Learn which foods taste better and keep longer if kept at room temperature.
Refrigerators are marvelous inventions, but they tend to be overused by many home cooks, who assume that everything will last longer if refrigerated. The fact is, some foods do benefit from chilling, but others do much better if left at room temperature. Learn which foods you should not refrigerate for longer lasting, better tasting produce.
Bananas: When put in the fridge, the ripening process slows down and the peel can turn dark. Keep them on the counter at room temperature. If you have too many, toss some in the freezer for future baking.
Tomatoes: Refrigeration, particularly over a long period of time, suppresses the volatile compounds that are responsible for generating flavor in tomatoes. While a cool environment can prolong a tomato’s life, it comes at the loss of taste - hardly something that can be squandered when there’s so little to begin with in hothouse tomatoes!
Potatoes: Potatoes do best at cool temperatures, around 45 degrees Fahrenheit, that is roughly 10 degrees warmer than average refrigerator temperature. If kept too cold, potatoes’ flavor and texture will be affected. They are best stored in a paper bag or cardboard box in a cool, dark place, such as a closed cabinet; a root cellar, of course, is ideal. Interestingly, the ethylene emitted by apples suppresses the sprouting process in potatoes, which means it’s smart to store them together. If they do sprout, the potatoes are fine to eat, as long as you cut out the sprouts, which are toxic.
Onions: When refrigerated, onions turn mouldy and soft, unless they’re already peeled, in which case the fridge is best. Keep unpeeled onions in a cool, dark place, but not near the potatoes, since both release gases that will speed up each other’s rotting. Onions tend to prefer more ventilation than potatoes.
Garlic: Keep it on the counter, unpeeled, ideally in a basket with good ventilation. Fresh garlic from the summer harvest will eventually dry. If it sprouts, cut them out before eating, as the green tops and centers can taste bitter. When refrigerated, garlic’s exterior never changes, which means you won’t be able to tell if it’s gone bad until you cut it open.
Avocados: These are best when left out, unless you need to slow the ripening process in order to avoid spoilage. Only then should you refrigerate.
Bread: The fridge sucks moisture right out of bread, making it go stale prematurely. Keep it in a sealed plastic bag at room temperature or in the freezer.
Honey: Honey is a naturally preserved food that will stay good indefinitely if sealed and kept in a dark place. Putting it in the fridge will speed up the sugar crystallization process, making it harder to scoop out.
Coffee: Similar to bread, refrigeration dries out coffee, which is not something you want from a deliciously oily bean; it will lose all its flavor. In addition, coffee acts like a sponge for the scented air inside the fridge—and that’s likely not a taste you’re going for in your morning java. Ah, fridge espresso!
Basil: If you’re lucky enough to have fresh basil with its roots intact, then keep it in a jar of water on the counter, like a bouquet of flowers. It will fill the room with a fabulous scent, too. The Kitchn recommends covering the bunch with a plastic bag, assuming roots are cut off. Refrigeration will also turn basil leaves black.
Vinaigrette: If you make an oil-and-vinegar-based salad dressing, keep it in a sealed glass jar out of the fridge, otherwise it will partially solidify and be difficult to use when you need it. If your homemade dressing contains dairy or minced garlic, however, then it should stay in the fridge. Garlic in oil mixtures has been linked to botulism.