Properly storing your food in the fridge is an overlooked aspect of keeping items fresh for longer. The food storage hierarchy shows exactly how to optimize your cooler storage.
The food storage hierarchy is a storage method for correctly placing food inside the fridge to maximize the shelf life and eliminate cross-contamination. It is done by storing certain types of foods at different fridge levels to ensure they are cool enough and preserved well.
When you are trying to store raw or ready-to-eat foods in your fridge, you should always remember the food storage hierarchy. It is designed to keep each type of food included fresh for as long as possible. When you start to mix your foods in the fridge, it can cause rancid smells and food spoilage.
We have helped many families transform the way they store food inside their own homes. By testing and researching different strategies, we learned about the food storage hierarchy and its benefits. Keep reading to become more of a food storage expert today.
What Is The Food Storage Hierarchy?
The food storage hierarchy is ideal for storing specific foods in your refrigerator to ensure they last as long as possible and do not get mixed together. If these foods are stored too closely together, it could lead to contamination and quicker spoilage.
As you move down the shelves in the refrigerator, the temperature gets colder. This is why you should store the most susceptible foods near the bottom. Here are the five types of foods you will put into your fridge from top shelf to bottom shelf.
Ready-To-Eat Foods - Top Shelf
Ready-to-eat foods should be stored at a different temperature to prevent them from spoiling. When storing these types of food, it is best to put them at the top of the fridge because it stays colder there.
These hot foods are best stored in cooler temperatures to remain fresh. This is because they have already been prepared, and they maintain the shortest shelf life of any of the foods listed in the food storage hierarchy.
It is also best to place a label on your ready-to-eat foods, so you avoid storing them for too long and consuming spoiled food. Include the date it was stored and the type of food that is packed on a small label on the outside for anybody to read.
Raw Seafood and Dairy
Raw seafood includes all seafood that is not cooked, and raw dairy is milk or other dairy products that are not pasteurized.
Both raw seafood and raw dairy are considered more of a risk of spoiling because bacterial infections can easily grow if the food is not stored at a cool enough temperature. Raw seafood can be contaminated by microbes or parasites, while raw dairy can harbor pathogens such as listeria, E. coli, salmonella, or certain parasites.
However, when stored on the second shelf below the ready-to-eat foods, it will be better protected from any contamination. Be sure to properly seal your food and be mindful of the expiration dates before consumption.
Raw Whole Meats - Second Shelf
Raw whole meats are defined as steak or pork chops that are already prepared but still raw. Typically, they come pre-packed with an expiration date on when you should cook them by. They belong on the third shelf of the fridge below the raw seafood.
Sometimes if you see these meats go bad, you will notice they are leaking much more than usual, contain a rancid smell, or the meat starts to turn gray and unappetizing. By storing them in the right place, you can try and extend the shelf life.
Raw Ground Meats - Third Shelf
The fridge is a great place to store ground meats if you want to keep them fresh as long as possible. The temperature in the fridge and freezer are both below the temperature of ground meat, which means it won't spoil as quickly.
The fourth shelf in the fridge is a good spot for ground meat since it's usually colder than most of the fridge. It needs to be cooked at a higher temperature too, meaning the colder it can be stored, the safer it is until preparation time.
Raw Poultry - Bottom Shelf
It is recommended that you place raw poultry on the bottom shelf in your fridge because it has the shortest shelf life of any meat and needs to be cooked at the highest temperature.
Poultry should be stored in sealed plastic bags, containers or wrapped securely in plastic wrap. The containers and wraps should be labeled with the date of purchase and the use-by date and any handling instructions that may need to be followed when refrigerating the product after purchase.
How To Package Food For The Refrigerator
The way an item is packaged might have something to do with whether or not it should be refrigerated, so if an item comes in a plastic baggie, it's generally safe to put that item in the fridge. But if it comes wrapped in paper or foil, then you can store it at room temperature.
To package food properly, use materials found in the kitchen, such as plastic wrap and tin foil, to create a sealed container for food. You can also use non-porous, airtight containers to optimize the space inside your fridge too.
A refrigerator’s temperature should be between 34 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit. This environment restricts bacterial growth and can also slow down spoilage. It’s important to remember that if you store raw meat or poultry in the fridge, they need to be on the bottom 3 shelves so that juices don’t leak onto other foods.
There are two main ways that you can package food for your fridge: containers and plastic wrap/cling-film (aka saran wrap). The containers have lids that seal tightly so the best way to package food for the fridge is by following these steps.
First, wrap the food in saran wrap or tin foil. Then place it inside a Ziploc bag and put it in the bottom of the fridge. Make sure that you don’t stack too many items on top of each other because this will cause items from higher up to fall down and then spoil.
Why Should You Store Food In The Refrigerator
One of the most important parts of food storage is knowing what should be refrigerated and what shouldn't. However, it is also important to keep in mind that not all items are suitable for being stored in a refrigerator.
Once you make the right purchase for your food, you need to store it in a place that is best for its quality.
The refrigerator is one of the most popular places to store food. It has a few advantages over other storage facilities that are worth mentioning. Refrigeration is a key element in food preservation. It is important to package food properly for the fridge to maintain the freshness of your food.
Refrigerators are colder than freezers, which means they are better at preserving quality and freshness. They also keep out oxygen which can damage certain types of delicate foods like meat and dairy products.
The downside of storing food in the refrigerator is that it doesn't have as much space as some other options like a pantry or freezer. So you need to be smart about what goes on your shelves and make sure not to overcrowd them in order to get the most space out of them possible.
How Long Do Foods Last In The Refrigerator?
The refrigerator is the best place because it slows down the growth of bacteria and prevents meat and other food from spoiling.
The storage time for different types of foods varies, but this guideline can give a general idea about how long you should store certain types of foods:
- Raw beef and steak - 3 to 5 days
- Raw poultry - 1 to 3 days
- Raw pork - 3 to 5 days
- Raw fish - 1 to 3 days
About THE AUTHOR
I have over a decade of experience in food and beverage management, including a ServSafe food safety qualification. As part of this qualification, I have been professionally trained in safe food storage.Read More About Mark Walker