Home cooks may debate over the best place to store eggs and butter until the cows come home, and these two items are admittedly worthy of such deliberation. (It depends not only where they come from, but also how quickly you’ll use them. For butter, the level of salt is also a factor.) But there are a number of foods that should incite no such debate. From onions and potatoes to bread and cake, these foods often end up in the fridge when they shouldn’t.
So when a caller on Milk Street Radio recently asked hosts Christopher Kimball and Sara Moulton which ingredients she shouldn’t keep in the fridge, Kimball called it a very good question and the hosts cleared up some common misconceptions.
“Food that’s chilled doesn’t alway have as much flavor as food at room temperature,” Moulton explained. You should aim to bring food to room temperature before eating, but some foods should simply never go into the fridge in the first place. Here are 7 of those foods:
“If you put a chocolate cake in the fridge, that’s it. It’s done,” says Kimball.
That goes for fruit pies, too, Kimball and Moulton agree.
This one’s a little more controversial than the first two. If you have sliced sandwich bread that you’ll use in a few days, the fridge is a fine place. But the best approach is to buy a whole loaf to slice as needed, and to keep that loaf on the counter, in a bread box or in a paper bag or reusable bread bag, like this Rough Linen Loaf Bag. (If your bread goes stale, we’ve got the perfect plan for resuscitating it.)
Unless they’re cut, tomatoes should never go in the fridge, lest they loose any precious flavor. We already contend with tasteless supermarket tomatoes. Don’t zap flavor even further! (We favor grape or cherry tomatoes for an out-of-season choice because they’re typically more sweet. To make the most of them, try cooking them down into tomato conserva.)
This is what a root cellar is for! Of course, since not all of us have a root cellar, a cool dark place in your kitchen works well, too. Just keep them out of the fridge. This goes for sweet potatoes too!
“Some people put onions in the fridge because then they don’t give off so much sulfur,“ Sara Moulton says, ”but I leave my onions out.“ Moisture from the fridge can turn onions soft and moldy, so they, too, belong in a cool, dark place in your kitchen. (The exception here is scallions or spring onions, which belong in the fridge.)
Vinaigrette is made of oil and vinegar, both of which you can leave at room temperature. So, there’s no reason to put your vinaigrette in the fridge, both Kimball and Moulton agree. If you put vinaigrette in the fridge, it will harden and turn cloudy. Leave it out! (And check out our upgraded vinaigrette recipes here.)
Moulton boils it down to this: “If it has a high salt or acid content, you’re probably safe not keeping it in the fridge.”
When in doubt, though, look at the USDA website, she suggests. “Take their advice or don’t take their advice, but at least they’ll give you an idea."
For more tips like this from Sara Moulton and Christopher Kimball, tune into Milk Street Radio each week.