According to scientific research, ripe tomatoes should be kept on your counter, uncovered. When kept in the refrigerator, their flavor is affected. The cold temperatures reduce the functionality of the genes that allow the fruit to properly ripen. Chemicals known as "volatiles" are responsible for giving tomatoes a sweeter, more complex taste. Studies have shown that chilling tomatoes for a week greatly change their flavor.
To keep coffee at its best, it should be stored in a dark, airtight container—and not inside your refrigerator. Cool temperatures create moisture, which dulls the taste of coffee beans and grounds. If you want your coffee to keep its aroma and flavor, keep it stored at room temperature. However, if you buy your coffee in bulk and don’t plan on using it right away, you can place it in the freezer for up to a month to keep it fresh.
Nuts belong in the pantry if you plan to eat them in the near future. They will remain fresh at room temperature for a few months. That being said, if you don’t plan to eat them right away, they should be stored in the refrigerator or freezer (just know they may not taste as good when stored at a cooler temperature).
Fresh herbs aren’t the easiest to keep fresh, but that’s most likely because they’re being stored incorrectly. If you keep them in the fridge, they’re being exposed to too much moisture, causing them to become slimy and wilted. Instead, wash and dry herbs and leave them on the counter. If you just prefer to have your herbs in the refrigerator, place them in an air-tight container wrapped in a damp paper towel to keep them from drying out or wilting too quickly.
If you want to extend the shelf life of your onions by up to 30 days, move them from the refrigerator to the pantry. Like potatoes, the starches in onions are converted into sugars at a quicker rate when stored at cooler temperatures. The best way to store onions is by keeping them in a mesh bag in your kitchen cabinet.
Watermelons and honeydew melons taste better and last longer when stored at room temperature. According to a study that appeared in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, melons decay in less than a week when stored in the refrigerator—which is reason enough to leave them on your counter rather than in your fridge.
If you typically store your garlic in the fridge, remove it immediately. When refrigerated, garlic bulbs grow moldy due to increased moisture. They also begin to sprout because of the cold temperatures—which is an indication that it’s being stored incorrectly. The best way to store garlic is in mesh bags or loosely woven baskets.
Nutella is a delicious chocolate and hazelnut spread with a relatively short shelf life. Although you may believe storing it in the refrigerator is the best option, the chilly temperatures will harden the product so it’s no longer spreadable. Instead, place your jar of nutella in a cool, dry place and keep the lid tightly sealed.
There’s no need to refrigerate peanut butter. A jar of traditional peanut butter like Jif or Skippy is best kept in a cool, dry environment, and will last for months in your pantry. This allows it to remain creamy and spreadable. An open jar of peanut butter will stay fresh in the cabinet for up to three months, but after that, oil separation can occur.
Apricots, Peaches, and Mangoes
Apricots, peaches, and mangoes are fruits that continue to ripen after being picked. In order for them to fully ripen, they should be stored at room temperature, away from sunlight and heat. Cold temperatures change the texture and taste of these fruits. Once these fruits ripen within approximately 4-7 days, it is safe to put them in the refrigerator to extend their shelf life.
Flour is a baking staple that should be stored at room temperature. It can last six to eight months past its printed “best by” date if stored in an airtight container in a dark, cool cupboard. Other types of flour that are used infrequently, like whole wheat flour, should be kept in a refrigerator or freezer to extend the shelf life.
Unripe avocados should be stored at room temperature. They can take four to five days to ripen on the counter and even longer in the refrigerator. To speed up the ripening process, place your avocados in a brown paper bag with an apple or banana and let sit for a few days. These fruits release ethylene—a natural plant hormone that speeds up ripening.
Soy sauce can be refrigerated, but that doesn’t mean it should. The high salt content in soy sauce allows it to be kept safely at room temperature for up to six months. Keeping it cold changes the taste and effects the ingredients. Although it really comes down to your personal preference of room temperature or cold condiments, if you’re a heavy user of soy sauce keeping it out of the fridge is fine in this instance as well.
Bananas are delicate fruits that can be easily damaged. When they are exposed to extreme temperatures, they become black and bruised. But when they are stored at room temperature, they become yellow, soft, and ready to eat. Also, bananas are a tropical fruit, meaning they are unused to the cold. Keeping them at cold temperatures inhibits ripening.
Cucumbers and Pickles
These are two items that belong on the counter rather than in the refrigerator. Cucumbers are sensitive to cool temperatures and store best at room temperature. Similarly, pickles are also best when kept outside the fridge. The vinegar in pickle jars allows them to remain fresh without being in the refrigerator.
Like other condiments, the high vinegar content in hot sauce allows it sit out without spoiling. It can be safely stored in your pantry or cabinet after opening. Although the color may change slightly over time, it will still taste the same. In addition, most hot sauces are inhospitable to foodborne illnesses, so there is no reason not to keep it in the cabinet.
Cereal is known to absorb moisture and smells when kept at cooler temperatures. So, regardless of what type of cereal you buy, you should always store it in the pantry. Once open, fold the bag and clip it shut to keep it fresh and tasty. In addition to taking on the smell and taste of other foods in the fridge, keeping cereal cold can actually damage the texture, too.
Always avoid putting chocolate in the refrigerator. Cold temperatures affect the taste, color, and texture of this sweet treat—making it less desirable. It’s also known to absorb the smell of surrounding foods, so it’s best when stored away from other oxidizing food items. In addition, when chocolate is stored in the fridge, something called “sugar bloom” happens. The blooms can be seen on the surface of the chocolate and it changes the texture of it to gritty and grainy.