How to Use Your Fridge Effectively
Keeping Food Cold
A temperature between 0°C (32°F) and 5°C (41 °F) is best. Check with a fridge thermometer bought from a kitchen shop or supermarket. Warmer than this and food poisoning bacteria will start to multiply; colder, and your food will freeze.
Keep the door closed
It wastes energy to leave a fridge door open, and the temperature inside will rise quickly.
No hot food
Let cooked food cool to room temperature before you put it in the fridge; the motor will have to work much harder to keep the inside cold if something’s heating it up.
What goes where?
• Raw food at the bottom and cooked at the top is the general rule. This way, drips are less likely to spread bacteria to food that may not be heated up again.
• Meat, chicken and fish should be unwrapped for the fridge, placed on a plate and covered with a large bowl. If they are left in their wrapping, or tightly covered with plastic film, air will not be able to circulate around the food.
Setting the level
Set the dial on your freezer so that the inside temperature is between -18°C (0°F) and -23°C (-10°F). Check the temperature with a freezer thermometer bought from a kitchen shop – freezer gauges are not always accurate.
Storing food in the freezer
A one-star freezer (top right) is safe forready-frozen food for up to a week; a two-star freezer (second from top, right) for up to a month; and a three-star freezer (second from bottom, right) for up to three months. Only a freezer marked with four stars (bottom right) is suitable for freezing fresh food.
Getting it all wrapped up
Make sure that all food bound for the freezer is wrapped and sealed in an airtight container.
• Use plastic containers with press-on lids for liquids and brittle items and freezer-weight bags sealed with twist ties or freezer tape for others.
• Freezer foil and foil dishes are also suitable, but don’t use them for acid foods, or holes may eventually appear. Place foil-wrapped foods inside a sealed freezer bag or cover with plastic freezer wrap before storing.
• Avoid glass jars – they may crack as the contents expand.
Even the best memory is fallible, so label and date all food before it goes into the freezer. Make sure it’s thoroughly wrapped and sealed so that it’s airtight, too.
Don’t take chances
Never freeze anything that’s not completely fresh. Low temperatures can’t kill bacteria: they’ll just lie dormant and begin to multiply again when the food is thawed.
Try freezing empty margarine tubs, yoghurt cartons or other plastic containers before you use them for. Some plastics turn brittle and split at low temperatures and may not be suitable.
Meals for one
If you have a microwave oven, keep a few portioned-out meals on microwave-proof plates in the freezer. Simply thaw and reheat when one of the family has to eat alone.
Dishes all end up in the freezer?
They don’t have to: line dishes with foil before using them to freeze casseroles, pies or puddings. Lift out the foil and food when solid, cover with another piece of foil if necessary, and store without the dish. To thaw and reheat, unwrap the food and place it back in the original dish.
Don’t freeze liquids in containers filled right to the top. Leave at least 25mm (1 in) of space to allow for expansion.
The following foods don’t freeze well, so store them above 0°C (32°F):
• Whole eggs: uncooked eggs will crack their shells and hard-boiled ones become rubbery if frozen.
• Cooked potatoes: they may turn leathery if you freeze them whole, but if you mash them first they should be fine.
• Cooked custards: they tend to separate out on thawing.
• Single cream: separates out on thawing. Richer creams with over 40 per cent butterfat can be frozen.
• Salad vegetables: lettuce, watercress, celery and other salads will just turn limp and mushy.
• Avocado pears and aubergines: the flesh will discolour and lose its texture if frozen.
• Mayonnaise: can curdle when unfrozen.
• Garlic: dishes flavoured with garlic can develop a musty taste after even a short spell in the freezer. Cook without it if you’re going to freeze food, and add it after thawing.
• Jelly: goes watery when thawed out. However, mousses and cream mixtures with added gelatine usually freeze well.
• Fizzy drinks in bottles or tins: the containers may explode as freezing makes the contents expand.
DO’S AND DON’TS ABOUT THAWING
DO let frozen meat thaw out slowly in a fridge or cool place. Bacteria could multiply if you put it somewhere warm.
DO thaw out frozen poultry in its wrapping, and puncture the seal so that it can ‘breathe’. Stand it in a container in the fridge to make sure no liquid drips onto other food.
DO cook food as soon as possible after thawing, and quickly use up anything that’s accidentally allowed to defrost.
DON’T refreeze food after thawing unless you cook it first.
DON’T run warm or hot water over poultry to unfreeze it more quickly, or bacteria may multiply. Letting it thaw out in a fridge is best, but if you’re in a hurry place the wrapped bird in a bowl of cold water and change the water frequently. Don’t cook it until it has thawed out completely.