I can cook forever, it’s the putting away that bugs me! Especially since I try to organise food into the right fridge zones, so I can’t just stuff boxes higgledy piggledy anywhere.
This is because these temperature zones make foods last longer, look fresher and retain their nutritive value for extended periods.
If you too believe in “paisa vasool”, that is, ensuring that you get your money’s worth, you might like to read on so that you can identify the best spots to store different things in your fridge and get the best out of your food.
Refrigerator Theory 😉
In my fridge, we can place foods in the main refrigerator section, the door shelves, the crisper, the chiller and the freezer for storage.
Let’s take a step back and remind ourselves about some basic ideas about fridges.
Why do we refrigerate? To keep food from spoiling.
What spoils food? Microorganisms.
What stops microorganisms from spoiling food in a fridge? The low temperature.
Why do low temperatures prevent spoilage? Microorganisms cannot thrive at low temperatures.
So what is the temperature in a fridge? Interestingly, it varies from spot to spot. In the coldest place, that is, the freezer, it is below 0℃. In the chiller section, just above or just below a freezer, it is around 1℃. In the next zone, the temp goes up to 3℃. In the rest of the fridge, it varies from 1 to 4℃ The spaces at the back are the coldest, while the spaces at the front, that is, next to the door and in the door shelves are the warmest.
The Freezer Space
Here is the zone for all the raw meats, ice creams, ice, stock cubes or things you make in advance to quicken your cooking time. Of course, they all need to be securely packaged in containers and kept separate. I also stock my extra semolina (sooji), gram flour, shelled peas and sweet corn niblets here. If the quantity is more, I blanch them for future use.
Freeze extra loaves of bread. Similarly, stock cakes such as carrot cake, or this nutritious one, wholewheat pumpkin muffins, etc here till needed. The only important point to remember is to wrap these baked goods firmly in aluminium foil, wrap it in cling film and then store to prevent any odours from penetrating them. Also remember to write the date on the package so you know which one to consume first. Defrost in the top rack for a few hours and they are good to go!
During power cuts, be very careful that you do not open the freezer at all, and also avoid opening the main compartment. This will keep all your food fresh for up to four hours without power.
Chiller Section: The coldest fridge zone, right next to the freezer.
This spot is also ideal for meat that has to be defrosted for the next day. Simply take it from the freezer, place it in a plastic bag to keep it separate from other food stuff. We do not want drips from the raw meat to contaminate anything else at all. This causes serious diseases, and should be avoided at all costs. Another advantage of defrosting in the fridge is that if you change your mind, and do not cook it the next day, it can be popped right back into the freezer. On the other hand, if you defrost it by taking it out of the fridge, or by using a microwave, you cannot re-freeze it.
If you have to marinate fresh meat for a few hours before cooking it, as in the case of this and this, store it in this region with the marinate, securely boxed in a closed container.
The rack after the chiller is usually the next coldest region.
Yogurt, milk, cottage cheese, fermented batter or dough (dosai batter) stay fresh in this rack.
This fridge zone is for your vegetables, as the humidity is quite high in this zone.
When you get your vegetables, store them in their original covers or in vegetable organisers (small plastic net bags to ensure your beans are stored separately from the chillies and peas!)
Here the temperature is ideal for partially cooked food, leftovers and foods that need to be consumed soon. This spot is also good for chopped vegetables ready for cooking.
Shelf farthest from the freezer:
Store products that are freshly cooked, cooled and boxed in this fridge zone. For example, stock Indian sweet dishes such as kheer or gajar halwa and leftover chocolate cake, fried foods like fish or extra samosas and even extra nuts here.
The Door Shelves
Store bottles of water and preserved foods (such as olives, ketchup, mayonnaise, salad dressing, etc.) that do not spoil easily in the spaces in the door. You can also store butter and processed cheese here. I also stock my packets of readymade masalas here to keep them fresh. Packets of cashews, almonds, raisins that I get in bulk are also safe here, especially during the sweltering summers and humid seasons. Use it also to stock any home-made jams, pickles, etc.