If learning about what foods not to put in the fridge isn’t something high on your agenda or a topic you don’t think is important, then you may think twice when you realise that storing food properly could be the difference between you developing food poisoning, or worse yet, cancer! Yes, you read correctly.
In this article, we use evidence-based research to debunk some household arguments and myths regarding where food should be stored. Discover how good your knowledge is on storing food to prevent food spoilage and enhancing flavour and texture. Also, find out if the way you store potatoes is increasing your risk of developing cancer.
Warning – some of the below topics may be deemed controversial and cause upset or confrontational encounters at home. Readers are advice to proceed at their own discretion.
Eggs in their shell
This is certainly a controversial one – should they go in the fridge or on the shelf? Well the answer might surprise you, because both are correct. However, it does depend on the egg sanitisation practices where you live.
In many European countries, sanitisation has improved and hens have been vaccinated against Salmonella to mitigate the potential for infection to occur. There are some exceptions in terms of countries who don’t utilise this strategy, e.g. Scandinavian countries. The European Union therefore recommend that storing eggs in the fridge is unnecessary and that they should be stored in a cool place – but not in the fridge.
Jump to the United States where sanitisation takes the form of external cleaning of the eggs by washing them in hot water and spraying them with disinfectant prior to them being sold. This external sterilisation process kills bacteria present on the surface of the egg. Other countries including Australia, Japan, Sweden and the Netherlands have adopted the same process as the US.
While the efficacy of removing bacteria from the surface of the egg using this method is sufficient, it has no benefit on the inside of the egg where bacteria may reside. Consequently, many consumers can still suffer from food poisoning. For this reason, eggs are required to be stored in the refrigerator to limit the growth of bacteria. To further elaborate on that point, many people tend to store them on the fridge door, which is subject to temperature fluctuations when it is opened and closed. For that reason, it’s recommended to store them near the back of the fridge.
Avocados: These are best left to ripe in the cupboard as the ripening process can take some time. Once this is complete, they can then be stored in the fridge to preserve their shelf-life.
Bananas: Similar to the avocado, bananas are best left to ripen first before being stored in the fridge. They have a tendency to go black if they’re refrigerated while they’re green and unripened.
Pears: Allow them to ripen first and then pop them in the fridge.
Tomatoes: There are numerous claims and theories that refrigerating tomatoes enhances their flavour, however these suggestions have finally been debunked; research concluded that refrigerating tomatoes elicits adverse effects on the flavour-enhancing cells. For that reason, they should be stored in the cupboard.
Garlic: Garlic should never be stored in the fridge, unless you’re looking to accelerate the rate of sprouting! Keep it in a cool, dry place. Additionally, do not store them in an airtight container as this will also advance the growth of mold. Instead, keep them in a ventilated container.
Did you know that garlic is a vegetable that belongs to the onion family?
Onions: Onions should be stored in a cupboard to prevent them becoming soft and moldy. Additionally, cut onions release a gas which can taint other foods nearby; that’s another reason to keep them out of the fridge. The exception to this rule applies to scallions (or green onions, as some may call them), which last longer refrigerated.
Peppers: Contrary to popular belief, refrigerating bell peppers doesn’t enhance their crispiness or spiciness, rather it can lead to a loss in the texture of the vegetable, and nobody wants mushy peppers! Keep them in a dry, cool place instead.
Potatoes: While it’s not generally a food that people store in the fridge, it is important to highlight a potential health risk associated with refrigerating potatoes. When stored in the fridge, the enzyme invertase changes the composition of sugar from sucrose to glucose and fructose. This can produce a chemical known as acrylamide when the raw potatoes are cooked. Consumption of acrylamide has been associated with elevated rates of DNA mutations and cancer. Fortunately, this risk can be minimised by storing potatoes in the cupboard.
Sweet Potatoes: Refrigerating sweet potatoes negatively impacts on the cellular structure of the food. If refrigerated, you should be prepared for a deterioration in the flavour and texture of the sweet potato. There is a quick tip to salvage this though – ensure the potato is not cold when cooking it by heating it up first and ensuring it’s completely thawed.
Bread: Believe it or not, there are some people who store bread in the fridge. However, it’s not recommended as the cool environment accelerates the rate at which bread goes stale. Keep it in a cupboard or a bread bin for optimal shelf-life. You can also freeze it, which will extend the life of the loaf by months!
Cereals: Surprisingly, some people store their cereal in the fridge. Fortunately, there’s no need to do this. In fact, storing cereal in the fridge causes it to soften, and who wants soggy cereal? If you’re concerned about cereal spoilage or flimsy cereal boxes, you could always store it in an airtight cereal storage container.
