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The Correct Way To Refrigerate Foods

Proper storage of foods in refrigerators is important to :

  • ensure that the food will last longer
  • ensure that food is in a safe condition until it is consumed
  • maintain the appearance and taste of the foods
  • maintain the palatability of the foods
  • preserved nutrients content of the foods

Tips on the correct way to use refrigerators

  • To ensure a well-functioning refrigerator, it must be kept in a place with good air circulation and away from heat sources and sunlight.
  • Ensure that the temperature range in the chiller compartment of the refrigerator is below 4°C and -18° C to 0°C in the freezer compartment. Higher temperatures will damage the foods in the refrigerator and lower temperatures can cause freezing problems.
  • The capacity or ability of the refrigerator should be large enough to meet your needs. It should be cold enough to cool all food surfaces to the desired temperature within a short period of time.
  • Do not overfill only certain areas in the refrigerator to ensure good circulation of cold air within the refrigerator. Storing foods too close to one another in the refrigerator will prevent the foods from chilling properly due to the imbalance circulation of cool air.
  • Clean the refrigerator weekly using a suitable disinfectant to prevent bad odours, dirt and mould. Open the door slightly to allow air to circulate before placing back the foods in the refrigerator.
  • Do not open the refrigerator too often. Warm air will enter the fridge and cold air will escape. This will increase the temperature of the refrigerator.
  • Do not leave the refrigerator door open for too long.
  • Ensure that the refrigerator door is closed properly and tightly. Check the door seal frequently to ensure that it is still functioning well.
  • If the refrigerator does not have an automatic defrost setting, ensure that the ice in the frozen area is not too thick and clean it frequently for efficient refrigeration.

Storing foods in the refrigerator

Proper storage of foods in the refrigerator will help minimise the risk of foods from being spoiled, contaminated and damaged. Foods can be stored in the chiller and freezer compartments of the refrigerator.

Read the label on the food packaging/food container to obtain information on proper storage condition for the food before and after opening the package/container.

General guidelines on storing foods in the chiller area :

  • Store raw and cooked foods in separate areas and in closed containers.
  • Keep all cooked foods in closed containers, sealed plastic bags or wrapped it in thin plastic or aluminium foil to prevent it from drying, contaminated, changes in odours and spilling.
  • Store cooked foods at the upper shelves and raw foods at the lower shelves to prevent cross-contamination. Cooked food may be contaminated even if it is mixed with a small amount of raw materials. Raw meat and vegetables usually contain germs which can contaminate cooked foods.
  • Store vegetables in perforated plastic bags in the vegetable compartment to prevent moisture loss and ensure air circulation.
  • Keep fruits and vegetables separately because it can cause ethylene gas accumulation in the refrigerator which will damage the food.
  • Store butter or margerine away from fish and fruits to avoid odour contamination.
  • Keep eggs and egg-based products separated from onions to prevent them from smelling like onion.
  • Do not store hot foods directly into the refrigerator. It should be cooled before storage to prevent increase in humidity and temperature of the fridge.
  • Do not store left-over canned foods in its original can in the refrigerator. This is because the left-over food may react with the metal when exposed to air. Transfer the left-over food in a plastic container or covered bowl before storing them in the fridge.
  • Do not store meat, fish and poultry in the refrigerator for more than 3 days. The high-protein and moisture content of the foods will enhance the breeding of germs and cause them to damage faster.
  • Do not store cooked foods in the refrigerator for more than 3 days.

General guidelines on storing foods in the freezer area :

  • Store meat, poultry and fish in a container or an airtight plastic bag to prevent moisture loss which can cause dryness and to prevent contamination of other foods with their smell
  • Cut and wrap meat, poultry or fish in serving sizes which are appropriate for single use before freezing. Smaller sizes freeze easier in a shorter time.
  • Wrap foods in plastic bag or freezing bag before storing it into the freezer.
  • Wash meat, fish and poultry thoroughly before storing it into the freezer. Meat and fish should be cleaned and kept in the freezer as soon as possible after being purchased to prevent them from being spoiled.
  • Defrost only parts which are needed. Avoid refreezing the defrosted foods.
  • Do not store fruits and vegetables in the freezer. The freezing temperature will damage the fruits and vegetable tissues.
  • Do not freeze canned foods. The content of the canned foods will expand at freezing temperature and this will damage the can.
Last reviewed : 3 April 2014
Writer : Pn. Norrani binti Eksan
Reviewer : Pn. Norrani binti Eksan