25+ Foods You Definitely Shouldn’t Be Storing in the Refrigerator

Tue Jan 25 2022

This article was originally published on For What Its Earth and has been republished to The Tea Chat with permission.

There’s nothing better than having a house full of food. When your pantry is full and your freezer is loaded, you can rest easy knowing that every craving or hunger pain can be catered to. But when you unload your groceries, do you research the foods that you are and aren’t putting in your refrigerator? If not, it’s probably time to start.

Although you might think you know what food should be kept in a refrigerator, you might want to think again. Every single food item on this planet has its own criteria when it comes to its storage, and if you don’t follow the rules exactly, you may expose yourself and your family to dangerous bacteria that could seriously impact your health. Thankfully, we’ve done all of the hard work for you and compiled a list of the foods you definitely shouldn’t be storing in your refrigerator.

Peanut Butter

Whether you prefer crunchy or smooth, there’s no denying that peanut butter is a great addition to any home. But have you ever looked at the labels of the jars? You might want to start doing so, as certain types of peanut butter have very different storage criteria. In most cases, peanut butter will go rock hard when stored in the refrigerator – so you don’t need to do it.

However, if you buy more natural, organic peanut butter, it’s best to check the label because the requirements may be different. Natural peanut butter does not include any preservatives, and they include oils that can separate and go rancid when left in your pantry. For these peanut butter types, it might be best to store them in the refrigerator.

Avocados

By this point in your life, you’ve probably already learned that avocados aren’t actually vegetables; they’re fruit! To be more specific, they’re actually very tricky fruits that can vary in taste depending on how ripe or unripe they are. Because of this, it’s important to store them correctly – and that means you should never store them in a refrigerator.

The cold, damp environment of a refrigerator can halt the ripening process of this fruit, so it’s best to store them at room temperature on the countertop until they are ripe. If you want to speed up the ripening process, simply place the avocado in a brown paper bag alongside another fruit like a banana or an apple for a few days. These fruits will release a gas called ethylene, which speeds up the whole process.

Potatoes

Potatoes are one of the most versatile foods out there. They can be boiled, fried, mashed, or baked – but they’re not exactly versatile when it comes to their storage. Potatoes need to be stored in a cool and dry pantry or cupboard, and definitely not in a refrigerator.

Storing potatoes in the refrigerator will turn the starch into sugar, and you’ll be left with a root vegetable that tastes more like candy than anything else. Baked potatoes that have been wrapped in aluminum foil should also be left at room temperature to avoid botulism, but other leftover cooked potatoes can be stored in the refrigerator if you’re not planning on eating them right away.

Donuts

Anyone who loves donuts will know that it’s humanly impossible to just buy one – especially if you’re buying them freshly baked from a bakery or cafe. The likelihood is that you’ll buy a whole box at once, and eat them over the course of a few days. But whatever you do, don’t store these extra donuts in the refrigerator.

Donuts are best preserved when they are stored in a cool and dry place, but even then they will only last a few days. If you choose to place them in the refrigerator they will last even less than that, and they’ll lose all of their flavor and texture. That’s because the moisture-ridden environment will make your donuts soggy and stale.

Carrots

When you buy carrots from the grocery store, you probably head home and immediately place them in the fridge. Because that’s where they’re supposed to live, right? Well, not exactly. Carrots don’t thrive in the cold, and they barely even survive. The cold air and the moist environment will mix with the water found naturally in the carrots, and actually speed up the rotting process.

To cut a long story short, a fridge will actually shorten the shelf life of a carrot and actually change the look and the taste of it. You might even find that refrigerated carrots have a layer of white tinge around it. If you want to keep your carrots for longer, it’s best to avoid the refrigerator entirely.

Bread

There’s nothing better than a freshly baked loaf of bread; whether you’ve made it yourself or bought it from a grocery store or bakery. However, one thing everyone knows about bread is that it’s only good to eat for a small amount of time before it becomes stale or even moldy – so don’t speed up that process by storing it in the refrigerator.

The cold and moist environment in the fridge will dry your bread out prematurely and speed up the decaying process, leading it to become staler and moldier quicker than if it were simply stored at room temperature. And if you really want to improve the longevity of your bread, store it in a bread bin. That’s literally what they were made for.

Canned Fish

Despite the fact that it will stink up your house, fresh, uncooked fish should always be stored in a refrigerator – but what about canned fish? Many people assume that canned fish should also go in the fridge, but that’s just not the cash. If you buy it from the unrefrigerated section in a grocery store, that means you store it in the unrefrigerated section of your house.

