Have you ever opened your fridge and wondered how on earth it became so cluttered and full of bottles, packages, and other containers? Yeah, you’re not alone. Americans tend to look at their fridge as a secondary food storage place after the pantry, but the fact is, we tend to overuse them.
Refrigerators were designed to help slow down bacteria growth in certain foods, making them last longer. However, lots of foods aren’t prone to this type of bacteria growth and don’t need to be refrigerated at all.
You may have found yourself wondering whether or not a food item should go in the fridge, and since you weren’t sure, the fridge may have been a ‘safe’ bet. This is how a refrigerator can quickly become a cluttered mess.
Here are 8 foods that don’t require refrigeration – you might find some of these surprising.
Let’s clear up some prime real estate!
1. Hot sauce
After cracking open a bottle of some delicious, spicy hot sauce, you might think that you should throw it in the refrigerator. No need. Since vinegar is the main ingredient in most hot sauces, it preserves the sauce naturally. So, unless it’s a personal preference, hot sauces can stay out on the counter or in the cupboard. Soy sauce, too!
Ketchup is hands down one of the most popular condiments in the United States, but a bottle of it is probably taking up unnecessary room in the fridge. Unless you like your ketchup cold, there’s no need to refrigerate it. The acidic ingredients in ketchup give it a pH balance of around 3.5-3.9; most harmful bacteria need a pH level of 4.5 or higher to grow. Just make sure to keep it out of direct sunlight.
Since tomatoes are so delicate, you might think that they should be refrigerated to make them last longer, but this just isn’t the case. Tomatoes are grown in warm climates and ripen best when kept at room temperature. If you prefer keeping tomatoes in the fridge, just make sure to eat them within a day or two.
4. Maple Syrup
Cold syrup on pancakes?! Who likes that? Popping it in the microwave is an option, but the truth is – it shouldn’t be cold in the first place. In order for bacteria to grow, it requires water. To get a bit sciency-y on you, food has a moisture content that corresponds with an aw value. For bacteria to grow, it needs a value of .90 or higher to grow – maple syrup’s value is only .80. For context, raw meat has a value of .95.
We all love room-temperature, spreadable butter, but for some reason, we all keep it in the fridge. Since butter is mostly fat, with very little protein, it doesn’t support bacteria growth. However, butter will go bad if it is exposed to oxygen, light, or heat; so, although it can stay on the counter for around a week, be sure to keep it in an opaque dish.
Pickling foods is a preservation process used to keep foods stored for a long time without the need for refrigeration. Since pickles’ main ingredient is vinegar, there’s no need to put them in the fridge, unless it’s a preference.
7. Peanut Butter
There are six factors that contribute to the growth of bacteria; protein and moisture are two of them. High-protein foods, like meat and milk, are prone to bacteria growth – peanut butter is also high in protein. The game-changer is the fact that peanut butter has a very low moisture content, preventing bacteria growth. Just like butter, peanut butter can go rancid if exposed to oxygen, light, or heat, so be sure to keep it in the cupboard.
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Cold honey is the bane of every tea drinker’s existence. Honey can have an almost indefinite shelf life if it’s stored properly. You might see “best by” dates printed on honey bottles, and these are done for practical purposes because honey types can vary greatly. In reality, honey can be stored for decades or centuries; it just needs to stay in a cool place, out of sunlight – like a cupboard. If it crystallizes, simply place the bottle in a pan with hot water and stir while heating it, this will re-liquify the honey. Don’t use a microwave, as it will heat too quickly and burn the honey.
H/T: The Spruce