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.
If you’re attempting to safely store your potatoes, avoid the refrigerator. Uncooked potatoes are best kept in a cool, dry, and dark environment. Low temperatures will turn starch into sugar at a quicker rate, which is why they should never be stored in the fridge.
Also, make sure not to store potatoes close to onions. It causes them to sprout quickly and they pick up the taste of the onions.
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).
Nuts also tend to take on the smell of whatever they’re stored with so try to keep them stored away from high-odor foods.
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.
Avoid storing your onions in closed, plastic bags. Not getting enough ventilation can make them spoil more quickly.
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.
As if you needed another reason, placing these mega-fruits in the fridge takes up too much room and halts the ripening process.
Winter squashes should be kept out of the refrigerator because humidity causes produce to quickly deteriorate. Not only will squash last longer at room temperature, but it will also taste better.
In addition, storing any type of winter squash will result in giving them a mushy texture.
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.
For best results, always store garlic bulbs whole in a dry, dark place like a pantry.
The majority of oils you use on a regular basis should be stored in the pantry. Extra-virgin olive oil, canola oil, vegetable oil, and peanut oil taste best when stored in a cool, dry location. To maximize the shelf-life of these cooking oils, keep them out of the direct sunlight as well.
Luckily, if you have been keeping your oils in the fridge, once the oil has been brought back to room temperature, it should change back to its original color and consistency.
Pumpkins should be stored properly in order to extend their shelf life. Extremely cold and extremely warm temperatures can be harmful to pumpkins, which is why it’s recommended to keep them in a controlled environment—like a pantry or cupboard.
Pro tip: To keep a carved pumpkin from spoiling too soon, keep it submerged in a bucket after carving for up to 24 hours with a mixture of water and 2/3 cup of bleach.
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.
However, if you have your Nutella in the fridge already, do not return it to the pantry as this will drastically cut shelf life even shorter.
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.
Pro Tip: It is recommended that flour should be placed in the freezer for up to two days after purchase to kill off any potential weevils or insect eggs in the flour.
Although refrigerators are meant to preserve the freshness of food, bread should never be stored there. Instead, bread should be left on the counter or in the pantry. Cold temperatures cause the starches in bread to regroup and recrystallize, causing it to become stale and dry.
However, freezing bread dramatically slows the crystallization process down and will keep it fresh for when you’re ready to use it.
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.
Storing ketchup in the refrigerator may lengthen its shelf life, but it affects its consistency and taste. The high amount of vinegar reacts poorly to cold temperatures, causing ketchup to become runny and watery. If you use this product frequently, keep it out of the refrigerator.
However, keeping ketchup in a too-warm environment can also backfire—quite literally! When ketchup becomes too warm, it can become fermented which can cause a minor explosion when opening the container.
Although apples can be stored in the refrigerator, they taste best when kept in a cool space away from sunlight. Apples stored on the counter will last for up to two weeks. If you can’t eat them quickly enough, they will last for up to three to four weeks in the refrigerator.
Once placed in the refrigerator, try not to store them with other produce because apples emit a gas that can cause other produce to spoil.
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.
Thanks to the airtight seal on canned goods, an unopened tin of tuna can last for months or even years. The liquid saturates and preserves the tuna, allowing it to have a lengthy shelf life. And because it lasts for so long, it’s the ideal item to keep in your pantry.
However, if opened, it’s a good idea to place the tuna in a different, air tight container before placing it in the fridge since some of the chemicals from the can’s coating may seep into the tuna, making it taste bad.
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.
Pickles can stay fresh for up to two years, whether or not they are refrigerated. However, cucumbers will only stay fresh for up to a week in the fridge.
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.
Contrary to popular belief, it’s perfectly safe to store butter in the cupboard, out of direct sunlight. It doesn’t spoil as quickly as other dairy products and has a shelf life of up to two weeks at room temperature. Plus, butter is more spreadable when not kept in the refrigerator.
Fun Fact: Americans are one of the only cultures that keeps our butter refrigerated most of the time.
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.
Jellies and Jams
Jellies and Jams are sealed in airtight jars, increasing the longevity of these products. They’re best kept in the pantry because the preservatives keep them fresh and the neutral temperatures keep them moist.
Jam or jelly will stay fresh for up to 30 days unrefrigerated.
Honey doesn’t ever go bad, per se, but its color and consistency can change. When stored at room temperature, honey remains fresh. But when stored in the refrigerator, it quickly crystallizes, turning the thick, golden liquid into a sugary mass.
Pro Tip: In addition to storing it in a cabinet or pantry, make sure you avoid exposing it to heat and moisture as well because it can become fermented.