Cans of fish have already been preserved before making their way onto the shelves, which means that you can store them at room temperature in your pantry or in a cupboard at home. However, the rules change when you’ve opened it. If you have leftover fish from the can, empty it into a sealed container and keep it in the fridge for three to four days. It won’t keep any longer than that.

Aged Cheese

Most people assume that any dairy product needs to be refrigerated, and that’s mostly true, but not entirely true. Cheese lovers will know that aged cheese is indeed full of dairy, but doesn’t need to be stored in a refrigerator. If you do accidentally leave it in there, you’ll find the hard cheese will become even harder – to the point where you can barely put a knife through it.

Aged cheese doesn’t need to be refrigerated because it’s already gone through its own preservation process. It’s always cured for around six months before hitting the grocery store shelves, and this allows it to remain safe and healthy to eat when stored outside of a refrigerator.

Garlic

While there are much easier methods of adding garlic to your dishes – through the likes of ready-chopped or powdered garlic – sometimes you just can’t beat the real deal. Having bulbs of garlic at your disposal means that you can use it to your liking, but where do you store it? Well, you definitely don’t store it in the refrigerator.

Simply keep your full bulbs of garlic in a ventilated container in a pantry, and they can last for months without going moldy. It’s important to ensure that you don’t seal all of the air out of this container, as this will make it moldy in no time. And when you’ve broken the head of your garlic bulb, be sure to eat it within 10 days to ensure peak flavor.

Chocolate-Hazelnut Spread

There are two things about chocolate-hazelnut spread that make it what it is. Firstly, it’s chocolatey and hazelnutty. Secondly, it’s spreadable. However, if you decide to put this stuff in the refrigerator, you’ll remove one of those features. That’s because chocolate spreads like Nutella will actually go rock hard if you keep it in the fridge. It even says to store it in a cool, dry place on the label.

You don’t need to worry about the spread going moldy in the cupboard, though. The high sugar content in the chocolate spread acts as its own preservative, which means that it will be safe to eat for months. Of course, we highly doubt that such a delicious item will manage to survive a few months. Perhaps a few weeks, at the most.

Onions

Onions are a staple food item that can find their way into any dish. So, the likelihood is that you buy mesh bags of these things on a weekly basis. And while you probably eat them before they have the chance to go moldy, you’ll increase your chances of having continuously fresh onions if you keep them away from a refrigerator.

Storing onions in a cold, wet place will immediately turn the starch inside the onion into sugar and quickly turn it into a mushy lump of mold. Before too long, they will become liquid and be completely unusable. So, for the best results keep your onions in a ventilated container in your pantry.

Eggs

If you asked 50 people on the street whether they kept their eggs in the refrigerator or out of the refrigerator, we’re going to assume that the answers would be split down the middle. Yes, while some people keep their eggs in the fridge there are others who keep them at room temperature – so what’s the real answer?

The general rule of thumb when it comes to eggs is that you should store them how you buy them. If you buy your eggs in the refrigerated section, then continue to refrigerate them at home. However, you’ll find that most grocery stores sell them at room temperature, and it’s super safe to store eggs at room temperature at home for at least a week.

Butter

The debate on whether butter should be stored in the refrigerator or not is a controversial one. Some people outright refuse to believe that butter belongs anywhere outside of the fridge, but what do the experts say? Well, it all depends on where else you plan to store it.

Both salted and unsalted butter can last outside of the refrigerator for weeks, but only if you keep it out of direct sunlight and away from any extreme temperatures. However, salted butter can survive at room temperature much better than unsalted, as the salt stops it from going bad. There’s no rule against storing it in the fridge, though, if you’re that way inclined.

Pickles

You either love them or hate them, but pickles are everywhere. Every grocery store sells them, but it’s up to you whether you buy them or not. And how you store them also depends on where you buy them. Most grocery stores sell their pickles in jars in the non-refrigerated section, so it makes no sense to take them home and use up unnecessary space in your fridge.

Most pickles that are stored in jars are covered in vinegar and salt, which are preservatives themselves – so this means that you don’t need to do any extra preservation yourself by putting them in the fridge. You can simply store them in your pantry and keep them there for months. But if you buy pickles from the refrigerated section, you should refrigerate them.

Bananas

The general rule of thumb is that bananas should live in a fruit bowl by themselves rather than in the refrigerator – but there are instances where a fridge may be necessary for all of your banana needs. If you have unripe bananas (these are normally green in color and extremely firm), then it’s best to let them ripen naturally at room temperature.

However, if you buy bananas that are already ripe and don’t want them going bad before you have a chance to eat them, you can keep them in the refrigerator to stunt the ripening process. An important point to remember about bananas is that they also emit a gas called ethene, which actually causes other fruits and veggies to ripen faster. So, it’s best to store them alone.

