Food safety is a basic concern of every human everywhere. Using proper techniques to store your food, both with leftovers and fresh food, is important for a multitude of reasons. It can:
- Keep food fresh, and therefore better tasting, for longer
- Allow greater peace of mind
- Stretch the food budget further by reducing waste
- Help prevent health concerns
With all these benefits there’s no reason not to practice safe and proper food storage techniques. Here are a few basic principles you should always do your best to follow when it comes to food storage.
The first and most important aspect of a clean and healthy kitchen is organization. This applies in multiple ways, and can have a large overall effect on your food storage safety. For example, an organized kitchen is easier to keep:
- Clean and free of dirt, mold, or food stains
- Well stocked, without old or out of date food build up
- Well labeled and separated, which allows better food efficiency
Organization is an extremely important aspect for proper food storage. It is the first step in safe food storage. So, once you’ve organized your kitchen and food storage areas appropriately, you’re ready for the next step.
First in First out (FIFO)
The rule of FIFO is that the first food purchased is the first food you use. By following this rule, and always making sure to use the oldest ingredients first, you can reign in a large portion of any waste issues you might be experiencing. Of course, depending on the volume and size of your kitchen, it’s possible to bend this rule a little. But always make sure that if any of your food items are approaching their use by date, or expiration date, you use them before they expire.
When in Doubt, Throw it out
It is often tempting to use questionable food rather than wasting it by throwing it away. Frugality makes it seem that making sure the food is well cooked is alright. But safety is always the most important aspect of food storage and preparation. It isn’t worth the pain and risk of serious food borne illness. So, when it doubt, please throw it out.
Following these principles is a great step toward a clean, organized, happy and healthy kitchen. Here are a few technical guidelines for proper food storage you should be keeping in mind as well.
Temperature control is extremely important in food storage. If food isn’t kept at its recommended temperature spoilage can occur at an extremely accelerated rate. Always make sure you refrigerate or freeze any required food immediately after purchase.
The typical refrigerator temperature should be right around 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Freezer temperature should be at or below 0 degrees Fahrenheit. Be sure to continually check this, as any fluctuation can lead to less than optimal conditions and unnecessary spoilage.
Proper Refrigeration Storage
Optimal food storage within a refrigerator or freezer requires a variety of techniques. Food should be:
- Kept in air tight containers - This keeps food from drying out and slows down the rate of spoilage. Because of bacteria in the air (even in cold environments such as a fridge), it’s important to keep food exposure to air to a minimum. Always make sure to look for fissures, cracks, or holes within the food container.
- Organized accordingly - It’s important to place meats and other quick to spoil items on lower levels. This prevents their ability to contaminate other foods, as well as drip any resulting juices or fluids.
- Well-spaced - Storing foods on top of other food, or over-packing the fridge, can affect the rate of spoilage and overall quality of the food.
- Cooled to room temperature before storing - Placing hot or still warm food into an air tight container and then into a cold fridge/freezer can cause condensation, which will increase the rate of spoilage.
Following these simple rules can have an extremely positive impact on your food preservation.
Maintenance and Monitoring
Maintenance and monitoring is an integral part of proper food storage. Without proper monitoring, as well as maintenance, food spoilage is inevitable. Here is what you should be monitoring and maintaining within your kitchen and food storage areas:
- Spoilage - Always keep an eye on your food, particularly those with an expiration date. These dates must be respected and followed for safety and health reasons. Also, make sure your vegetables are fresh and well monitored to prevent any risk of storage. Spoiled food will increase the rate at which the food around it spoils. Potatoes shoved away into a closet are cupboard are the worst offenders of this.
- Refrigerator/freezer temperatures - Always pay close attention to this. Even a slight change in temperature can quickly lead to spoilage. And a whole fridge/freezer can result in a massive amount of waste.
- Pest control - Pests are a problem no matter where in the world you are. Keep an eye on the floor, corners, and tight spaces within your kitchen to avoid having pests become a problem.
Food storage can be the difference between a happy kitchen and an unsafe environment. So always try and follow these proper food storage techniques.
Author Bio: Bryan Furgison is food enthusiast with several years’ experience in the food industry via culinary art and restaurant management. He is an online publisher for the commercial refrigeration retailer Coldtech Commercial, which specializes in prep tables, restaurant supply, commercial appliances.