In this warm weather, it’s important to stay cool. Keeping yourself, your family, and your home at the proper temperature is key as the mercury rises. The same is true for your groceries and produce! With this heat, now is a great time to check your fridge and freezer and make sure that their settings are optimal to keep your food fresh and lasting as long as possible.
The United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service recommends that refrigerators be set at 40 degrees or below to protect contents from spoiling. Ideally, an entire refrigerator unit should stay between 36 and 40 degrees so that all areas are safe for storage of any food.
If your fridge does not have a built-in feature that displays the temperature, invest in an appliance thermometer. Should your power go out during a summer thunderstorm, the appliance thermometer will help you determine what stays and what goes; foods remaining at a temperature of 40 degrees or above for two hours or more should not be eaten.
- Meats should be tightly wrapped or sealed and placed on the bottom shelf, the coldest part of the fridge, to avoid juice drippings from contaminating other foods.
- Dairy products should not be placed in the door, one of the warmest parts of the refrigerator. Instead, place eggs and milk as close to the bottom shelf as possible. Butter and cheese can sit comfortably on the top or middle shelf.
- Fruits and vegetables can be placed on the top shelf. You’ll see them and want to eat them, and they will also stay at the perfect temperature. Leafy greens should sit in the crisper.
- Condiments are well-suited for the door with their high natural preservatives. Orange juice works just fine here, too, since it contains a high amount of citric acid.
Freezers, on the other hand, should be set between zero and eight degrees. Of course, items here will last a long time, but don’t let freezer burn take over your food supply! Uncooked bacon, sausage, and hot dogs are good to go for one to two months. Ground meat will last three to four months, pork chops four to six months, and steaks four to 12 months. Chicken nuggets are safe for nine months, while a whole raw chicken will last for a year.
While it may seem like a great idea to cool off in front of an open refrigerator or freezer door, this practice is not recommended. Fridge and freezer doors should not be opened more than necessary, and should remain tightly closed when you’re not gathering ingredients. This will keep your food supply from growing bacteria and going bad quickly.
Hopefully, these friendly tips and reminders will help you and your fridge stay cool all summer long!