There has been several debates over the best way to store items like eggs and margarine. Some are adamant that butter is fine when left covered on the counter—and there’s nothing more irritating than hard butter when its time for your toast or baking. While on the other hand its a shame to think that fruits, which look great in a fruit bowl on your counter, should be hidden in the fridge.
It would be great if truly fresh foods from your neighborhood farmer didn’t have to be refrigerated, the fact of the matter is that refrigeration helps many food items to stay fresh longer.
Here are some foods you should refrigerate if you want them to last.
1. Eggs: Should be refrigerated in the United States
As much as we love the idea of displaying beautiful eggs in a bowl on the counter, ready to use at a moment’s notice, American eggs should be refrigerated. When eggs are stored in temperatures 40° F or below, Salmonella and other bacteria cannot grow, according to the American Egg Board. Refrigeration also increases eggs’ shelf life from 21 days to up to 5 weeks.
American and European eggs are processed differently and as a result must be stored differently, food experts told NPR. In America, eggs are cleaned with soap and hot water, a process that removes the protective outer layer that keeps water and oxygen in and bad bacteria out. Since this protective layer is removed, eggs are sprayed with oil and refrigerated to keep bacteria at bay. Eggs are not usually washed in Europe and therefore don’t need to be refrigerated. If eggs are refrigerated from the start, as American eggs are, then they must remain refrigerated. If cold eggs are put in a warm environment, they will sweat and become moldy.
2. Apples: Refrigerate
If you want to make them last, FreshDirect says it’s best to store apples in the refrigerator immediately after buying. They can last up to 4 months if stored between 30 and 35° F in a humid environment . And keep apples in a separate bin from other fruits and vegetables: They give off ethylene gas, which makes surrounding produce ripen more quickly. If you plan to eat up all your apples within the week, then they are totally fine to leave out of the refrigerator.
3. Stone fruit: Refrigerate after ripening
Peaches, nectarines, plums, apricots, and cherries are all stone fruits, named for their stone-like seeds. Since cold temperatures will stop the ripening process of these fruits, thereby making them mealy, you should make sure to ripen stone fruit for 2 to 3 days. Then, put them in the refrigerator to extend the shelf life to about a week.
4. Nuts: Refrigerate
The oils in nuts make them go bad relatively quickly. At room temperature, they can last 1 to 4 months, according to studies from the University of California. In the refrigerator, they can last up to a year. Since nuts have very little water content, they won’t freeze in the freezer, and they’ll last a long time.
5.Butter: Refrigerate, or keep just a few days’ worth on the counter
In agreement with USDA and FDA guidelines, most butter companies say to keep butter refrigerated. But, butter is mostly fat (usually about 80% fat), which makes it less attractive to bacteria than products with high water content. And many types of butter are made with pasteurized milk, which makes them even less prone to bacterial growth, says Organic Authority.
Keeping butter in an airtight container like a crock makes butter last at room temperature longer (about 2 weeks), but when room temperature rises above 70° F, all butter should be refrigerated.
Salted and unsalted butter are not the same, however: Salt in salted butter makes it less susceptible to bacterial growth, so it should be fine out on the counter. Even so, salted butter will last only about a week before going rancid, according to the University of California, Davis, so it’s best to keep out only what you’ll use within a few days. On the other hand, unsalted butter is best refrigerated.