5 Food Storage Mistakes You're Probably Making (and How to Fix Them)
Never waste fresh groceries again! A professional chef shares some of the worst food storage mistakes and what you should be doing instead.
You planned a week's worth of yummy meals, spent an hour at the market, and just lugged 15-plus heavy bags of groceries into the house. Don't let all that hard work go to waste! We've all been there: You stock the fridge with fresh produce only to find half of it is wilted, bruised or overripe in a matter of days. Sure, there's a limited shelf life to fresh fruit and veggies, but the culprit could also be improper storage.
We tapped NYC chef and self-proclaimed veggie connoisseur, Daphne Cheng, to tell us what we're doing wrong and how to make things right.
The No-No: Storing half-used onions or garlic with other produce
You know how your breath smells after you've eaten onions? Well, you don't want that happening after you bite into a pear or Brussels sprouts, do you? Cheng explains that nearby produce can actually take on a slight taste of items with strong odor and flavor like cut onions and partial garlic cloves if left too close to one another.
The Fix: Whole onion and garlic should be kept at room temperature, and place that half-used red onion in a tightly sealed plastic bag away from other produce—i.e. not trapped in a crisper drawer with leafy greens and peppers.
The No-No: Letting apples chill with your peaches
Apples (and various other fruits like nectarines and cantaloupe) sneakily emit ethylene gas, a natural hormone that allows produce to ripen after it's been harvested. Ethylene hastens the ripening process, so next thing you know those brand-new raspberries, bananas, or sweet potatoes are bruised, mushy and overripe.
The Fix: Simply store apples away from other produce, or in a grocery bag. Try the top shelf — perfect for grabbing breakfast when you're headed out the door.
The No-No: Leaving fresh herbs on the counter in the package
Search for "how to store fresh herbs" and you'll find dozens of conflicting answers, but there are a couple things you should never do. Don't leave cut herbs on the counter in their small plastic container—moisture and heat can cause wilting and decay. And don't just toss a bundle of fresh herbs in the fridge either.
Fix: For herbs with stems still attached, Cheng says you can place them in a jar or cup with water as you would flowers in a vase. If the room's temperature is moderate, they can be left out. Otherwise, it's into the fridge. For cut herbs without stems, you should wrap them in a damp paper towel and place in the fridge inside a sealed plastic bag.
The No-No: Storing tomatoes in the fridge
Storing tomatoes in the fridge can quickly cause them to become mealy and lose their flavor, says Cheng.
The Fix (and genius hack!): Keep juicy, red tomatoes fresher, longer by leaving them stem-side down on the counter. Moisture escapes from their stem, so this helps to keep it contained.
The No-No: Potatoes are in the fridge and avocados are on the counter
Putting a potato in the refrigerator quickens the spud's starch-to-sugar conversion, says Cheng, which is essentially pressing fast-forward on its shelf life. Avocados will ripen quickly if left on a counter (even more so in a paper bag), and a wasted avocado just upsets everyone.
The Fix: Potatoes should also be kept in a cool, dark place. If stored properly, they can last up to two weeks! And it's the opposite problem for avocados: Unless you are prepared to make a bowl of guac suitable for a party of 12, move avocados to the fridge after they reach that perfect consistency. Then, take them out one by one, and enjoy avocado toast for breakfast the next day.