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Chocolate: If you’ve ever taken the time to read the storage instructions on your precious chocolate bar, you may have noticed that it states not to store it in the fridge as it affects not only the flavour, but also the texture and colour. Sugar bloom can occur which causes the texture to become gritty. Cold conditions are particularly negative for chocolate high in cocoa. Your best solution is to keep it in a cool cupboard, away from odorous foods. The same applies to our beloved chocolate spreads; yes Nutella, I’m talking about you!
Hands up if you like your chocolate slightly on the soft side!
Sauces and seasonings
Honey: Honey should always be stored on the shelf; when stored in a fridge, it has a tendency to solidify, making it difficult to spread. Fortunately, the properties and high-sugar content of honey repel bacterial growth.
Hot sauce: This is best stored in the cupboard, it generally has a good expiry date, and the vinegar and preservatives present act as a deterrent to food spoilage. Furthermore, the refrigerating of hot sauce tends to deplete the hotness of the sauce. So if you enjoy your hot sauce hot, then keep it at room temperature.
Ketchup: Another potentially ambivalent topic is where ketchup should be stored. It was previously sold for years without refrigeration and even today is generally found on food shelves as opposed to supermarket fridges. The high vinegar, salt and sugar content in ketchup minimises the risk of microbial activity, so for that reason, it can be stored on the shelf. Some people think it tastes better at room temperature, do you agree?
Olive oil: Oil-based liquids should steer clear of the fridge as they can cause solidification and also adversely affect the flavour. If you currently have oil residing in the fridge, remove it now and it should eventually return to the original state.
Soy sauce: The high-salt content present acts as an excellent preservative for soy sauce. For this reason, there’s no need to store it in the fridge. In fact, refrigerating it may have negative implications for the taste of the sauce.
Vinegar: Vinegar is capable of preserving itself and is generally best kept in a cool area as opposed to refrigerated. This includes salad dressings and dressings/sauces which contain vinegar.
Butter: Another contentious one – storing it in the fridge will prevent it from going rancid as rapidly, but try to spread it on bread and you’ll probably end up with the sorriest looking slices of bread ever seen! Generally, butter can survive out of the fridge for a few days. If the butter is salted, it can be left out of the fridge for days, if not weeks before it deteriorates. However, refrigerating butter, especially unpasteurised or unsalted butter is advisable to minimise bacterial growth and spoilage.
A simple trick you could do to preserve the life of butter is to take out small portions at a time and store them on the counter (ideally in an airtight container) as opposed to leaving the whole tub of butter out.
Canned tuna: Tuna has an excellent shelf life while the can is unopened. There’s no need whatsoever to store it in the fridge when it’s sealed. If you do open the tin but don’t use all the content, ensure that you remove the leftover tuna from the tin and store it in a container in the fridge.
Coffee: If you’re a coffee connoisseur, then you already know the adverse implications associated with storing coffee beans in the fridge or the freezer. Such environments have high humidity levels which depletes taste and aroma of the coffee. Keep it in the pantry in a cool, dry area for optimal storage.
- Storage of raw eggs is dependent on where you live
- Refrigerated potatoes may contain elevated levels of acrylamide, which has cancer-causing associations
- Most sauces and dressings are best stored in the cupboard
- Most types of butter can survive outside the fridge for a few days
- As a general rule of thumb, wherever you find food stored in the supermarket is where it should be stored at home
- If in doubt, always read the storage instructions on the packaging
Now that you’re equipped with the knowledge of what not to put in the fridge, why not expand your knowledge further and find out what foods can I freeze?
Were any of the above recommendations a shock to you or perhaps in contradiction to your current practices? Does food storage preferences cause arguments to erupt at home? I’d love to hear your opinions and suggestions.
Jones, T., 2019. Should You Refrigerate Eggs?. [online] Healthline. Available at:
Jones, T., 2017. Does Butter Go Bad If You Don’T Refrigerate It?. [online] Healthline. Available at:
Lovefood.com. 2018. 38 Foods That Should Never Be Kept In The Fridge | Lovefood.Com. [online] Available at:
University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) Food. 2020. Food Storage. [online] Available at:
Weber, A., 2020. 35 Foods That You Should Never Put In The Refrigerator. [online] icepop. Available at:
Wong, S., 2017. Are Potatoes Now A Cancer Risk? Here’s What You Need To Know. [online] New Scientist. Available at: