One way to think about the best-case scenario for each ingredient’s storage is to consider where the food came from. A hot-weather plant won’t mind hot weather–aka your counter. And in fact, like an avocado, a given piece of produce may very well need warmth to ripen fully or retain its great flavor.
On the other hand, the fridge’s cold temperatures can do wonders to preserve an ingredient that may be fine in the heat–but only for a short time. Here’s how to decide on the best storage set-up for a handful of flexible ingredients that sometimes want the fridge and sometimes crave the counter.
Cucumbers grown in the summer heat possess a rich vegetal flavor and delicate aroma that your off-season cukes just won’t have. Once refrigerated, however, that taste of sunshine noticeably diminishes. If you will be eating your cucumbers in 1 to 2 days, leave them on the counter. Any more than that, however, and they may spoil at room temperature, so stick them in the fridge to preserve their crunch–if not their best-ever flavor.
2. Blueberries, Peaches & Other Sweet Fruit
Like cucumbers, the fruits of summer (and early autumn) are used to warm temperatures, because that’s how they grew up. To put them in the refrigerator would be like talking to a Floridian who’s moved to Maine–she’s always cold. When fruits get cold, however, they tend to lose some of their sweetness (perhaps like the Floridian?). If you don’t mind a little tang, that’s okay, but if you want to enjoy blueberries or peaches at their sweet prime, you’ll do best not to refrigerate them. If you have more than you can eat in a day or two, you’ll want to stow them in the fridge in any case.
Many people around the world don’t immediately put butter in the fridge like we do in the U.S.A. Over at Gizmodo, we find out why:
Not only does cold butter not spread, it also destroys. Try spearing a cold paddy of butter on a piece of untoasted bread, and you’re going to end up with whole grain carnage. The butter grabs onto the surface of the bread and rips it apart, like a tiller tearing up a garden. If you do manage to get the butter somewhat distributed, you probably won’t notice the deliciousness, because the cold also mutes the flavors. That’s a real bummer, because butter is basically delectable.
Since milk used for butter has to be pasteurized, the butter itself doesn’t easily go bad, even at room temperature. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible for the butter to spoil; Gizmodo advises keeping the butter completely covered, in a crock or butter dish. Would you try doing this?
Like butter, eggs don’t find a home in the fridge all over the world. In many places, they sit right out on the countertop. But there’s a notable difference between an egg that’ll stay good at room temperature and an egg that won’t: if it has been cleaned. After being collected, an egg could stay at room temperature–only if it doesn’t get washed. But if the egg is cleaned, as most are, then it loses its bacterial “armor,” which protect it from going bad, according to the farmers at the Stone Barns Center. So, keep those clean eggs in the fridge.
Like cucumbers and warm-weather fruits, herbs like basil that flourish in warm climates can survive quite well outside the fridge. In fact, at room temperature, leaves and stems tend to stay brighter and sturdier. To preserve your basil at room temperature, store like a bouquet of flowers: Fill a glass, jug, or vase with water, then “plant” the basil in it. You might want to trim the bottom every few days. Basil can keep close to a week stored like this–plus, it’ll look pretty on the counter.