Many a nuclear domestic dispute has been waged over whether the maple syrup goes in the fridge or the pantry. This is because we all grew up with different rules, and we all believe that breaking those rules doesn’t just contravene what we know to be true, but puts our very health at risk.
For many foods there are straightforward, indisputable facts that settle the fridge vs counter debate. Pure maple syrup should be stored in the fridge to prevent the growth of mold; tomatoes should be stored out of the fridge since the cold damages cell membranes and makes them mealy.
But some foods inhabit a grey area where we habitually chill them for safety’s sake even though they don’t always require it. Once you throw in taste considerations—i.e. the fact that many foods taste and cook better at room temperature—the case for non-refrigeration grows stronger still. But then again, do you really want to play Doritos Roulette when food poisoning is a possible outcome?
Here’s a closer look at three commonly refrigerated foods that don’t necessarily need it.
Outside of the states, it’s common to see supermarkets displaying room temperature eggs. While this seems like risky business to us, the truth is huevos can be safely stored at room temperature depending on how they’ve been processed. Business Insider reports that in the U.S., eggs are washed and sprayed with chemical sanitizers to reduce the risk of salmonella. However, this process necessitates that they are kept refrigerated afterwards to prevent bacterial growth. By contrast, the U.K. mitigates salmonella risks by vaccinating their hens and leaving the eggs alone.
The takeaway: If you’re stateside, keep your eggs chilled and bring them to room temperature just before you need them. Once you take them out of the fridge, the egg safety center recommends using them within two hours. (Photo: Flickr/ Andi2)
A cold, non-compliant stick of butter is of no use to anyone; but whether you keep it at room temperature permanently or take it out of the fridge half an hour before using it comes down to timing. According to the FDA, wrapped or covered butter will last up to ten days at room temperature, reports Chow. After that it may turn rancid and sour, which affects the taste but doesn’t make it dangerous. A countertop butter keeper like the Butter Bell Crock claims to extend this period to 30 days by keeping the butter airtight and cool.
The takeaway: Store just as much as you need on the counter and you’ll never have to mash it onto your bread again. Although it should keep fine for a week or two, doing a taste test before you use it is a good habit to get into. (Photo: Flickr/ Ruby’s Feast)
Cheese needs to breathe but you don’t want it to dry out, so it’s best to wrap it once tightly in wax or parchment paper, and then a second time loosely in plastic. According to the Cheese Society, the best storage temperature is between 35 and 45 degrees, so keep it in the warmest part of your fridge (probably the vegetable crisper) and bring it to room temperature before serving. Unless we’re talking about mozzarella, in which case you can ignore everything we just said: According to Serious Eats, mozzarella should never be refrigerated or it becomes rubbery and loses it’s succulent, juicy mouthfeel.
The takeaway: Fromage and fridges don’t play nice, so—hard cheese aside—buy it the same day you want to eat it and consume within one or two sittings. (Photo: Flickr/ Adam Brill)