It’s the most wonderful time of the year for foodies. From traditional dishes to dinners out and new-found favorite recipes, your taste buds are loving life right about now. Whether you’re whipping up a meal yourself this weekend or looking to keep that delicious meal you had at the new restaurant in town in the fridge for a couple days, it’s important you know how to store food to keep it fresh, flavorful and free of bacteria.
“A lot of the time people get sick from the food they eat because they don’t know how to store it properly,” said Kristin Sollenne, celebrity chef and The Cheeses of Europe’s partner chef.
The only stomach ache you should have this time of year is from overindulging in fabulous food (hello, day after Thanksgiving). To make sure that’s the case, I asked Sollenne to share expert tips on how to store and package food the right way.
Organize Your Fridge
You just came back from the grocery store with enough food to feed Rhode Island, plus you have leftovers from last night’s dinner party. What should go where in your fridge? “When you’re structuring your refrigerator, you always want to keep uncooked food below cooked food to prevent contamination,” Sollenne said.
Cut Fruits and Veggies
If you chopped more apple slices than your guests could eat, Sollenne suggested squeezing some lemon juice over them to prevent them from going brown. “The lemon juice is full of vitamin C so the oxygen will react to that first before getting to the flesh of the apple,” Sollenne said. Peeled, chopped or cut fruits and veggies should be eaten within five to six days. Try to avoid too much over-chopping or peeling of produce though. “Normally you want to keep them whole because they’re going to keep longer and in tact in terms of nutrients,” Sollenne said. Chop enough for a first round, then go chop some more as needed.
Whole Fruits and Veggies
If you have potatoes, onions and tomatoes, keep them in a cool dry place, like a cupboard, rather than your refrigerator. “The cold is going to ruin their flavor,” Sollenne warned. Let your bananas, pears and avocados stay on your counter and put them in the fridge once they are ripe. “Your bananas will turn brown in the fridge but that’s totally fine, it doesn’t effect any of their flavor,” Sollenne said.
Cheese-and-crackers are a classic appetizer. To prevent your cheese from going bad quickly, store in the vegetable crisper area of your refrigerator. “The temperature is going to be really stable and cold,” Sollenne said. Sollenne suggested wrapping in plastic wrap or wax paper to help it keep fresh.
Meats and Fish
Sollenne suggested keeping meats and fishes in their original packaging and storing them in the refrigerator for two days. “Past that, if you’re going to freeze it, you’re going to want to put it in a resealable freezer bag and you can actually keep that in the freezer for up to several months,” she said.
The real trick comes in defrosting it. A basic, albeit longer, method is to move it from the freezer to the fridge and let it thaw gradually. “If you’re in a rush and you really need to thaw out your meat quickly you want to put it into an ice bath, fill a really large bowl with ice cubes and cold water and make sure your meat and fish is in a Ziplock bag so none of the water gets in it,” Sollenne said. Place the bag in there and let it thaw. The final option is microwaving it, which partially cooks the meat so you’ll need to cook it immediately otherwise bacteria may grow.
That date-night dish was delicious, but you couldn’t finish the whole thing and have room for that to-die-for-looking dessert (which was, in fact, to-die-for), so you saved it and want to make another meal or two out of it. Sollenne said leaving it in a doggie bag, putting it in your fridge within two hours of leaving the restaurant and consuming restaurant leftovers within three to four days is fine. “To make things last longer, you can separate them into different containers so you can eat as needed,” she said.
Cooking Tip: “If you have leftover pasta, throw it in a sauté pan with a little olive oil and get a great crisp to it,” Sollenne said.