Ketchup

Anyone who has tried ketchup before will know that it has a sweet and acidic taste to it, and that’s not just because extra flavors have been added. This condiment is naturally high in acid and sugar, and this makes it inhospitable for bacteria or mold to grow. However, when you add a cold and moist environment into the mix, it’s a whole different story.

Storing your ketchup in the refrigerator can actually cause it to go moldy, and can seriously affect the taste. Of course, if your house is like the desert and is always hot you might want to consider keeping your ketchup in the refrigerator, but there’s no actual need to.

Chocolate

The process of eating chocolate is a very personal thing. Some people like to melt theirs down in the microwave, others like it room temperature, and there are some who like it cold – and sometimes even frozen! But what you might not realize is that storing your chocolate in the refrigerator can actually ruin it completely.

When chocolate is exposed to cold and moist temperatures, it causes a “sugar bloom” – and you can actually see the phenomenon on the bar itself. It looks like the whole top layer of chocolate has bubbled or “bloomed” and it also changes the texture of the chocolate to become gritty and grainy. So, if you want to eat the chocolate the way it was intended to be eaten, it’s best to keep it away from the fridge.

Cereal

If you have a warm house and regularly have to deal with pesky ants climbing up all of your food, you might be inclined to put items like your cereal into the refrigerator. And while this will certainly keep the ants at bay, the refrigerator will ruin your cereal in the process. So, what do you prefer?

The moist conditions in the refrigerator will cause your cereal to lose its crunch and become stale much faster than if it were either in the box or in an airtight container in your pantry. As if that wasn’t enough, you probably don’t want a huge cereal box taking up all of that space in your fridge.

Spices

If you’re a cooking wunderkind in the kitchen, you probably love buying spices and experimenting with them in your dishes. But if you want to get the most out of your spices they need to be fragrant and aromatic – something that won’t be the case if you store them in your refrigerator.

Storing spices in the refrigerator will cause them to clump together and lose all of their fragrance and aromatic qualities, and there really is no point. Stored in spice jars or on a rack, they can last for months before they start to lose their power. So, just stick with that.

Salad Dressings

Nobody really likes to eat a salad they’ve made themselves, but pouring over a salad dressing does make it more bearable when you know that you need to eat some greens. Because of this, you may have countless salad dressings in your home – but where do you store them? This one is a tricky one.

How you store your salad dressings really does depend on what they are made of. If you have an oil-based dressing, there’s absolutely no need to store it in the refrigerator because the oil is a preservative in itself. However, if you have something else like thousand island dressing or ranch, this will need to be stored in the fridge.

Mustard

In many people’s eyes, a hot dog isn’t a hot dog without mustard – which is why many people buy it on a regular basis and they immediately store it in the refrigerator without really thinking about it. But what if we told you that you didn’t need to refrigerate your mustard? After all, you never see a restaurant get their mustard out of the fridge.

Thanks to the high acidity content in mustard, it’s not only self-preserving, but it’s also able to repel any kind of bacteria that attempts to get close to it. When it comes down to it, if you prefer colder mustard on your hot dog you can place it in the fridge. But you don’t have to.

Fresh Herbs

While you can use dried herbs when cooking, there’s something so special and aromatic about using fresh herbs. Unfortunately, they’re a bit of a nightmare to keep as fresh as you’d like them. One thing we do know for sure, though, is that putting them in the refrigerator is one of the worst things you could do.

That’s because fresh herbs have the ability to draw in smells around them and lose their own flavor at the same time, so putting them in a cold and moist environment with loads of other food isn’t the best idea. They won’t taste the same and they’ll dry out quickly. It’s best to just leave them at room temperature.

Cheez Whiz

While everyone has their own opinions on whether cheese products like Cheese Whiz and Velveeta are real cheese, there are people who are storing these kinds of items in the refrigerator. And while there’s nothing technically wrong with that, you’re just taking up unnecessary space in your fridge.

All of these cheese products may include dairy, but not the same kind of dairy made to make real cheese products. They are instead made using the likes of cheese powder and oil, which are all preservatives and shelf-stable. Plus, you buy it from the non-refrigerated section of the grocery store, so there’s no need to start refrigerating it when you get home – even when you’ve opened it.

Flour

One of the main characteristics of flour is that it’s incredibly dry and powdery. So, when you think about it, it doesn’t make sense to keep it in a cold and moist environment. If you do accidentally put the flour in the fridge, you may find that it becomes moldy or even lumpy.

Flour is made to be shelf-stable, which means the best way to store it is at room temperature – ideally in an airtight container once you’ve opened the packet. The flour will draw in even the smallest amount of moisture in the air, so keeping it as airtight as possible is the key to keeping it fresh.