Not many people today are familiar with the work of the English philosopher Sir Francis Bacon. Known as the father of empiricism, he is as notable for his death as for his life:
inspired by the idea of using snow to preserve meat, he contracted a fatal case of pneumonia while he was stuffing a fowl with snow.
Since we don’t have to go to such lengths to preserve food anymore, being able to enjoy comforts unknown to our ancestors has made us lazy, as the shocking statistics on food loss and waste suggest.
To prevent wasting food and risking foodborne illnesses, you should learn the shelf life of food and familiarise yourself with the best practices for keeping it fresh.
Why keep food in the fridge?
It’s impossible to get rid of all the bacteria in food, even when cooking at high temperatures. The remaining bacteria will continue to thrive and survive on your food, with a particular taste for protein-rich foods. For that reason, proteins will profit the most from being stored in the freezer, while carbohydrates won’t mind being kept in the fridge.
As a rule, you shouldn’t toss cooked food into the fridge before you have allowed it to cool at room temperature for a bit. However, any leftovers should be stored in the fridge within two hours post cooking. Any cooked food that has spent more than two hours at room temperature or 3-4 days in the fridge should be thrown away. Also, it is not recommended to reheat leftovers more than once.
Fridge storage times
As a rule, cooked food can be stored in the fridge for up to 3-4 days, be it hamburgers or pizza, or soups and stews with meat. The same goes for tuna and macaroni salads, as well as salads with eggs, chicken, or ham.
Fish can last for 1-2 days when raw, up to 3-4 days when cooked, and even up to 2 weeks when smoked. Ground meat and raw sausages can be stored for 1-2 days, and the same goes for raw chicken and turkey, whether whole or in pieces. Beef, lamb, veal or pork chops, steaks, and roasts have a fridge life of 3-5 days. Bacon and whole cooked ham will last for a week. Hotdogs can be kept for two weeks unopened, or for one week if opened, and canned ham can last for 6-9 months.
Blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, peaches, plums, and pears can last for 3-5 days, cherries, grapes, and pineapples for up to 7 days, and blueberries for 10 days. Citrus fruits can be stored for 1-3 weeks, and melons will be good to eat for up to 2 weeks if you keep them whole, but only for 2-4 days when cut. Apples are able to keep fresh for up to 4-6 weeks when stored in the fridge.
Carrots have a long fridge life of 2-3 weeks, but asparagus and avocado can last for merely 2-4 days, similar to green beans, peas, broccoli, and cauliflower with a life of 3-5 days. Cucumbers, eggplant, and greens can be stored for 4-6 days, mushrooms for 3-7 days, and peppers for 4-14 days.
The fridge life is one week for milk, 1-2 weeks for soft cheese and yogurt, and 2 weeks for cream cheese. Butter can be stored for 1-3 months, margarine for 6 months, and hard cheese for 4-6 months (3-4 weeks if opened). Finally, sour cream can last for 7-21 days.
When kept in the fridge, hard-boiled eggs will be safe to eat for up to 7 days, and eggs in the shell can be stored for 3-5 weeks.
Is it better to freeze food?
Most definitely – provided it’s fit for freezing. We suggest that you freeze whatever and whenever you can. Keeping food in vacuum sealing bags would be ideal (for example, this would enable you to freeze fish for up to two years). That’s why restaurants and kitchens tend to buy bulk vacuum seal bags to make sure they are able to keep all of their food as fresh as possible. Vacuum sealing prevents the food from losing moisture and dehydrating.
How much the food will last when frozen depends on the type of food, the state of food at the moment of freezing, and freezing conditions. A good idea would be to invest in a high-quality side-by-side Frigidaire with smart storage capabilities, so you can keep your meat and poultry separated from other food so as to prevent possible contamination. They also allow for fast freezing and thawing, which is a must when storing produce.
Although most fruits and vegetables can be frozen, it’s best to do it when they’re freshest, and never when they’re unripe. Treat vegetables by blanching, submerging in icy water, and drying prior to freezing, and also remember to keep them in labeled airtight packaging.
Freezer storage times
Bacon can be kept in the freezer for a month, while unopened hot dogs, raw sausages, and leftover pizza can be kept for 1-2 months. Other leftover foods such as cooked meat and chicken nuggets can be frozen for 2-6 months.
Soups and stews with meat can last for up to 2-3 months in the freezer, and ground meat can be stored for 3-4 months. Beef, lamb, veal and pork can be frozen between 4-6 months for chops, 6-12 months for steaks, and 4-12 months for roasts. Whole cooked ham can be frozen for 1-2 months, fish for 2-3 months (fatty) or 6-8 months (lean), while smoked fish can last for 2 months, and cooked fish for 4-6 months. Finally, fresh chicken and turkey can last for up to a year in the freezer if whole, or for 6-9 months when in pieces.
Dairy products don’t like freezing, but yogurt can be frozen for 2 months, milk, unsalted butter, and margarine for 3 months, hard cheese for 6 months, and salted butter for 12 months.
While all fruits and vegetables can be frozen, some freeze better than others. This includes all berries, cherries, peaches, bananas, and pineapples on the side of fruit, and kale, spinach, onions, pumpkins, and corn on the side of vegetables.