004

Soy Sauce: No.
posted by ChasFile at 11:39 AM on August 6, 2004

My girlfriend refrigerates maple syrup. I see this as sheer lunacy.
posted by split atom at 11:40 AM on August 6, 2004 [3 favorites]

I use one of those bells and keep my butter out on the counter. I think most people these days just use the refrigerator as an extra cupboard.

I like to keep milk in the fridge but almost everything else is optional. Maybe eggs too but even eggs will be fine if they are fresh and are consumed fairly soon.

Sauce, syrup, fruits, vegetables, bread - all outside. If its starting to go bad, then I need to think more about buying stuff when I need it than to fall back on the fridge.
posted by vacapinta at 11:47 AM on August 6, 2004

100% real maple syrup and all-natural peanut butter should go in the fridge.

Every country I've ever visited has eggs unrefrigerated in the supermarket, but on the rare occasion I buy eggs they go in the fridge. Because...they just do, is all.
posted by JoanArkham at 11:51 AM on August 6, 2004

The refrigerator works well to keep ants out of anything they might like, so that's why ketchup and most open condiments (and sugar) are in my refrigerator. It's a survival mechanism my family learned here in Southern California, which is just a giant anthill by the sea. It keeps gnats out of the flour too.
posted by dness2 at 11:58 AM on August 6, 2004

In: Ketchup, butter, maple syrup, cut tomato, bread/bagels/tortillas/pitas, fresh herbs, onions.
Out: Peanut butter, potatoes, avocados, mangos, cookies, cake.
Sometimes in, sometimes out: tomatoes, citrus. (There is no reason for this other than chance, pretty much.)

I've heard you should keep basil out. My mother keeps it in and it doesn't get black. I'm divided here. The only time I ever had basil around on a regular basis, I was growing it, so I don't know what I'd do with it.

I used to keep my bread/bagels out, but in this apartment I've found if I don't keep them in the fridge, they grow mold quite fast (within a couple of days).

At one point my mother kept *everything* in the fridge including flour and sugar because she said she got bugs if she didn't (South Florida).

Ground coffee, coffee beans, and certain types of liquor usually go in my freezer (vodka, Jack Daniel's, Rumpelminze, Jagermeister, Goldschlager).
posted by Melinika at 12:01 PM on August 6, 2004

eggs = in
milk = in
catsup = in
mustard = in
vegetables = in
apples, oranges, bananas = out
melons = in
cheese = in
soy sauce = out
steak sauce = out
peanut butter (unless label states otherwise) = out
butter = in, if being stored indefinitely, out if it will be consumed within a week or two
margarine = in
cut lemons = in; uncut = out
lemon juice = in
meat = in
yogurt = in
scallions = in
fresh fish = in
bread = out
tomatoes = in
basil = neither, I grow it year round

I basically follow the label. After reading the above, I'll be leaving my tomatoes out.
posted by Juicylicious at 12:03 PM on August 6, 2004 [1 favorite]

IN: anything from the dairy case, ketchup, opened sauces/marinades except Tabasco
OUT: nuts (whole or butter), dry pasta, bread, oils, Tabasco

Fruits vary, but all veggies and fresh herbs go in and all dry spices/herbs stay out.

Flour and pasta spend a day or two in the freezer before being transferred to airtight containers in the pantry; this is not a custom inherited from parental modeling so much as from childhood experiences with (ugh) things that like to start a home in flour-based products. Yet oddly I've never bothered with this procedure for bread. Huh. Never noticed that. Or that Tabasco gets it own rule. Funny!
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 12:07 PM on August 6, 2004

Does anybody here not keep mustard in the fridge? But why would mustard need refrigerated?

I keep my mustard in the fridge because that way it's next to the mayo.

Also in the fridge: peanut butter (all-natural), jam (probably doesn't need to be there, but cf. mustard), ketchup (I rarely use the stuff), salad dressing (irrational), pesto, various jars containing the other half of the contents of various tin cans, eggs, and any fresh produce that doesn't need ripening.

And yes, maple syrup goes in the fridge, as do nut oils.
posted by Johnny Assay at 12:09 PM on August 6, 2004

I was house-sitting for someone recently and noticed they kept vinegar in the refrigerator and peanut butter out. I felt like I was in Bizarro World. Then again, I usually buy the all-natural peanut butter, which has to be refrigerated or it'll separate. One time my dad put olive oil in the refrigerator, but I never asked him why because I don't think you're supposed to confront crazy people directly like that.

I keep most condiments in the refrigerator, including mustard, salad dressing, olives and pickles, jams and jellies, etc., and I put them there as soon as I bring them home, not "after opening" as the packaging suggests. I do this not because I think they'll spoil otherwise, but because I want them to be cold when I eat them. Soy sauce is the only exception I can think of offhand. I also keep butter in the refrigerator, although I'm planning on getting one of those bell things.
posted by Acetylene at 12:20 PM on August 6, 2004 [2 favorites]

My girlfriend refrigerates maple syrup. I see this as sheer lunacy.

No, it turns rancid. No fun making pancakes if you end up accidentally pouring thin, brown cottage cheese on them. Take it from one who knows.

Fiancee keeps peanut butter in the fridge. I hate that. We buy two jars of peanut butter.
posted by Mayor Curley at 12:24 PM on August 6, 2004

My girlfriend refrigerates maple syrup. I see this as sheer lunacy.

So did I, until a bottle of maple syrup went moldy. Ugh.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:27 PM on August 6, 2004 [1 favorite]

Periodic Table of the Condiments

(or the Table of Condiments That Periodically Go Bad)
posted by milovoo at 12:30 PM on August 6, 2004

Refrigerate fruit. The fruit will hold in more vitamins this way, it's healthier.
posted by banished at 12:46 PM on August 6, 2004

How about opened pickles? I just realized I refrigerate them but upon reflection don't think it's necessary.
posted by smackfu at 1:13 PM on August 6, 2004

If it doesn't say "must refrigerate after opening", then you don't need to refrigerate.

