Cheese and Eggs Go in the Door and Leftovers on the Middle Shelf

Where you store food in the refrigerator is crucial to its freshness

Image Courtesy Samsung

The raw meat is on the top shelf behind the tomato sauce and the not-so-crunchy-anymore broccoli, while the butter – hard as a rock – is somewhere between the forgotten leftovers from two weeks ago and last night’s shrivelled up pizza, still in its take-away box. The soft drinks are in the door and warmer than it should be, while the spinach leaves lie limp and unappetising on a shelf of its own.

South African households lose thousands of rand a year as a result of food wastage due to incorrect refrigeration and forgotten leftovers. In an effort to stem this tide, a good start will be to clean out the refrigerator, plan approximate menus for the week ahead – before shopping for ingredients – and devising a storage solution for fresh food and leftovers. This saves time and money in the long run. It is advisable to get a thermometer to keep in the refrigerator to track the actual temperature. If the electricity goes off or something goes wrong with the refrigerator, it will be clear immediately.

When the menu has been planned and the shopping done, take the food out of its original packaging and transfer it to smaller containers that are easily stackable. This limits its contact with air, which is the big food spoiler. Using a permanent marker and masking tape, label the containers with the date of storage and the contents. This makes navigation easier and helps keep track of how fresh and safe the foods are. Food shelf life, safety and ease of access should be a top priority when thinking about where what will be stored.

In his New York Times Best-Seller book The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science, *Kenji López-Alt explains the science behind the way a refrigerator should be packed. He explains that refrigerator temperatures range between 0.5 and 5°C, with warmer and cooler spots. In general, the back of the bottom shelf – where cooler, heavier air falls to – and the back of the top shelf – closest to the fan and condenser – are the coldest spots, while the middle of the door is the warmest.

López-Alt says there are three major factors to consider when planning storage. First on the list is food safety: food which is more likely to make you sick should be stored at a colder temperature and heated to a higher temperature before eating. The second is temperature: this changes in different parts of the refrigerator and therefore where something is stored, is crucial to it keeping fresh. Third, is humidity: vegetable drawers are usually kept separate from the rest of the airflow to maintain some humidity, preventing vegetables from drying out.

As a result of the measured temperature differences, López-Alt developed his scientific method of storing food, stating that certain sections of the refrigerator are best suited for specific foods.


The Main Compartment

The top shelf of the main compartment should be used for ready-to-eat meals, ready-to-eat condiments that aren’t used often and pickled products. Refrigerator-friendly fruits like apples, oranges, berries, melons and grapes can also be stored here. The middle shelf should be reserved for leftovers in sealed containers, cheese, eggs, cold meats and bread. The bottom shelf is where raw meat, poultry and fish should be stored, as well as milk and dairy products such as cream, sour cream, cottage cheese, cream cheese and buttermilk. Samsung’s FlexZone refrigerator has a Triple Cooling System which optimises the temperature and humidity, and prevents odours from mixing to maximise freshness and taste.

The Vegetable Drawer

Vegetables can be placed in breathable plastic bags or plastic bags with the tops left slightly open. Fresh herbs can be rolled in damp paper towel and then placed in a plastic bag.

The Refrigerator Door

The door is the best place to store frequently used items and those that don’t require the coldest temperature. A top shelf can be used for eggs, butter and cheese. Middle shelves of the door, is where condiments such as tomato sauce, chili sauce, mustard and vinaigrettes should be kept. A bottom shelf of the door is for drinks, milk, freshly squeezed juice and cold water. Milk should go on a shelf in the main compartment if it isn’t used much, but for daily drinkers, the door is perfect. Samsung’s Showcase refrigerator has a fridge within a fridge, which makes finding items so much easier with dedicated spaces for cheese, sauces, drinks and snacks.

The Freezer

The freezer is not only a space for keeping meat and leftovers, it is a great place to store food that can go rancid, such as nuts, cured meats, extra butter, yeast and whole-grain flours. When freezing food, remove it from its original packaging to a flat, air-tight plastic bag, this will limit freezer burn and make it quicker to defrost. Remember to label everything. With the Samsung Fridge-in-Freezer refrigerator, the bottom right door can be converted from a refrigerator to freezer if you need more freezer space.


“With the innovation that Samsung refrigerators bring, the appliances do a lot of the thinking for you,” says Mike van Lier, Director of Consumer Electronics at Samsung South Africa. “The Triple Cooling System optimises the temperature and humidity. The dedicated coolers supply air independently to three compartments in the refrigerator and freezer. By adjusting the temperatures of the various compartments, odours don’t mix and freshness is maximised.


“In an effort to simplify life, the FlexZone offers the ultimate in food storage flexibility so everything stays fresher. With one touch, the compartment can be converted from fridge to freezer, as you need it,” concludes Van Lier.


* J. Kenji López-Alt is the Chief Culinary Advisor for Serious Eats website and podcast, author of the James Beard Award-nominated column The Food Lab, and partner at Wursthall and Backhaus in San Mateo.


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