Common Items That Should or Should Not Be Refrigerated

(This information is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice.)

There has been a long standing debate as to what items should be refrigerated and which ones can be stored at room temperature. And quite honestly, this article won’t put an end to the debate. But based on diligent research and years of experience, here is another unbiased opinion among thousands of other opinions.

Ketchup:

Many years ago, ketchup, like almost any condiment, was kept in the cupboard at room temperature with no adverse effects. However, things have changed over the years. Partly because of society’s compulsive and, some would say obsessive focus on healthy eating, many ingredients like salt and sugar have been greatly reduced or even eliminated from many products, including ketchup. These ingredients acted as a natural preservative.

Other preservatives such as Sodium benzoate, have also been reduced or eliminated. However, the vinegar and tomatoes in ketchup give it a high level of acidity, which slows down bacterial growth. Because of this, ketchup can usually be safely kept at room temperature for 2-3 weeks. Any longer than that and it would be advisable to refrigerate it.

Mayo/Salad Dressing

I grew up on Miracle Whip while my wife was a mayonnaise person. Not to worry. I converted her from the dark side. But since they are both used primarily as a condiment, I bundled them in the same category.

The explanation is longer than the recommendation. Refrigerate. The eggs alone could make them toxic if they go bad. Besides, they just taste better cold.

Which leads me to …

Eggs:

This seems like a bit of a contradiction, but while the eggs in mayo can cause it to go bad fairly quickly, eggs themselves, at least according to one article, are better left on the counter. I know, weird, right?

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2421530/So-eggs-fridge-Scientists-crack-age-old-argument-chilled-room-temperature-best.html

Personally, I have always refrigerated eggs and have no plans to change now, so I have no direct experience to draw on and pass along my nuggets of wisdom. Sorry.

Peanut Butter:

Peanut butter in the fridge? Really? Who puts peanut butter in the fridge? Cold peanut butter is almost impossible to spread without destroying your bread.

I have kept peanut butter in the cupboard at room temperature for years with no ill effects. The worst thing that has ever happened is the oil begins to separate after awhile.

Room temperature is fine unless the manufacturer says otherwise, although I do not recommend keeping it there for more than a few weeks.

Butter:

First of all, we’re talking about real butter, not margarine.

While most butter manufacturers and even the USDA recommend that butter be refrigerated at all times, as with peanut butter, I’m sure you know the perils of trying to spread hard butter on soft bread. But butter is a dairy product and as we know, dairy needs to be kept cold.

Normally that would be true, but since butter has a low water content and high salt, except for the low salt versions, these two factors help prevent butter from spoiling rapidly.

Even the experts agree that you can remove butter from the fridge for a short period of time to let it soften. But no one can seem to agree on what “a short period of time” actually means. Even then, it should be sealed in an airtight container. There are many tabletop butter dishes made just for this purpose.

The general consensus is to remove the butter from the fridge 30-45 minutes before you intend to use it. But if you are like me, you’ll forget to do that, so while you are waiting for the butter to soften, everything else gets cold.

The next best option is to leave a small amount on your counter in an airtight container, away from direct sunlight. You can do this for “a short amount of time”, whatever that means. I would guess no more than a week or two.

If all of this is too hard to remember, just suck it up and go get a tub of soft margarine like I do. I believe they make whipped butter in a tub now that’s softer than the stick butter. If you have your heart set on real butter, it might be worth checking out.

Tomatoes:

This goes against everything I’ve known, but according to the experts, tomatoes should be kept at room temperature. Refrigerating tomatoes causes the membranes to break down, giving them more of a meaty texture and reducing the flavor. It also slows down the ripening process.

Only refrigerate if you plan on storing them for more than a few days.

Bread:

I only discovered this myself a couple of months ago. We used to store our bread in a backroom in the winter where it was cooler, between 50-60 degrees. But in the summer, the room got too hot, so we refrigerated it, but it always came out hard and crumbly.

Then I discovered freezing and it works like a charm. I always thought that freezing would make it even harder after it thawed, but I was wrong. It lasts virtually forever in the freezer and once you take it out and let it thaw, it’s as soft as when we first bought it.

Onions/Garlic/Potatoes:

I lumped these together because the recommendation is the same. Keep in a cool, dark area, but not the refrigerator.

Refrigerating potatoes causes the starch to turn to sugar more quickly, giving them an unpleasant sweet, gritty taste. It’s best to put them in a paper bag in a dark area. This also helps to slow the growth of those ugly sprouts.

Onions and garlic become mushy and/or moldy much quicker, plus they smell up the refrigerator and give other foods a bad taste.

As stated at the beginning, this is just one opinion. What’s yours?

Meanwhile, here are some other pages of interest.

https://uk.news.yahoo.com/11-things-probably-keep-fridge-really-shouldn-t-171758386.html#Wtu221e
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/11018607/The-great-ketchup-debate-to-fridge-or-not-to-fridge.html