Apparently ketchup falls into this category, which my SO never gets tired of pointing out and which the very idea gives me the howling fantods.
posted by bshort at 1:53 PM on August 6, 2004

I keep most condiments in the refrigerator, including mustard, salad dressing, olives and pickles, jams and jellies, etc.

Coffee is in the fridge also.

Bread, snacks (cookies, candy), etc. are all stored in the microwave, which seems to keep that stuff fresher than not.
posted by lola at 2:01 PM on August 6, 2004

i put everything in the damned fridge.

i like my shit cold.

we're living in the future, people.
posted by fishfucker at 2:04 PM on August 6, 2004 [6 favorites]

In addition, I store one stick of butter in the fridge and the rest of the box in the freezer.
posted by lola at 2:06 PM on August 6, 2004 [1 favorite]

I was weirded out last year when I went to Ireland and stayed with a friend and found he kept his eggs in the cupboard. But he says that everyone does, there, and they last as long as they need to.

Maple syrup is tricky: maybe it's that we tend to categorize it with honey, but honey has natural preservatives in it that maple syrup doesn't. An opened container of syrup will eventually grow mold even in the fridge, which is a good excuse to use it on everything as quickly as you can.

What about hot sauces like Tabasco and all its ilk? I have mine in the fridge but I have no idea if they need to be there.
posted by zadcat at 2:27 PM on August 6, 2004

I did just have the revelation that if I don't refrigerate vinegar, how can I justify refrigerating stuff that is just vinegar + something. Like mustard, or hot sauce.
posted by smackfu at 2:44 PM on August 6, 2004

i used to leave ketchup out, but noticed that pressure used to build up inside - i'd open it and there'd be a soft "pop" and a tiny drop of ketchup might fly out, so i decided it was probably better to keep it in the fridge.

now i live in a country where ketchup comes in bags rather than bottles, so it wouldn't pop anyway, but it stays in the fridge.

we had some home-made hot sauce (made just from whole chili peppers, fresh not dried, so it had a consistency similar to ketchup) and i didn't keep it in the fridge. it went mouldy.
posted by andrew cooke at 2:46 PM on August 6, 2004

If the label says "keep refridgerated" (eg. ketchup), it goes in the fridge.
posted by normy at 3:34 PM on August 6, 2004

I refrigerate "vinegar + something" 'cause the something is usually biodegradable, even if vinegar isn't.

Unrefrigerated ketchup is just scary.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:05 PM on August 6, 2004

this is bizzaro world
posted by BMF at 4:18 PM on August 6, 2004

One time my dad put olive oil in the refrigerator, but I never asked him why because I don't think you're supposed to confront crazy people directly like that.

Thank you for the best laugh I've had all week.
posted by Alylex at 5:16 PM on August 6, 2004

How about this one: I want my parmesean cheese in the cupboard. I'm talking about Kraft, pre-shredded in the shaker-container. The label says refrigerate after opening, but it gets clumpy in the fridge, and it's always been fresh and tasty right out of the cupboard.

Tabasco lives on the table.
posted by bonheur at 5:16 PM on August 6, 2004

Bread out unless it's humid. Eggs in. (I don't think I would eat an unrefrigerated egg, no matter what people promised.) Peanut butter in, but I grew up with natural, so. Parm, fridge, according to my Italian-American family. You just bang it on the table when you need it (which shouldn't be often because fresh is better).

For people who have things breeding in the flour, if you put a bay leaf or two in the flour, things won't live in it any more. Just make sure it doesn't accidently get in whatever you're putting the flour in. And in pasta, the bugs float to the top when you boil it, as I learned in my starving student days. Then again, as long as it's dead, I'm not against eating a bug or two.
posted by dame at 6:00 PM on August 6, 2004

Ah, but bonheur, your mistake there is in thinking that Kraft powdered plastic stuff is parmesan cheese.

(Seriously -- trust me, get a wedge of the real stuff and a grater: you'll be shocked at what a difference it makes when you put actual food on your food :)
posted by ook at 6:07 PM on August 6, 2004 [1 favorite]

I find the whole idea of both refridgerated eggs and ketchup bizarre - entirely because my mother never used to. In UK climate eggs will keep quite happily in a cupboard for a week or so - although lack of cupboard space has forced me down the fridge route.
posted by prentiz at 7:48 PM on August 6, 2004

Best Parmesan Grater
posted by five fresh fish at 8:18 PM on August 6, 2004

all things with liquid (except olive or corn oil) and all dairy=fridge
coffee beans=fridge
ground coffee, from a can=out
dry stuff (pasta, cereal, etc)=out
canned things (unopened)=out
jarred things=see liquid things, above=in
posted by amberglow at 8:31 PM on August 6, 2004

All I care about is the bread being out. Nothing annoys me more than cold or warm/hot bread for sandwiches resulting from the rents keeping it in the fridge.
posted by jmd82 at 8:57 PM on August 6, 2004

My SO and I went food shopping last night, we got home and he put the potatoes in the fridge. Blew my mind right out of the water. Potatoes had always been in the dark pantry growing up and on my own - made it more fun when they start growing and you can plant them and get little bitty potatoes! yummy!

Otherwise, everything everyone else said. Maple syrup was always in the fridge, butter was both in and out, and cheese I keep in the fridge, but my very Italian neighbours didn’t so maybe I should change my habits.
posted by Lizc at 4:08 PM on August 13, 2004

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